Set Boundaries at Work

The Gated Team
April 17, 2022

Whether working remotely or returning to the office, each of us is struggling to balance work and life.  To find focus in our days, we know we should set boundaries at work. But that can be quite a challenge. 

After working at home for so long, personal and professional communication have blended in interesting ways. Along with the rise of work-from-home culture, various new communication platforms like Zoom, Slack, and Loom have taken off. 

Between keeping up with personal relationships and managing expectations from professional colleagues, it’s also important to set time for yourself. Hopefully, the following tips provide inspiration for you to clarify your boundaries, so you can more clearly focus - especially on yourself!

Make time for yourself

If you work in an environment where you’ve always got another project to work on or there’s more to be done, it’s important to remember the fundamental importance  of “down time.” Our brains require rest and breaks, to perform at their best.  If you strive to provide insightful, meaningful inputs at work, you’re going to have to set aside time to recharge your mind occasionally.  

One easy way to do this is by blocking out a time in your calendar when no one can reach you. Then sticking to it.  It can help to share with your colleagues or friends the reason why you are blocking that time, and the activity that you will be focused on. 

Perhaps it’s walking your child home from school.  Perhaps it’s getting some outdoor fresh air. Perhaps it’s getting exercise in your favorite way.  By defining your goal for the “down time”, it helps you commit to taking the time and feeling more justified in doing so. 

Additionally, if you’re working at a respectful company, they should support you in setting boundaries around your full work day.  Turn off your notifications from work, while you are at home or with family.  Mark the hours that you aren’t “on cal” very clearly in your calendar.  Even if you have to send an email, try to schedule it to send during work hours. In that way, others won’t start expecting you to communicate outside of work hours - and they won’t think you expect that of them either!

Of course, we know these practices are easy in theory, especially as work demands pile up. However, when you take the initiative to set a reasonable boundary, the people around you will adapt to respect your needs.  (And maybe be inspired to do so themselves!)

With your dedicated personal time, it’s important to find moments of fun and explore your interests. We touch upon discovering new experiences and understanding the benefits of play in this “flow in work and play” video:

Truly go OOO and set your status as “away.”

Although it’s tempting to set an OOO message but still respond to “important” messages, this devalues your personal time.  When you’re headed for some out of office time, turn off notifications, mark yourself as away on Slack, use focus mode on your iPhone. You need and you’ve earned some silence from the busy office. 

Want to help others learn about how you value your personal time?  When writing a good OOO response, get inspiration from  VP Partnerships at Pavillion, Aaron Leeder in “the key to doing OOO right.”

Make what you ARE doing clear so that people are quicker to understand what you are NOT doing.  Plus, it truly humanizes you to share something about what you do with your non-work time.  

Manage expectations on what you can give

Only you know what your workload looks like. It’s important to speak up and communicate if things start to feel like they’re too much. There’s no need to sacrifice your own sanity. 

Sometimes, we create an “invisible” layer of work-overload. There’s often a very large portion of work that we don’t quantify.  Smaller tasks can add up and it’s important to verbalize that run-the-business efforts can require your time, just like big change-the-business projects.  Be sure to speak up about the sometimes “invisible” burdens you have, in any role. In that way, others will not assume that you have unlimited time to give.  

It’s up to you to decide what’s the best use of your time, because it is yours. Make a list of priorities and communicate them with your team.  Work to make those priorities clear for your manager, so that you are justified in pushing back when something is asked of you, that falls outside of your focus.  

Reduce external emails with Gated

If you want to stay focused on what matters to you and your business, you certainly want an email that’s free from distraction.  With Gated, unknown and unwanted messages go to a separate folder that reduces the load in your inbox by an average of 43%.   With fewer distractions, you’ll be free to achieve more - or find time to do what matters most to you. 

Additionally, when an unknown sender tries to get a hold of you, Gated sends a challenge email on your behalf asking the sender to donate to your favorite nonprofit. This is functioning like a clear boundary in email, saying to any sender: in order to get a piece of my valuable time, you’ll need to show me that you are interested in me as a person.   Gated’s approach creates more intention on both ends of email, leading to better boundaries.