3 Quick Ways to Set Workplace Boundaries in 2023
A new year continually stirs desires to set goals, make resolutions, and create change. For many, as the lines between our professional and personal lives blur, the new year is a great time to prioritize setting healthy workplace boundaries.
To do so, we’ve compiled a list of three easy-to-implement workplace boundaries. When implemented correctly, you can feel a sense of peace on and off the clock. Regardless of the industry that you’re a part of, these tips will undoubtedly make 2023 your best year yet!
Why Do Workplace Boundaries Matter?
In the words of American professor, lecturer, author, and podcast host, Brené Brown, “When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated.”
To avoid such feelings, it's imperative that we set boundaries both at home and in the workplace.
Workplace boundaries matter because they directly correlate to employee morale and retention. For employers, implementing company-wide boundaries can keep your workplace a safe space where employees feel respected while also improving communication within the company, leading to a productive and efficient environment.
A great example of a company-wide boundary for office workers is dedicating specific hours to “heads-down” work. During this set time, employees are urged to withhold from interrupting their colleagues through calls or instant messages.
How Can I Set Workplace Boundaries?
Setting workplace boundaries is all about patience and honesty. It’s important to understand that results likely won’t transpire overnight. These actions are long plays that will benefit your career for years to come. Get started with these three quick and easy tips to set workplace boundaries:
1. Start by Identifying Your Boundaries
To set boundaries at work, you’ll need to know your boundaries outside of work.
For example, a boundary could be: I always have dinner with my family. To achieve this, you may need to leave work by a specific time to ensure you’re home on time. If this is a personal boundary for you, you can segway into a professional boundary easily: I will not work past 5:30 PM. Knowing this about yourself will allow you to select a job that conforms to this, or, if you like your current role but need to establish a boundary, have conversations with your team to find a way to make this happen.
Another example of a personal boundary could be drinking alcohol. If your boundary is not drinking alcohol, but your company offers (what feels like) endless happy hours, then you may propose alternative company events such as a book club or Lunch-n-Learns. There are a lot of non-drinking events that can help strengthen company culture. If this is not an option, forgo the event or opt for a mocktail.
Boundaries in Action:
Make a list of three personal boundaries. From there, identify ways to enforce these boundaries through changes at work.
2. Develop Healthy, Professional Relationships
You’ve likely heard the phrase “work wife/husband” or “work bestie” before. Maybe you even have one! But a great way to implement workplace boundaries is through our relationships. While it’s essential to have friends at work that you feel you can connect with, it’s equally important to have boundaries.
According to a 2023 Workplace Friendship & Happiness Survey, 57% of people say having a best friend in the workplace is more enjoyable. Relationships like these can make us feel connected, motivated, and more productive. That said, having a work BFF can be tricky. If a conflict arises, it can often lead to negative outcomes like oversocializing, issues with hierarchy respect, conflict of interest when it comes to performance evaluations, etc.
Achieving a healthy and professional relationship will take effort, but it is worth it! Here are some tips for implementing workplace friendships:
- Don’t overshare: Avoid topics like salary, hot-button conversations, or sharing negative comments about other employees.
- Stay focused on your goals: Don’t let water-cooler talk be the lion's share of your day!
- Don’t take advantage of your friends: While friends generally have your back, it’s important not to ask too much of your work friends—swapping shifts and delegating tasks must be done appropriately.
Boundaries in Action:
If you have a work-BFF currently, mentally audit how you engage with them. Are there areas you could improve? Consider having a healthy conversation about boundaries.
3. Understand Your Benefits and Use Them!
Break out that handbook and understand what benefits are available to you.
- Does your company offer mental health days?
- Do you have to use your PTO before the end of the year?
- Do you have a budget for professional development?
If you answered yes to any of the above, use those benefits to your full advantage! Part of setting workplace boundaries is understanding that you’re given benefits in exchange for your time, skills, and energy. Taking advantage of all benefits offered can help you in a multitude of ways—physically, financially, and emotionally—and leaving these on the table is not recommended.
When you use your benefits to their full potential, you're sending a message: you respect yourself and your time enough to reap what’s yours. Using all of your PTO isn’t a sign you’re a lazy employee; taking a mental health day doesn’t mean you’re weak; spending your professional development budget doesn’t mean you’re taking advantage of free-to-you resources. By setting these boundaries, you will set a precedent for future reviews, which can lead to raises, increased PTO, and other benefits.
Boundaries in Action:
Make a list of benefits you’re not currently taking full advantage of. From there, jot down some ways to incorporate them into your year. Schedule the vacation, sign up for the course…enjoy!
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