6 Ways To Set Boundaries (2023)

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Setting boundaries at work can help you achieve work-life balance by limiting the amount of mental and emotional energy you put into your job. While your company is partly responsible for creating a positive work environment, by knowing your personal boundaries and setting healthy boundaries you can also make your work work for you. But when you’re self-employed, that responsibility rests on your shoulders—but it’s critical to preventing burnout.

Setting boundaries in a professional environment can be intimidating, but it is in the best interests of employees and employers to do so. Workplaces thrive when the people doing their jobs feel engaged, happy, and fulfilled. Learning to set and maintain boundaries can improve your work life and create time for fun outside of the office.

Why is it important to set boundaries at work?

Setting boundaries can help you maintain a healthy work-life balance. Understanding your own limitations can take time, but it can help reduce work-related stress, give you time to recharge, and increase your overall job satisfaction. Sticking to your limits can inspire your colleagues to do the same, resulting in a healthier workplace for everyone.

Types of workplace boundaries

Workplace boundaries can support everything from your physical health to your emotional well-being. These are some types of boundaries that may be helpful:

  • physical limits. These boundaries describe what you need to feel physically comfortable and safe in your workplace. Individuals have different levels of comfort when it comes to physical touch, possessions, and personal space. An example of a physical boundary might be asking a colleague not to sit at your desk when they come over to chat.
  • Emotional Boundaries. Emotional boundaries aim to protect your emotional well-being and mental health. This can include interpersonal boundaries, such as choosing not to have negative office gossip with other employees.
  • mental limits. Mental boundaries help you focus and stay present at work, and can include communication or time boundaries. For example, if you choose not to answer emails after work hours, you may have time to rest and conserve your mental energy.

đź“šMore reading: Learn how to balance your business and mental health with these mental health and wellbeing resources for entrepreneurs.


How to set boundaries at work

Building boundaries takes time—it requires a deep understanding of your relationship to work and your personal needs. Your specific goals may vary, but these are some common ways to set healthy boundaries at work:

  • blocking time. If meetings or frequent communication with other colleagues interfere with your concentration, make time for intensive work. Try blocking out certain hours in your work schedule to focus on tasks that require your full attention.
  • delegate work. If your workload seems overwhelming, consider delegating some tasks to your direct reports. If you are an individual employee, speak to your manager to find out if specific items can be demoted or reassigned. And if you’re self-employed, look for ways to automate tasks or hire specialists to help you take on tasks that seem irrelevant or too tedious to you. For example, if you run a Shopify store, try bots designed to support ecommerce automation, or consult a network of Shopify Experts Who can support website development, design and more?
  • Communicate. No two people will have exactly the same personal boundaries. For example, some people enjoy spending time with colleagues outside of the office, while others prefer to maintain relationships in a strictly professional manner. Share your preferences with your co-workers and supervisors so they understand your preferred work style.
  • Take a vacation. Holidays are a way to pass time and focus on having fun. Use accumulated paid time off or unlimited vacation plans to recharge your batteries and prevent burnout. And yes: as an entrepreneur you can even go on holiday.
  • set hours. Save time for your private life by setting hours or hours when you don’t reply to work emails. This can be especially important for remote workers because when your office is your home, you quickly get used to constantly checking your email. Setting time boundaries helps separate your personal time from your work life.
  • take breaks. Breaks like a coffee break or a lunch break are a quick way to rest and recharge during the workday.

Frequently asked questions about workplace limits

What are signs of a borderless work environment?

When work often interferes with your personal life, it may mean that there are no healthy boundaries in your workplace. Signs of a workplace with inadequate boundaries include frequent off-hours messages, business messages sent to personal devices or email accounts, and repeated requests to perform tasks outside of your job description.

If you feel you are working in a toxic environment, you should raise your concerns with your manager or human resources representative.

What do I do if someone doesn’t respect my boundaries?

Setting boundaries can be difficult. If another employee is not respecting your work boundaries, there are several ways to address the issue. Depending on your relationship with the offending employee and the seriousness of the violation, the first step may be to negotiate your limits head-on. When you feel safe, start by making your boundaries clear and demanding a change in behavior.

If this doesn’t seem like a viable option to you—whether because of unhealthy power dynamics or because of specific behavior—the next step is to raise your concerns with management or HR. It may be beneficial to keep a record of any evidence of the behavior in question, such as copies of inappropriate emails or a list documenting each incident.

How can I set work limits while working from home?

Remote work comes with unique challenges that set boundaries. It can be difficult to separate your work life from your personal life when both happen in the same place. To set boundaries at home, try designating a specific room as a home office and avoid working elsewhere in your home. Limit your working hours and schedule regular breaks.

Are there other effective ways to say no in the workplace?

Clear boundaries can help you understand when it’s time to say no at work. If you want to say “no” to a task or other request, try to propose an alternative approach to the project and explain your reasoning.

What are examples of professional boundaries?

Examples of setting healthy work boundaries include taking a daily lunch break, not working on weekends, and refusing to share personal possessions with co-workers.

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