Setting Boundaries at Work

18 October 2023 at 09:33 · 3 min read

People circled around a laptop at work.

All of us deserve to have a healthy work-life balance. In fact, it's now widely accepted that doing so benefits both employee and employer in the long run.

Healthier, happier employees are better, more efficient employees - and this is just as true for mental health as it is for physical health. 

There are some simple, universal rules of thumb which are relevant for all: a healthy diet, exercise, efficient time management, and good prioritisation of manageable daily goals. Nevertheless, getting out of balance with either side of the work-life balance can be obviously problematic. 

The consequences of over-indulging ‘off the clock’ are relatively well known. By contrast, “leaveism” can be defined as using time allocated to leave for work - i.e. working during this ‘off the clock’ time. Now, although most jobs require the occasional period of overtime every once in a while, the digital age has enabled leavism like never before. Whilst its unavoidable to some degree in many professions, it can often be a warning sign for other, underlying problems such as burnout.



Because of that, as much as it's a good idea to set boundaries at work, it's worth considering doing the same at home too. For example, one might set a time in the evening when work emails should not be accessed or set a specific out of office voicemail if you share a phone line with your work. 

Such measures are even more difficult to take for home-workers as convenience and proximity can make the temptation to check mail just that much more prevalent. In these circumstances, where possible, try and separate your working office from the rest of your home. Again, this is easier said than done - especially for those living in urban areas where space is at a premium and the idea of having a spare room for one’s own office is out of the question for most. 



Get to know your HR Representative: When each of us starts a new job it's a good idea to try and get acquainted with members of the team - especially those whom we’ll be working closely with. Depending on the size of the organisation, your HR representative may be someone you work closely with, and may be doubling up their responsibilities with other duties. However, in larger organisations, they may be someone in an entirely different department. 

It’s good to make early contact with them, especially if you have any pre-existing mental health conditions that may impact on your work. Doing so may help you feel less nervous about going to them with any future problems. 

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Sometimes work tasks are allocated inefficiently. Too much is given to one person or team and they simply can't help falling behind. Sometimes this is reinforced from the other direction. Perfectionist tendencies can develop from a young age, but they can cause significant problems at work. High standards are seldom a bad thing, but when such tendencies are left unchecked, they can create delays and help snowball some people’s anxiety levels. 


Communicate Clearly 

We all experience points of high stress at work from time to time. That’s why it's important to communicate as clearly and as honestly as possible with management. You need to be able to have a dialogue with them where trust flows both ways. Doing so is essential to making sure that they understand the kind of pressures that you and potentially other members of your team are facing. 

It can be tempting to ‘grin and bear it,’ or to try and put on a facade of being able to cope with any workload. However, the reality is that no one is superhuman, no one is completely efficient and no one is impervious to stress. We all want to impress those we work for, but giving them an unrealistic view of what is do-able is counterproductive for both you and them. In the end, remember that taking on too much at once is a fast way to never achieve anything.



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