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Drawing Boundaries at Work

Work seems to consume so much of our life. From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., you’re tuned into the needs of your boss and the responsibilities of your role. But what happens when those demands occupy your mind at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. or on Saturdays and holidays? 

Setting clear boundaries at work will help you maintain a healthy balance and make work more enjoyable (when you’re meant to be working).

Know your values

Boundaries are different for everyone, and they’re based on what you value. If you really value privacy, don’t friend coworkers on social media. If you really value volunteering after hours, make it clear you’re not available to work past 5 p.m. If spending uninterrupted time with your family is important to you, communicate that you are unreachable on weekends.

Communicate clearly

Boundaries will always be broken if they’re not clearly communicated. Tell colleagues and clients exactly what hours you’re available to answer emails, calls, and questions. Make it a habit to stick to those times, and don’t be afraid to restate your boundaries when they are broken.

Recognize violations

If you don’t mind a random text at 10 p.m. when your coworker has a stroke of creative genius, that’s okay. But if you’ve clearly communicated you are unavailable to chat after working hours, kindly point out the boundary violation to them and remind them you’ll be in touch when your working hours resume. It may be awkward at first, but the more you point out violations and reinforce boundaries, the less likely they will be broken.

Think strategically

Your boundaries are personal, but if they’re continuously broken because your boss demands you’re available 24/7, make a strategic argument that’s less about you and more about the health of their business.

Imagine your boss has just made an unreasonable request. Instead of arguing “I’m too stressed” or “My workload is too heavy,” frame your boundaries in something concrete, like how their demands may affect your performance or the timelines of other projects.

The most helpful tip for drawing boundaries at work is that when you respect your boundaries, others will follow. It may take time to reinforce and restate your boundaries, but persistence will lead to success. But if your mental health is suffering in the meantime, Valley Oaks Health is here to help.

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