Workplace Boundaries

 In Articles, Mental Health

In today’s driven age, we seem to be increasing the amount of time that we spend at work, some estimates claiming a 7.8% increase in the amount of hours worked compared to the previous generation. The same study claims that one-third of Americans work 45 hours a week or more, and 9.7 million claiming that they work more than 60.  In an effort to corral this skyrocketing trend, much talk has been devoted in recent years to the all-elusive idea of striking a “work-life balance” and the concept of one day finding that perfect harmony between work and play. 

Unfortunately, our professional responsibilities often invade our personal life, where the idea of balance feels more like a myth, and in the face of bills to pay, we find our lives slowly drowned out by the roar of the ‘need to be successful’, ‘the need to be thought of as hard-working’, or even just the ‘need to provide’. 


The first part of having good boundaries in the workplace originates from the attitude with which you carry yourself. It starts with knowing your own value and being firm about the importance of having time for your own self-care, not to mention spending time with friends and family. This can mean something as small as giving yourself permission to take breaks throughout your day, to actually eat your lunch, and to say no to unnecessary extra responsibilities. 

The mantra coined by Brene Brown does wonders in the third situation described above, to “choose discomfort over resentment”, meaning choose the 90 seconds of feeling uneasy or guilty for not agreeing to take on a last-minute task, rather than an evening of resentment for missing out on family time, or breaking a promise to yourself to spend that time in already laid plans. 

However, it’s important to remember also that having good boundaries is about saying yes to growth opportunities just as much as it is about saying no to the extraneous. Refuse to close yourself off to offbeat opportunities, as often this may be where the joy and energy of your work can be found. 

Boundaries With Coworkers

At work, it is largely important that you find a way to strike a balance between socializing with coworkers and losing all sense of focus or productivity. While it is important to work satisfaction to find commonalities with others with whom you work, that line can easily falter and steal focus from the true work at hand. 

This goes both for the coworkers whom you admire and have developed a close relationship, as well as for that one employee who seems to be going through a tough time who constantly seeks you out to vent. With the latter, it may be time to set some limits on the amount of time spent listening to their personal matters with a simple redirect (“That sounds like you’ve got a lot going on right now. I’ve got quite a bit on my plate I’m working through as well”) or a more direct approach (“Seems like you could really use someone to talk to about all that. I’m not sure I can be that person for you. Have you thought about talking to a therapist?”)

At Home

At home, limits are just as important with your supervisors and colleagues and even the amount that you allow your work to creep into your evening and weekend hours. It may be important to the health of your relationships to designate some time as phone-free or a certain time when all devices are turned off and time is spent engaged in conversation or self-care activities. 

Another helpful guideline is to try to not talk about work outside the workplace. We may find ourselves droning on and on about work during our time with family or friends. This is very detrimental to the mental health of individuals and can even lead to burn-out, so it is essential to balance things out and instead invest in habits that will allow you to grow both personally and professionally.

It may be helpful to have someone you trust help to hold you accountable in this aim, or to make a contract between friends or partners to take back their life from one’s all-encompassing employment. 

Strategies like how to implement boundaries in the workplace are central to Launch Centers’ aim to help you or your loved ones stay on track for the future of opportunity ahead. Call today to learn more about our program. 

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