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Setting Healthy Boundaries at Work

30 January 2023

Every workplace has people of different temperaments and limits. What's acceptable to one may not be acceptable to another. People expect their coworkers to respect them and their limits, but more than often, they aren't vocal about what's acceptable to them and what's not. When someone breaches a boundary that an individual never defined, they feel offended, disrespected, or even exploited.

Setting workplace boundaries is extremely important, not just for you as an individual but for an organization as a whole. Setting clearly defined boundaries at work makes the workplace more conducive, supportive, and safe for everyone.

You interact with various people during the day at work. Some are below you in the hierarchy, and some are above. If you cross a boundary (that you didn’t know existed), you might unintentionally upset your coworkers, which could affect how well you work together as a team. Therefore, setting boundaries at work is important not only for the employees but for the business as well!

This blog post will help you understand workplace boundaries, why setting boundaries at work is important, and how you can set healthy boundaries at work.

Understanding Workplace Boundaries

If you don't set healthy boundaries at work, you might be putting your physical, mental, and emotional well-being at risk.

There are 4 types of workplace boundaries which include emotional boundaries, time boundaries, physical boundaries, and mental boundaries.

Let's look in detail at what each type of boundary means and what it covers.

Emotional Boundaries

Emotional boundaries encompass how you expect people to treat you, how you wish to receive feedback, and define what your personal space is, and it also covers how you can be sensitive to the feelings of your coworkers and respect their personal space. One very important part of emotional boundaries at work is to be vocal about your need to spend some time and space alone.

Time Boundaries

Time boundaries define when the workers should start work every day and also the time when the workers should call it a day. On a personal level, setting time boundaries means defining a set time after your shift is over beyond which you can't work. This keeps you from feeling exploited at the hands of the employer.

Physical Boundaries

These are pretty much what you think. Setting physical boundaries means how much physical contact with your fellow workers is okay for you. Some people might feel uncomfortable interacting physically with coworkers of the opposite gender (casual hugs, handshakes, etc.), while others might not see any wrong with it. It all comes down to what you're comfortable with.

Mental Boundaries

Mental boundaries will help you ensure your mental well-being. Setting boundaries so that your work doesn't interfere with your personal life in any way is important. Claiming your leaves, taking time off, and spending time with your family or doing what you like is important. Many people don’t take any days off because they’ve got a lot of work to do, but they don't realize that they're only exploiting themselves.

How Important Is It to Set Healthy Boundaries at Work?

When we say setting healthy boundaries at work is critically important, we mean it. We've got numerous reasons why we say there should be set boundaries in every workplace, both on an individual and organizational level.

Below are some reasons why it's so important.

Clear Expectations

Defining boundaries helps set clear expectations. When you're aware of workplace boundaries, you'll know exactly what's considered acceptable and what’s not. It won't be a walk in the dark. For example, if there's a boundary that defines the time employees can take out for lunch, you'll know exactly what's acceptable.

For example, your workplace allows 30 minutes of lunch break. With that boundary, you know you can't plan a lunch out with old friends who happen to be near your workplace. Setting workplace boundaries helps employers communicate what's okay and what's not to their employees.

Similarly, if you continue to work even after your shift is over and that frustrates you, know that your manager doesn't know you've got a problem working overtime. However, if you set a clear boundary stating that you can't work past your shift time, your manager would know what to expect.

Reduces Misunderstanding

With defined workplace boundaries, there's no room for misunderstanding. For example, when you've set a boundary that you won't be available for work after your shift time is over, nobody at work will assume that you can get a task done after your shift time.

To help you understand how setting healthy boundaries at work can help reduce misunderstanding, here's another example. If you're clear about no physical interaction at work and are vocal about it, nobody at your workplace will get physical with you in any way, saying "I'm sorry, I misunderstood."

Gives Employees More Space for Personal Activities

Establishing healthy boundaries at work allows employees to make more time for personal activities. For example, working only during work hours would mean all your time after work is for yourself. As an employer, allow your employees to take days off if they've leaves available. Ask them if they can give you extra time to work. Imposing or making overtime mandatory will only build frustration in employees. However, respecting your employees' boundaries will only make your employee more loyal to you.

Better Employee Productivity

When the employees know their boundaries are respected, they won't be disrespected or mistreated at work, and they won't be exploited in any way, they'll work with a greater level of dedication. This would directly reflect in higher productivity at work.

Creates a Respectful Work Environment

A workplace where everyone respects others' boundaries and behaves accordingly is definitely a great place to work. When employees know they're respected and that they won't be mistreated, disrespected, or exploited at work, they'll feel safer and more satisfied, and employee satisfaction is the key to a successful business. In such a workplace, employees can have fun and have a good time without breaching anyone's boundaries and avoid offending or hurting someone. Respect is the basis of every successful relationship, even if it's your relationship with your coworkers and seniors at work.

How to Set Healthy Boundaries at Work?

Considering how uncomfortable we feel voicing our rights, you must know how to set healthy boundaries at work.

Below are some tips for you that’ll help you set healthy boundaries at work.

Prioritize What's Important to You

Before you can communicate your boundaries at work, you must know what your boundaries are. Ask yourself what you are comfortable and happy with and what’s not acceptable to you. Consider the factors that make you happy at work and also give thought to what frustrates you at work.

If your personal life is important to you, set clear boundaries for the time, you'll leave work. If professional growth is your priority, have clear boundaries regarding how far you're willing to stretch yourself at work. If your health is a priority, don't hesitate to request your manager to provide you with ergonomic workplace equipment like Ergonomic Anti Fatigue Mat DM1 and an ergonomic workstation and chair that’ll ensure you aren't at risk of workplace-related health problems.

Once your priorities are clear, you can then be vocal about them and ensure everyone respects them.

Be Vocal about Your Boundaries

If your limitations and boundaries are clear in your mind, but you aren't communicating them well, they're of no real good. Nobody can possibly know what's okay and what's not okay for you as long as you don't tell them.

For example, if you don't like to gossip about coworkers, you should politely excuse yourself from the conversation and tell your coworkers that you don't want to be a part of it. This way, they'll know what not to talk about when you're around.

Point Out if Someone Breaches a Boundary

If someone crosses a boundary despite you having communicated it clearly, point it out right away. If you don't, it'll give them a message that you're okay with it. For example, if you have made yourself clear that you don't like being casually hugged by your coworkers, if someone does it, politely tell them you don't really appreciate it.

Keep Your Calm

Not everyone will respect the boundaries that you've set. You've got to keep your calm. Responding rudely or aggressively will only make the workplace environment stressful for you and others. Communicate your boundaries politely so you can convey your message without making a scene. However, if someone continues to breach your boundaries over and over again, despite you telling them that it's not okay, you've got every right to toughen up in front of them.

Bottom Line

Setting healthy workplace boundaries is important to ensure a comfortable, safe, and respectful work environment. With healthy workplace boundaries in place, everyone would know what's acceptable and what's not, what to expect, and how to behave around people. This ensures a light and respectful environment in the workplace.

The key to setting boundaries at work is simple – be vocal. As long as you aren't vocal about your boundaries and priorities, people will keep breaching them unintentionally because there's absolutely no way they would know what your boundaries are.