How to Create Healthy Boundaries at Work

Welp, I hate to be the first to say it, but summer is almost over. As we wind down from the long car rides and plane trips and reflect on the memories made this summer, we begin to realize that it’s nearly time to buckle down and get to work.

September for a lot of people in the workplace can be pretty stressful. Whether it’s because it signals the end of the fiscal year or the beginning of a new school year, a lot of us are stressed during this time of year. Honestly, a lot of us are stressed during many parts of the year, making going to work pretty difficult. You may be dealing with selfish co-workers who are lazy, mean bosses who expect the impossible, or constant pressure that you’re putting on yourself to overdeliver and be perfect in the workplace. It’s a lot!

We can’t quit our jobs, fire our co-workers, or tell our bosses off, so what can we do? We can develop healthy boundaries and form healthy habits at work instead. Let’s get into the three ways we can do this!

1. Follow Laura Whaley on social media.

I don’t know her personally, but I love her. Laura calls herself everyone’s work bestie, and she certainly earned this title because she teaches you how to protect your sanity and create realistic boundaries at work – all on social media.

She helps you learn how to say no respectfully at work and does it with a bit of humor, which you can see here.

She and her work bestie show us how to turn what we REALLY want to say into something respectful and professional, which you can see here.

She also helps us avoid the Sunday Scaries, or as we call it in my household, the Sunday Blues. You can see this here.

Seriously, I love her, and she’s a friend in my head. So, here’s her TikTok account and Instagram account so that you can follow her ASAP.

2. Take your lunch break and use your leave!

If you’re anything like me, then you often feel like there’s just so much going on and so much work to do that you can’t eat right now. There may have even been a time when you ate during your lunch break, but you also worked at the same time. I say we make a pact together that we’re not going to do this anymore. Your lunch break is there so you can eat, recharge, and get a break from the morning stress. If you don’t allow your brain to reset and recharge, your afternoon is bound to be just as stressful as your morning.

Also, make sure you use your leave. It’s there for you to take and use as needed, so why do we tend to feel guilty when we use it sometimes? Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but I know there are some of us like that. “It’s not a good time to take leave right now because I’m right in the middle of this big thing.” Yes, I get that. But when is it ever the right time to take leave? And if you need to use it to decompress from that “big thing” you’re working on, so be it. Put that “Out of Office” reply on and relax. Then, on your day off, don’t think about work — don’t check your emails, don’t think about those big projects coming up, don’t think about that office meeting you’re missing. Whatever it is, it can wait.

3. Prepare for people to overstep the boundaries you start putting in place.

Whether it’s that selfish co-worker or your relentless boss, someone will try you in the beginning either because they don’t care about your boundaries or because they just aren’t used to them. They’ll see that “Out of Office” reply and decide to call you instead, then justify it by saying, “Well, this will only take a minute.” They’ll hear that you’re saying, “No”, then try to push back on that.

Now you’ve done one of the hard parts, which is setting the boundaries, but now you have to learn how to be unwavering. You have to be ready and know how you’re going to respond. If they call you on your day off, are you going to answer the phone and give them what they’re looking for? Or are you going to answer the phone and say that you’re not working today and that you’ll address all problems and concerns when you return? If they try to convince you after you already said, “No,” are you going to stand firm and politely repeat yourself, or will you give in and let them overstep?

There are going to be moments where you answer the phone and answer all their questions on your day off, and there will be moments where you cave after they keep asking you the same question hoping for a different answer. It’s normal in the beginning as you begin to get used to establishing and sticking with those boundaries you put in place. Give yourself grace and room to make mistakes — you’ll get there.

Final Thoughts

This is going to be hard, as with all major changes that we make in life. This will be especially hard for my people pleasers out there because it’s so natural of us to put other people’s needs and desires before our own. However, our priority in life should always be to please ourselves and cater to our happiness. Try to be mindful of this as you begin to make this change.

Also, remember that developing healthy boundaries looks different for each of us. What may work for you may not work for me. What I’m struggling with in this change may not be the same thing that you struggle with. So, I have some homework for you. Don’t groan — it’s not that kind of homework.

I want you to get a piece of paper or open the Notes app on your phone and write down 2-3 boundaries that you plan on setting in the workplace. If you’re not working right now, write down boundaries that you wished you set in the past when you were working or boundaries that you plan on setting if you begin working again. Feel free to leave a boundary or two in the comments section if you feel comfortable!

“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.” – BrenĂ© Brown

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