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5 tips for setting healthy boundaries at work


With so many people working remotely over the past couple of years, having strong boundaries at work is more important than ever. People are reporting to be working on average 45 – 60 minutes longer each day while working from home as the line between work time and personal time blurs. To combat this, I am discussing 5 tips on how you can set healthy boundaries at work. I’d love to hear your thoughts, have you any other tips or suggestions that have worked for you that you would add?

1) Take your breaks

Do you find your focus waning a little as the working day goes on? Taking your breaks is essential to your productivity. Every 20 minutes it’s good to look away from the screen and focus on something else for a minute or so as staring at a screen constantly can be rough on your poor eyes. In addition to these breaks, it’s also important to physically get up and walk away from your desk – go stand outside for a couple of minutes or throw on a load of washing or fill the dishwasher – whatever makes sense to replace the stroll to the office kitchen to get some water and stopping to chat on the way that you may have done when in the office. When taking your lunch break, physically get up and walk away and break – sitting in front of your screen eating at your desk is not a proper lunch break.

2) Clear communication

Ensure your colleagues know your working hours, when you start/finish and when you are on annual leave. People may still contact you after you have finished working for the day but clearly communicating your working hours helps bed in that boundary for both you and them that you are not obligated to reply outside your working hours. You are allowed to switch off fully at the end of your working day.

3) Start and finish work on time

Ensure you start your working day on time and end on time. It’s very easy both in the office and at home to continue working beyond your finish time. If you are finding the working day is getting away from you and you’re not getting to everything it’s important to still end your working day on time. “But what about the stuff I don’t get to?” Unless you’re a surgeon in an operating theatre or a fire person in the middle of putting out an actual fire (or something to this effect) then surely it can just wait. You are one person with only so many hours in the day. Do what you can. It also may be an idea to work on time-sensitive items earlier in the day so you’re not putting yourself under huge pressure at the end of your working day. Also, if you have work emails on your personal phone, consider removing them so you can truly switch off.

4) Manage expectations effectively

This one is a big one and can be a game-changer if done right. If someone asks you to work on a task, they may think “oh this will only take half an hour, I should have it back later today”, because everyone will always feel, their items take priority, right? This is where you need to speak up. If you already have a lot on for the day and maybe deadlines you are working to on priority items, it’s down to you to make it clear when they can expect this work back. If it’s going to take a couple of days, then say that. It can be frustrating to wait on something thinking it should have a quick turnaround without the knowledge that the person working on it cannot get to it straight away. It will also give you breathing room and ensure you’re not being chased unnecessarily for it.

5) Learn to say no

For some, this will be the trickiest point of the 5. Learning to say no. Have you ever had meetings scheduled for 5.30 when you finish at 5 or smack bang in the middle of your lunch break? Fair enough, we all must be flexible at times, but to a degree. You decide that degree. Flexibility exercised too often can lead to a shift in expectations. It’s so important to learn to say no, you can do this while being both polite and firm. “That time does not work for me, how about X instead?”, “I’m unable to stay late this evening, how about we have this meeting tomorrow?”, “I need to wrap up this call as I’m working on something time-sensitive” however you want to say it, so long as you say it.

I hope you’ve found these tips helpful and that you go put some into action right away! Let me know how it goes.

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