Technology advancements and more flexibility regarding the work environment comes with many benefits, but it also can come with overwhelm and burnout if you feel you need to be available and “on” 24/7.
In order to prevent this, it is important to establish clear boundaries in the workplace. While boundaries may be hard for some who relate to being a “people pleaser,” they will ultimately make the work environment better for all those involved.
Structure often comes from the top of the company and some important work boundaries are laid out in the employee handbook. These are boundaries and expectations that apply to the whole company. This does not mean that these are the only boundaries that can and should be in place. Each individual within a company needs to set their own personal boundaries as well.
As an employee, manager, or head of a company, the first step to setting your boundaries is deciding upon what your values and priorities are. By creating boundaries, you are essentially protecting what is important to you and is needed for you to be a productive, successful contributor to the work environment. For example, family time is important to you, so you set the boundary of not checking your work email after 5PM Monday through Friday and never on the weekends. This protects your time with your family which is good for you, but also protects your energy and feelings towards the company and your work, which is good for the company.
Once you have decided upon what boundaries you would like in place, you must communicate these boundaries clearly and effectively. This can be done pretty simply, either by letting those you work with know of the boundary by email, in a face-to-face meeting, etc. Boundaries should be communicated early on so there is no confusion. It is also important that boundaries are consistent and do not change from day to day, week to week. If a change in your boundaries is needed, make sure you communicate the change and new boundary quickly.
It is also very important to set boundaries regarding what work you will do. You were hired or are in a position that has specific tasks and responsibilities, if something outside of that scope gets thrown your way, how will you handle the situation? This is where delegation becomes important. You need to be able to clearly say, “this actually is not part of my job, however so-and-so can help you with this!” Do not feel ‘guilty’ or ‘bad’ for not helping them, you have passed them on to the expert and also protected the work that IS your responsibility.
Even with boundaries in place and clearly communicated, this does not mean that they will never be tested or pushed against. It is important to calmly and clearly enforce the boundary and to not waver. If you make an exception one time, it is more likely for an exception to keep being made and all of a sudden your boundaries have vanished.
A workplace without boundaries can be a pretty toxic environment. Boundaries have the ability to protect all individuals within the company so they and the company can thrive.