How do you create better boundaries at work?

Between technology, flexible work and rapidly evolving workplaces, it is more difficult than ever to set healthy boundaries at work. Going through a job hunt can be a daunting time — and sadly a time when you’re more inclined toward people-pleasing than expressing yourself. We all want the work so we should be as friendly as possible of course, right? Okay, not so much.

It begins early — as early as the interview process itself — to set healthy boundaries for yourself at work. From the interview and onwards, you ‘re telling employers and bosses what kind of care you’ll accept. From the outset, setting boundaries allows you to navigate your workplace, avoid potential toxic environments and create a clear path for you to do your best work without being exploited or burnt out.

It’s 2020. No two people have the exact same work style. It’s important to keep that in mind and to set your own boundaries. Here are a few ways that could work personalto set boundaries at work—and with work.

  1. SAY NO
    Your defined boundaries often won’t even allow you to actually delegate the job. In these situations, you just can say — and for many of us this is a difficult one — no. No-saying is much easier said than done, especially in a professional environment. Ask the question “How can I do that?” It ‘s important not to ask this in an accusatory manner but rather in a manner that elicits some empathy from the other party. It’s in describing the variety of work you do — and discovering how you can step into further work without having to break from your primary responsibilities. By asking this question, you’re giving the other person a chance to consider the work you do have—and whether adding more (or interrupting it) is actually feasible.

You will need to take the time to determine them, their limits and how to set them before you communicate your boundaries. Your personal boundaries must come from the goals of your beliefs and of your life. Any work worth doing (in our humble opinion) understands it is primarily a work. You have to remember your home life, your relationships, your interests and your personal space aside from your work.

Communicate these once you have your priorities and values in place. This can be as simple as letting your team know you will not be responding to emails after 7 pm. You can also use this time to communicate what constitutes a “emergency” work, so that you don’t spot “crises” that appear in your off-hours. Communication is the thread in this article which will run through each additional tip. You protect against any possible miscommunications when you take the initiative to interact beforehand.

Structure is important in the workplace. By creating clear boundary-based structures upfront, it takes any guessing work out of common boundary infractions. Your coworkers are less likely to interrupt your work if you set up blocks of time in which you are engaged in do-not-disturb work. If you’re in a management role, you might create structures that include building out team responsibilities. This creates clear guidelines for where (and with whom) responsibility lies in a variety of circumstances.


It’s only natural to want to impress your new boss when you start in a new job, or even a new role, first. And it is easy to be tempted by sly replying to emails at ungodly hours or even on weekends to prove your commitment.

While this most likely will make an impression on your boss, it may have unintended consequences. For example , Take me. I was really eager to make an impression in my first job off-college. So, I stayed late, came in at weekends and checked my email when I was supposed to be in bed. The Outcome? My boss learned to rely on me seven days a week, at all hours of the day.

It took me nearly four years and changing jobs before I could break that cycle, and believe me, that was an exhausting lesson.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a boss who will object too much to you working on your off hours (unless she’s required to by law), but that same boss will be just as impressed if you can do the work in the 8 (OK, 10) hours each day you’re there already. Make the most of the time you have in the office, and leave the rest for tomorrow. Trust me, the work will be waiting for you.

Another great way to set limits is to take your time off — when you get it, when you need it, and when it’s offered. Increasing and expiring vacation time is not a point of pride-nor should it be. Using the available time. You did deserve it. Place the out of office message right when you do, and take time to refresh. In the long run, the only advantage to your career is a relaxed you.

Unplug on when you leave the workplace. You need to be committed to maintaining a balanced work-life balance, too. This means that just when you concentrate on work when you’re at work, when you’re not at the workplace, you need to concentrate on being in the present — that may mean refraining from checking your emails at family dinner or not making calls in the middle of your week-end.

Check out my related post: How to have authentic relationships at work?

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One comment

  1. There are some really great ideas here, and you’ve expressed them very clearly as well.
    Now, I just need to explain downtime to my dog who thinks it’s my job to throw her ball 24/7. Her ball is currently perched upon my lap.


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