Setting Professional Boundaries
It's easy to blur boundaries during the 9-5 in order to seem like a stand-up employee. Whilst working hard and being productive are excellent qualities to bring to the table, it doesn't need to mean selling your soul, or your personal life, to your company. We look at some of the best ways to create healthy boundaries with your manager, within your workplace, and between the office and home.
It can feel uncomfortable to broach certain topics with your manager, but as your mentor that's exactly what they're there for. Management is a two-way street, and if you feel as if you're being asked to do far more than you feel is right, or an aspect of your job doesn't sit well with you, it's worth bringing up to go over everyone's expectations. For instance, if somebody left and the role was never replaced - meaning you picked up the slack - it can be easy to tell yourself you're overreacting whilst your anger simmers away and your workload grows, but talking this over with your manager might shine a light on a problem that they didn't realise was there.
Time boundaries - especially when you work remotely - can quickly slip into one long blur, and before you know it you've worked through until dinner. And even if you did leave the office, the never-ending contact created by our phones, IM, and emails means you can get a message from your boss in the middle of the night, on holiday, and at the weekend. Seeing work messages during down-time, or even waking up to an email first thing in the morning can shift our headspace long before the shift is due. By setting 'quiet hours' on our emails and messaging services, we can relax as soon as the work day is over, and not need to think about it until it begins. And if you're working from home, set a reminder to finish work at the same time every day, and make sure you log out.
If you feel that certain people continue to disrespect your boundaries even though they've been clearly set - perhaps one colleague will relentlessly message or call you until you respond on a Friday night despite your OOO, don't let those feelings of irritation or resentment boil over. Everybody should want their free time respected, and by saying so you may draw attention to something your colleague didn't even realise they were doing wrong, earning yourself some peace and quiet along the way.
Next time someone asks you to do something, don't respond with a yes straight away. Take a moment, or even half a day, to think about everything else on your plate before you get back to them. Sometimes it just isn't possible to please everybody, and you know your own limits the best. We haven't been conditioned to think so, but saying no is sometimes the most positive thing you can do.
Take a Pause
When have we ever been able to do even the most enjoyable of tasks for longer than a few hours? There's a reason bottomless brunch is only two hours long. If we find it a struggle to concentrate for more than 2 or 3 hours doing the things we love, then how on earth are we supposed to spend 8 solid hours staring at spreadsheets? No matter how much we love our job, it's healthy to take regular breaks, and if possible, a long lunch. Try to incorporate a new activity into the break, whether it's meditation, reading, or listening to a podcast, and above all, ease into the feeling that not responding to a message for 15 minutes won't do anyone any harm.
Use Your Calendar
Calendars are amazing. They don't have to be followed to the T, but they can put you on the right track, as well as acting as visual reminders for exactly the boundaries you need to be setting. Calendars can organise your time so that you understand exactly what you have going on right now, and how long it's going to take. This will allow you to say yes or no to other projects, as well as alerting you to any free time you should harness for your own emotional wellbeing.
If you've set boundaries at work, but find that no matter how many times you re-iterate them they keep getting crossed, perhaps it's time to consider that your workplace is causing more emotional stress than it's worth. If you'd like to take the discussion further, why not join our community for tips and advice.