Today, boundaries are a topic that’s being widely discussed everywhere — from bestselling books to influencers’ Instagram captions. Even with all the discussion and hype, it’s hard to know what your personal boundaries are, and it’s even harder to enforce them. But knowing and setting boundaries is worth the extra effort because getting this right can improve everything, from your quality of work to your level of joy, and even your family life — three things that tie directly to our core values at Design Extensions.
So, what exactly does it mean to set boundaries at work anyway? Simply put, boundaries are the limits you set on yourself and others so you can work and feel your best. These limits can be mental, emotional, and physical. They’re also not one-size-fits-all. The boundaries you need to work and feel your best depend entirely on your personal values, so yours will probably look different from those of your family, friends, and colleagues.
How Do I Define and Set Boundaries at Work?
Now that you understand what boundaries are, how do you create them for yourself? Well, defining and setting boundaries requires two steps: introspection and action.
The introspection step requires you to think hard about what makes you feel at your best at work — mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Ask these questions to help guide your introspection:
- How much work can you realistically take on?
- How comfortable are you completing work outside of working hours?
- What kind of physical environment do you work best in?
- How much or little interaction with others do you need?
- How do you prefer people to communicate with you at work?
There are plenty of other factors to consider when defining personal boundaries, and yours may change over time! Check back in periodically to see how your comfort levels change.
Now here comes the hard part. It’s all well and good to understand what boundaries you need to work and feel your best, but if you don’t defend those boundaries, you’ll be left feeling frustrated, drained, and even angry.
Here’s how you can put boundaries into action:
- Say no with kindness. There may be times when you know you don’t have the time, energy, or resources to take on something new. In those cases, you’ll have to kindly say no or at least not right now. If you can’t outright say no, try providing an alternative solution that you feel more comfortable with.
- Put your comfort on par with others’. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of making yourself uncomfortable for the comfort of others. While being accommodating of others is not a bad thing, if you consistently sacrifice your own comfort, it will lead to resentment and frustration.
- Be willing to speak up. Nobody can read your mind. If you’ve taken the time to identify what your values are and what boundaries you need to do your best at work, the only way you can reinforce them is to communicate clearly and kindly.
Taking action and communicating boundaries is challenging, but ultimately, you’ll reap the benefits.
The Benefits of Setting Boundaries
You’ll Produce Higher Quality Work
Frustration and discomfort can majorly drain your productivity and ability to focus. If you’re tired or emotionally drained, the quality of your work will suffer. When you make deliberate choices to establish the limits you need, you can devote more of your energy to producing high-quality work.
You’ll Be Happier at Work
It’s simple. When you’re in an environment that makes you feel like you can do your best, you’ll have more joy in life and in your work, and who doesn’t want that?
You’ll Feel Better at Home
The benefits of setting boundaries at work can spill over into your home life. Being happy and productive at work means you’ll have more energy to devote to your family, friends, and passions outside of work.