Boundaries help us define who we are, our responsibilities, and our sense of control, especially in relation to other people. We all need boundaries in our personal and professional lives so that we can maintain healthy relationships.
Knowing how to establish and maintain boundaries at work is difficult, but it’s not impossible. The key is to break boundaries down into three main categories: mental, emotional, and physical. As you consider these categories of boundaries, you can also consider how best to set and share yours. We offer helpful ideas below.
Mental energy is an important part of our workday, so we need to conserve it and use it wisely. The best ways to use mental energy efficiently are to use your PTO and set reasonable limits.
Use Your PTO
PTO, or personal time off, is time off that you’ve earned as an employee. You have the right to use this time to get a break from work. Taking breaks with your PTO is a great way to rest your mind and come back to work with renewed mental energy.
Set Reasonable Limits
Humans have limits. Review your work expectations and responsibilities and set reasonable limits so that you can achieve your goals without mentally draining yourself. For example, a reasonable limit could look like maintaining specific in-office hours so that you don’t overwork yourself.
We feel emotions everywhere, including at work. You need emotional boundaries that help you own your feelings and not take responsibility for other people’s emotions.
Develop Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, interpret, control, and use emotions effectively. The first step of developing emotional intelligence is learning how to recognize and regulate your own emotions. Once you recognize your emotional state and regulate your emotions, you can set emotional boundaries.
Communication is key in all relationships, including work ones. Effectively communicating ensures that whoever you’re talking to can understand what you’re saying. When you effectively communicate, you can verbally set boundaries, avoid painful assumptions, and establish healthy relationships. This helps you maintain your emotional well-being.
While training on workplace harassment and similar subjects helps to establish physical boundaries, your physical boundaries are about more than your body. They’re also about your desk and personal belongings.
Establish Boundaries Early
If you work in a cubicle, you should learn the best practices of cubicle etiquette as soon as possible and establish your boundaries accordingly. Your cubicle is your space. You can set any boundaries that protect your body and belongings, such as locking your desk drawers when you’re away. Even if you don’t work in a cubicle, you can set boundaries around your space with signs. Establish these boundaries as early as possible so that other people in the office can learn them quickly.
Respect Other’s Boundaries
One of the best ways to establish and maintain boundaries at work is to respect other people’s boundaries. When you respect someone’s decision to shake hands instead of hug or stay out of their cubicle during lunch, you contribute to a workplace environment that also respects your boundaries in turn.
Setting boundaries in all relationships, including at work, protects your mental, emotional, and physical health. If you’re hesitant about setting workplace boundaries, start small. Saying no politely when you don’t want to attend an event or scheduling PTO a few weeks in advance are great ways to start.