Setting Boundaries in the Workplace

The following post was written by Fall 2021 writing intern, Amelia Wright.

Setting boundaries in your workplace is one of the most important steps you, as an employee or employer, can take in retaining satisfaction and performance.

Let’s get one thing straight. Setting boundaries does not mean you are rude, selfish or lazy. Instead, it shows you know your limits to maintain health and productivity. It could also save you from burnout, a growing phenomenon experienced by workers in all industries.

Putting boundaries in place can be difficult or intimidating if you’ve never done it before. However, once you learn a few simple methods, the process becomes second nature. Three methods that best encapsulate healthy boundaries are learning how to say “no,” communicating expectations, and unplugging.

The first crucial element to healthy boundaries is learning how to say “no.” Many of us were raised to value politeness over confrontation. However, teaching your children to tactfully retain boundaries helps set them up for success. The Washington Post published an article on “The Art of Saying No” that further details the importance of teaching children this. In your own life, saying “no” can be stressful, especially when saying it to a superior. (You can find tips on how to say “no” here.) Keep in mind that your time is equally as important as your coworkers, and there is value in ‘protecting the asset.”.

Now let’s talk about communicating expectations. You can do this verbally or nonverbally. Verbal expectation setting may be stating “I will be unavailable on this day,” and closer to time, remind them “don’t forget, I will be unavailable on this day, let me know if you need anything beforehand.” For nonverbal communication, utilize email to provide an automatic response when you are out of the office or in a non-email work block.  Simply stating “I am unavailable at the moment. I will get back to you at this time.” will help others know what to expect from you. Something so simple clearly communicates your boundaries without stealing any of your limited time.

The last method, though seemingly easy, can be challenging for many work-consumed people. Unplug from your devices. Author Regina Brett says “sometimes you have to disconnect to stay connected.” While away from work, turn off notifications that are not essential. This offers a chance to be fully present in something you value other than distracted by items that are not truly urgent. Especially during this holiday season, take time to recharge. Be fully present with your loved ones. Save yourself from burnout, increasing your productivity.

One last thing I want to shed light on is the importance of boundaries for employers. Workers across the US are quitting their jobs in search of something better. If they feel overworked or undervalued at their place of work, it is likely they will leave. According to NPR, 4.5 million employees left their jobs in August alone. Besides employees’ desire to find better working conditions, the article states that “employers are also having to rethink what their employees really need.” Creating a place where employees can voice their boundaries, and have those boundaries respected, is vital right now. In the coming years, employers who prioritize healthy work environments will be the ones retaining workers, producing more, and out competing with their counterparts.

If you would like help providing your business with the tools needed to set boundaries and foster productivity, click here.


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