8 Ways to Establish Healthy Boundaries at Work

8 Ways to Establish Healthy Boundaries at Work

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1. Assess Your Personal Boundaries First

Before you communicate your boundaries, you’ll have to take the time to assess them, their limits, and how to set them. Your personal boundaries will stem from your values and your life’s priorities. Any job worth having (in our humble opinion) recognizes that it is, first and foremost, a job. Aside from your work, you have your home life, your 

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1. Assess Your Personal Boundaries First

relationships, your passions, and your personal space to consider.

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2. Communicate Upfront

Once you have your priorities and values in place, communicate them. This can be as simple as letting your team know that you do not answer emails after 7:00 p.m. You can also use this time to communicate what constitutes a work "emergency" so that you're not fielding "crises" that pop up in your off-hours. Communication is the thread 

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2. Communicate Upfront

that will run throughout each additional tip in this article. When you take the steps to communicate upfront, you are safeguarding against future potential miscommunications.

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3. Create Clear Structuresont

Structure is important in the workplace. You're the architect of your own boundaries, so build them solid. By creating clear boundary-based structures upfront, it takes any guesswork out of common boundary infractions. Your coworkers are less likely to interrupt your work if you set up blocks of time in which you are engaged in do-not-disturb work.

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3. Create Clear Structuresont

If you're in a management role, you might create structures that include building out team responsibilities. This creates clear guidelines for where (and with whom) responsibility lies in a variety of circumstances.

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4. Keep Your Relationships Professional

We all love having a work wife or a work BFF, but sometimes those relationships get tricky—and convoluted from the perspective of boundaries. Now, we’re not saying you shouldn’t have an at-work confidante or close friend.  What we are saying is to mind that your work relationships remain, by and large, professional.

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4. Keep Your Relationships Professional

As difficult as this may seem to some—especially our extrovert friends—it’s important to separate your friends from your coworkers.

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5. Delegate Work When Appropriate

One important part of establishing boundaries is in setting expectations about the work you will do, that you’re hired to do, the work you’re willing to pick up (part of being a “team player”), and the work that is outside of your responsibilities. When work is entirely outside of your scope of responsibility, you might have the opportunity 

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5. Delegate Work When Appropriate

to say no (we’ll get to that in our next point) or delegate the work to someone who is more suited to the work. Obviously, delegating work is a bit easier to navigate when you’re already in a managerial position.

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6. Say No

Sometimes, your established boundaries won’t even require you to actually delegate the work. In these cases, you can just say—and this is a tough one for many of us—no. Saying no is a lot easier said than done, especially in a professional atmosphere. In an episode of The Career Contessa Podcast, where we interviewed former 

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6. Say No

hostage negotiator Christopher Voss, he introduced us to a helpful tactic when someone asks for something that is outside the realm of possibilities. Voss explains that, when you need to decline a project or task, you can ask, “How am I supposed to do that?” It’s important not to ask this in an accusatory way, but, rather, 

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6. Say No

in a way that elicits a little empathy from the other party. It’s in explaining the scope of work you do have—and in exploring whether you can fit in more work without having your primary responsibilities suffer. By asking this question, you're giving the other person a chance to consider the work you do have—and whether 

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6. Say No

adding more (or interrupting it) is actually feasible.

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7. (Actually) Take Time Off

Another great way to set boundaries is by taking your time off—when you get it, when you need it, and when it’s offered. Letting vacation time accrue and expire is not a point of pride—nor should it be. Use the time you're given. You've earned it. When you do, set that perfect out of office message and take time to recharge.

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7. (Actually) Take Time Off

In the long run, your career will only benefit from a rested you.

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8. Use Technology to Help

Do you know who is great at setting boundaries? Technology. Use it as a tool to help you set certain boundaries. Technology can be great at helping you create structures. It can be putting up an away message on your Slack when you’re deep into writing. It can be blocking off a few hours a week on your calendar in 

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8. Use Technology to Help

which you are engaged in specific work—and thus, unavailable to be bothered. You can also use tools to set your working hours—which will notify your coworkers of the hours in which you are, in fact, working. Technology can also help when you’re dedicated to taking an actual vacation. You can set up systems and chains of 

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8. Use Technology to Help

command for your time away—and communicate that to your team before venturing off.

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