Priscilla Claman calls them ‘boundary predators’—the people in your life who show no respect for your time, feelings or needs. Most of us have, in different roles or times of our lives, been the predator or prey, but we can choose to reject both roles. In creating and policing boundaries, teams and team leaders can foster a more productive workplace with higher levels of employee engagement.

When boundaries between people’s workplace and their personal time and lives are crossed too frequently, their stress levels and dissatisfaction in the workplace will inevitably rise. They may eventually burn out or leave the company. Yet these boundaries are blurred with alarming regularity. According to a 2019 Udemy report, 59% of managers feel pressed to work through lunch break.

In a time where remote and hybrid work have blurred the lines between work and home, the situation has become worse rather than better. Here are practical ways to set boundaries in the workplace, so that everyone can be productive while maintaining the right balance between work and personal life.

  1. Determine and communicate your barriers 

Team leaders and members can benefit from reflecting on their work experience – where they feel they’re being asked to do work outside the scope of their job description or comfort zone; when they feel work is invading their personal time; and when they feel pulled in different directions. Having produced specific examples of boundary invasions, you will be in a position to negotiate physical, psychological or emotional boundaries as a team or with your boss.

  1. Expect your barriers to be challenged 

As Claman notes, any boundary you set is sure to be tested sooner or later. Rather than getting angry, you could consider each boundary-crossing request and decide whether to make an exception. If you concede, it’s important to reassert the boundary as part of the same conversation. Plan a response to the requests you may get, whether it’s a team member asking for time off during a peak period or your boss calling you after hours to request help with a tender.

  1. Create routines 

As a post on Intuit’s blog notes, routines are our default behaviour. Following predictable habits—such as starting and ending work at the same time, wherever you are, and taking a lunch break each day—is a key way to set boundaries around your time and mental space.

  1. Disconnect from technology 

Always-on technology means that pushy bosses and co-workers can reach us any time of the day. It’s thus important to set boundaries on when you can be reached and on which devices. You could, for example, agree to check email and instant messages from 7am to 7pm, or commit to checking your email once each weekend day. “By appropriately limiting your availability, you can continue to support your co-workers’ needs, while also maintaining a healthy work-life balance,” writes an author on The Muse.

References:

https://hbr.org/2021/01/set-better-boundaries

https://research.udemy.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Udemy-2019-Workplace-Boundaries-Report-20190923.pdf

https://mint.intuit.com/blog/early-career/setting-boundaries-at-work/

https://www.themuse.com/advice/your-guide-to-setting-boundaries-at-workwithout-making-anyone-resent-you

[Photo by Drazen on Adobe Stock]