Your Guide to Setting Boundaries at Work

Macgill Davis

Setting boundaries at work teaches your coworkers how to treat you. Every relationship, including those at work, needs clear boundaries and psychological safety to produce the best results. When you are open and polite about your interpersonal boundaries at work, you create an environment where other coworkers can do the same. This helps build stronger team dynamics where each member brings their “A” game to work and expends less emotional energy guessing what others may be thinking of them. 

By delineating boundaries between work and home life — this goes for those working from home as well — you are better able to lessen the pressure to constantly perform up to everyone's standards and tackle each workweek as it comes. Setting boundaries at work helps to maintain good mental health and enjoyment in your work. On the other hand, blurred lines between work and home life can easily set you on a path to exhaustion and burnout. 

This article teaches how to set boundaries to maximize and enjoy your time at work (and outside work). We'll share the different types of workplace boundaries to make your work-life balance easier to manage as well as three tips to help you enforce these boundaries starting today.

Common Types of Boundaries for Easier Work-Life Balance

Establishing professional boundaries can be scary. It's especially challenging in fast-paced environments like startups, small businesses, and even some large teams where people wear many hats and work in ad-hoc project management environments. 

Lines between work and home life can be easily crossed. So, it's crucial to establish firm and healthy boundaries that show your commitment to your team and protect your time outside work. Begin boundary-setting by noting the four main types of boundaries you can implement to improve your work-life balance. 

1. Time Boundaries

Setting boundaries around your time at work can be tough. You don't want to come off as insensitive, inflexible, or difficult to work with. You also want to make it clear that your time spent away does not signify that you're not committed to your organization's success. Setting boundaries around your time off is ultimately beneficial for all involved. You can unplug and recharge in your personal time and focus on work 100% during work hours. 

A great way to set time boundaries is to let others know ahead of time when a task or event infringes on your personal time. For remote teams, sharing your work-from-home schedule keeps everyone aware of when you are working and available for any impromptu requests.

2. Communication Boundaries

Setting boundaries at work: person scrolling through their phone

Setting communication boundaries is even more important today in the age of instant messaging and social media notifications that blur the lines between work and personal life.

Are you working when you send a quick work email or response on Slack? Are you eating into your vacation time when you catch up on industry happenings and send tweet responses on your day off? Without setting clear communication boundaries, you may never truly unplug from work and be present in each moment. 

Communication boundaries clarify when and how team members can reach you about work matters, especially when you have time off. These boundaries guide your team members to know when to reach out to you and when they can expect a response.

3. Workload Boundaries

Workload boundaries limit the tasks and responsibilities not included in your job description. Setting workload boundaries creates a safer, saner environment for you to focus on tasks that need your complete attention while saying no to tasks prioritized by other people but have nothing to do with your goals. 

Workload boundaries are where you may face the most pushback from coworkers. Still, you should set healthy boundaries to protect your workload respectfully. Acknowledge that it can feel amazing when team members ask you for help but learn how to set boundaries at work regarding your workload to protect your well-being and ensure you don't fall into burnout. 

Setting workload boundaries in this age is a proactive act of self-care. If you're a people pleaser who tries to accommodate every request, you may end up distracted, inefficient, and constantly working on low-value tasks, potentially ruining your work reputation. 

Set your own boundaries by clarifying your priorities in a weekly work plan. This helps you know what you need to get done by the end of the week, thus weeding out all non-essential work responsibilities and making more progress on your work targets.

4. Personal Life Boundaries

Personal life boundaries, or emotional boundaries, are the limits you place between your work and personal life. With these boundaries, you can separate your feelings, thoughts, family time, and personal responsibilities from the workplace and give other team members space and respect in these matters as well. 

Establishing a personal life boundary may sound like, "I'd rather not share information about my family at work. Please respect my decision."

Firm personal life boundaries help maintain a strong sense of self — one that acknowledges you're more than your job and title — and cultivate a rich life outside of work. It helps improve personal productivity as you separate what happens at work and home, organizing your ideas, responsibilities, goals in a way that attracts the least drama or problems.

3 Tips to Get Better at Setting Boundaries at Work

Man sitting on a bed while checking his phone

Now that you know about the types of boundaries to establish at work, let's get into some tips to maintain these boundaries. Remember to pick and use what works best for you in the different work contexts you may find yourself. Setting and maintaining boundaries is always an ongoing process, so be kind and firm to yourself and others. You'll get better, the more you do it.

1. Establish Your Limits

Before you begin to set boundaries at work, step back and clarify where you need to set limits. Pay attention to people and situations around you, and notice what distracts or distresses you. Whenever you notice yourself feeling discomfort, tension, or frustration, that's a sign you may need to set a boundary and communicate it to those involved.

2. Communicate Your Needs

Clear and polite communication is essential when setting boundaries at work. Be upfront with your coworkers about personal space and physical boundaries when you need to think, and let them know your boundaries are meant to be helpful and beneficial to the entire team.

Provide context about your whereabouts when necessary and don't get defensive, especially when setting a boundary for the first time. Instead, listen to your coworkers' feedback and explain how the new boundaries can help you improve productivity and contribute more value to the organization. Be open to compromise so team members know you're still a team player and support and respect your personal boundaries.

3. Use Technology to Automate Your Process

Technology is an amazing tool to set and automate certain boundaries. It's great for setting up workflows and structures that can help you maintain a semblance of work-life balance when used correctly. 

This can be as simple as setting up an automatic email response or “away” message on Slack when you're out of the office or working on an involving project that requires your focus. You can also time block specific hours on your calendar every week to focus on deep work and improve your focus

Of course, technology, most notably social media, can be detrimental to your established boundaries. Turn off notifications during set hours. This allows you to only look at the apps when you choose, without notifications grabbing your attention. Try using the Do Not Disturb mode when you want to unplug, and schedule your daily notifications to start and stop at your waking and winding-down times.

Create a Healthy Work-Life Balance With Rize

At Rize, we are huge fans of finding balance and improving productivity at work to create extraordinary results and fulfill our maximum potential. Our intelligent time tracking tool was created to help you automatically track your workday and gain more insights into what tasks and issues take the most of your time. 

With this knowledge, you can intentionally set boundaries you need to perform better at work, whether time boundaries, communication boundaries, workload boundaries, or personal life boundaries. Tracking your time helps you observe and assess the gaps and needs in your current way of working, so you can set about closing and solving them with the best-suited boundary in place. 

Think you're ready to take control of your wellness at work by setting boundaries that serve you and help you perform optimally? Try Rize today with a free trial and get the numbers to back up your boundary-setting decisions moving forward.