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10 Ways to Set Boundaries at Work to Avoid Burnout

Setting boundaries means creating clear guidance on what behaviors you feel comfortable with. These ten strategies will help you establish them so you can be the best version of yourself at work.

Are you feeling overwhelmed at work? You aren’t alone. Over 40% of the global workforce is experiencing workplace burnout. This problem is especially relevant for women, who are more likely than men to juggle career and family responsibilities. In fact, the burnout gender gap has more than doubled since 2019, according to Gallup. One reason for the widening gap is that women find it more challenging to set boundaries at work. Also, women are more reluctant to delegate than their male counterparts. These circumstances, combined with disproportionate childcare and caregiving demands, explain what many also call the “exhaustion gap.”

To stay healthy, employees need to create work boundaries. Setting boundaries at work means creating clear guidance on what behaviors you do and don’t feel comfortable with. Let’s look at the different types of boundaries and ten ways to establish them so you can be the best version of yourself at work.

Types of Boundaries at Work

There are several types of boundaries at work, including:

Mental Boundaries

Setting mental boundaries preserves your mental energy by limiting work-related thinking and preventing work from dominating your time. These boundaries separate work and life, letting you recharge outside of work hours. Strengthening mental boundaries means setting clear expectations for off-the-clock communication, which promotes a culture that respects personal time. Not to mention, scheduling time for creative thinking may keep everyday tasks from feeling overwhelming.

Physical Boundaries

From creating an ergonomic work setup to communicating guidelines for physical interaction, setting physical boundaries at the office makes you more comfortable while improving your work performance. These boundaries also help you separate work and home environments. Setting expectations for response times outside work hours will promote a culture respecting rest and disconnection.

Emotional Boundaries

Creating emotional boundaries at work means understanding how work affects your emotions and taking steps to protect your well-being. Two examples of an emotional boundary are being mindful of what you share about yourself and finding ways to prevent work stress from impacting your home life. Emotional boundaries also include respectful communication, constructive feedback, and saving your emotional energy for essential tasks. These boundaries help create a healthier work environment for you and your colleagues.

10 Ways to Set Boundaries at Work

Depending on the type of boundary, there are different ways to approach it including:

Mental

  • Prioritize projects with your boss: To develop a more focused approach to work and avoid feeling overwhelmed, clarify the most critical tasks. Clear priorities make communication more effective and stay focused on your team’s goals.

  • Reduce digital distractions: Silencing notifications from Slack, email, and other digital platforms during working sessions protects your mental space from constant interruptions. This practice not only boosts efficiency but also helps you deliver high-quality work.

Physical

  • Choose when to use your webcam in meetings: Research shows a positive correlation between using your camera and feelings of fatigue—so being selective about when to use your webcam during virtual meetings conserves energy. It also empowers you to control your engagement to fit your role in the project.

  • Communicate your personal space preferences with colleagues: Clearly stating your boundaries regarding physical interactions (for example, shaking hands instead of hugging) fosters a respectful environment for everyone. You will also be doing your part in creating a safe environment by valuing everyone’s comfort levels.

  • Schedule regular breaks: Incorporating short, regular breaks during the workday is essential to staying focused. For instance, going on a walk or having lunch outside helps you recharge, keeping you refreshed and focused.

Emotional

  • Communicate feedback preferences to your boss: Clearly express how you prefer to receive feedback, which ensures it is constructive and fosters growth. This approach encourages a more personalized conversation about your development.

  • Limit interactions with toxic coworkers: Intentionally reducing contact with those negatively impacting your emotional health creates a more positive environment for you. As a result, you may feel more satisfied overall.

  • Take sick and mental health days as needed: Use your time off without feeling the need to justify it. Recognizing the need for breaks and acting on them is crucial for your happiness.

  • Delegate tasks when you feel overloaded: Sharing or redistributing tasks when overwhelmed can help prevent burnout. Recognizing when to ask for help is crucial for staying productive and reducing stress.

Improving Workplace Relationships Through Boundaries at Work

Setting workplace boundaries does more than benefit personal well-being; it also enhances workplace relationships by establishing respect among team members.

Communicating your needs and limitations encourages others to do the same. This mutual understanding leads to more effective collaboration as team members learn to work within each other’s constraints. Additionally, it fosters an open, supportive environment.

For women, particularly those balancing the demands of a career and family, setting boundaries is crucial to navigating the challenges of the modern workplace. When you ignore them, you risk your own physical and mental well-being. But when you enforce them, you teach others how you deserve to be treated.

Are you a woman who needs help changing careers? Download my FREE 22-page e-book: How Professional Women Can Master Career Change!

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