Keeping your work life and personal life separate, and showing up for both, can be so hard to do. Especially right now, at a time when so many of us are working from home, things tend to get a little bit messy and the division of work time and “our time” is blurred.
I’ve always been lucky to work for employers who recognize the need for a work / life balance. However, my husband has not been so lucky. Over the course of the last 18 years, we’ve raised three wonderful children together and have navigated many transitions. I’ve seen the ways he has juggled the responsibilities of having a family, while also feeling the pressure to always be available for work. He’s passionate about both, so together, we’ve created some tricks to allow him to show up for both of his passions, while protecting his emotional well-being.
I’m sharing our top tips for setting workplace boundaries in hopes that they’ll help you feel a little less burned out and a little more in control of your time.
5 ways to set workplace boundaries
- Set realistic limits. While it may not always be possible, try to set limits on your time and space. Are your office hours 9 to 5? Is it possible to adhere to those and put away your computer, or leave the office, once the work day is technically over? If you’re off work on the weekends, but still find yourself responding to emails, is it possible to step back, reset expectations, and prioritize your personal life? If you can’t escape weekend emails, try setting aside one hour where you step away. Give your brain a break from the constant checking by doing something with your hands like baking, playing video games, drawing – you get the idea. Things like adjusting your phone notifications or delegating tasks can make a huge difference in your overall well-being.
- Be intentional with your time. If you’re finding that you have a limited amount of time for yourself outside of work, it’s helpful to be really thoughtful about how you spend such a precious resource. Ask yourself what your values are and how you can honor them as you move through your day. For example, if you are a person who needs more connection, schedule in time to have a phone call with a friend. I know, it sounds a little counterintuitive, but we have found that if it’s on the schedule it’s more likely to happen. Be intentional with time spent doing the things you love, being with the ones you love, and recharging your internal battery.
- It’s okay to say no. It’s easy to feel like you need to do it all, but if you’re like me, it’ll leave you feeling exhausted and maybe even a little resentful. We can easily slip into the habit of automatically saying yes when asked to do things like join another committee, go to an event, or to take on that extra project. It can simply become too much, so it’s okay to take a moment before committing to a request. Maybe you need to come up with another solution, ask for support, or communicate that your plate is currently too full to take it on.
- Practice effective communication. Learning to openly and clearly communicate has been the single most important tool in setting boundaries for both my husband and me. Taking time to talk to those around you at work and at home allows you to set realistic expectations for everyone involved. For example, if your to-do list is getting far too long, try asking your manager for help in prioritizing and delegating tasks. Hopefully, you’ll walk away feeling more supported and less overwhelmed.
- Quiet the inner critic. Do you ever have that voice in your head that says pretty daunting things like, “You’re blowing it. Everyone is going to find out and you’ll get fired.” Yep, it happens to a lot of us. Getting stuck in one of these thought traps can leave us feeling stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed. The good news is that these feelings aren’t facts. Try noticing these thoughts as they happen. Then, offer yourself the compassion that you would show a friend who is struggling. We have a tool in the app to help out.
These changes didn’t come easy for my family and they definitely didn’t happen overnight. Whether you’re dealing with a toxic workplace or unrealistic expectations, be patient with the process and try taking small steps that feel doable for you.
Your support system, whether that includes a therapist, coach, or loved one, can be helpful to lean on as you define what strategies work best for you. Once you start setting boundaries, and feeling better as a result, it really will get easier. We’re here to support you along the way.
By Jamie Ellis, Sanvello Mental Health Coach
Jamie knows the challenges that can come with taking the first step. As a Sanvello mental health coach, she explores ways to break down the challenges to find your internal motivation to take a step forward. Jamie enjoys celebrating each victory with her members and wants to make sure they recognize every success is something worth recognizing. When she’s not working with her members Jamie enjoys spending time with her husband and three teenage kids. She loves to kayak, travel, and explore the outdoors.