Why is it that setting boundaries at work is so hard? Are we afraid we’ll get in trouble or lose our job? Or are we worried about what others will think of us if we create and stick to our boundaries?
On the flip side, what happens if we don’t create boundaries? We can get overwhelmed, burnt out, and put everyone else’s needs before our own, which may mean saying a lot of “no’s” to things we actually want. This may be especially hard if you’re working remotely or at home.
How to Set Boundaries At Work When Working Remotely
As hard as they are to set, boundaries at work is crucial to our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. The good news is, with the right steps and practice, it gets easier.
So, what are those steps?
Here are 13 ways to set boundaries at work when working remotely.
1. Have Strong Motivating Reasons Behind Creating Boundaries
What could you do differently if you had more time and energy in your day? How would it feel? Would you get to spend more time with the people you love or try new or fun activities?
Find a reason or two that will compel you to create and maintain boundaries, something that’s worth the effort. Having a strong motivation to do something helps us push ourselves to work harder for that goal. Strengthening our motivation makes us more resilient and strive harder to accomplish what we want to do, such as making plans, developing our talents, and even creating boundaries.
When you work remotely, sometimes you can feel like you’re not working enough or doing enough. Creating boundaries also means knowing when to clock out and enjoy life after the workday is done.
2. Identify Any Fears or Beliefs You Have Around Boundaries
One of the primary reasons we aren’t good at setting boundaries at work is because we’re afraid of the consequences: losing our job, missing out, hurting someone’s feelings, etc.
For this step, list all of the fears or beliefs you have around boundaries, and then rate them as to how rationale they are. For example, will you actually get fired if you don’t immediately respond to your boss’s email after working hours? Or is that just a story you tell yourself?
Note any realistic or rational beliefs that could be detrimental to you, as you may need to tweak the upcoming strategies to adjust for them. As you’re working remotely, plan a weekly check-in with your boss or team to ensure everyone’s feelings are being heard and needs are being met.
3. Create Your Ideal Schedule
One of the perks of working remotely is creating routines around your work schedule. If you could create your ideal schedule, what would that look like? How does it fit within your working hours? Does it align?
Setting boundaries also mean carving out time for lunch breaks. Although working from home can tempt you to bring your meals to the desk, remember to ask yourself if this is something you would do if you were in the office.
Carve out meal times, meditation sessions, or even a quick workout throughout your day. Creating boundaries also means taking care of your physical and mental health.
4. Block Off Your Calendar to Align With Your Ideal Schedule
Taking your ideal work schedule, update your calendar to reflect it.
Block off the times you don’t want to be available. This removes the chance of someone booking you for a meeting during your “off hours” without checking with you first for permission.
If someone does book you during your blocked time, kindly remind them that you’re not available and ask them to reschedule for when you are.
5. List the Top 5 Priorities in Your Life, Personally and Professionally
Take a moment and think of the five most important things to you at this moment.
The next time you get a work request, take a moment before responding to check it against your priorities. If it aligns, great. If not, go back to the person and see if another solution could be worked out.
A yes to something is always a no to something else.
6. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
It can be harder to communicate in a remote world, so this step is especially important. The last thing you want is to have your boundaries get you in trouble.
So often, it’s not that you have a boundary that annoys your coworker, it’s that your coworker didn’t know where you were or the status of a certain task or item.
If you’re logging off during the day, let your team know how long you’ll be unavailable and when you’re expected to return. Whether you need to step outside to clear your head or have an emergency come up, sending your manager or team a quick message can ease workplace tensions or miscommunication.
7. Have a Buddy System
Depending on the industry, some people may have urgent requests come in that need to be handled. In this case, see if there’s a buddy system that can be put in place.
Creating boundaries is assessing how much work you can handle without jeopardizing your personal and mental health. With a buddy system, you’ll encourage and help one another if either person’s plates are too full.
Communication is also key.
8. Say No
Why is saying no so hard?
Because this is where all those fears and beliefs could become true—the keyword here being “could.”
One way to work on this fear is to practice saying no. Start with something small and gradually work your way up. Over time, it will become easier, and soon you’ll have a reputation for sticking to your boundaries, a quality many will admire about you.
Remember, when you say no to someone or something, you’re saying yes to something else—something likely on your priority list that will fill up your cup.
9. Set an Example
Boundaries are admirable and something we desire in other people.
Sometimes it’s about mirroring those traits and implementing them yourself. Have an open conversation with your boss or project leader on the different ways of setting boundaries as a remote team.
Most of the time, employees need examples and are prone to following their manager’s lead. Creating healthy boundaries together can lead to more engaged and happy employees as a result.
In addition to saying no, delegating tasks to other team members is another challenge people may have, especially when working remotely.
I get it. Everyone has a lot on their plates, and working from home makes it harder to understand everyone’s workload.
A feeling that may come up when delegating tasks may include feeling guilty for potentially adding to someone else’s plate. Pick a few items to delegate to your team, especially if it works better for operation.
Also, don’t decide what a team member can or can’t handle. That’s on them and their ability to stick to their boundaries and communicate otherwise.
11. Ask for Help
Following the advice above, if you’re finding your workload too heavy to manage or that all your deliverables are due at the same time, ask for help. Sometimes while working remotely, we tend to take on more than we’re able to handle.
Your manager and the leadership team are paid the big bucks for a reason—to help their employees problem-solve. Meet them halfway by tracking your tasks and seeing how much time a single task or project may take.
Managers can then better prioritize your workload, adjust deadlines, or take some items off your plate.
12. Turn Off Work at the End of the Day
Working remotely has made it hard to turn off work at the end of the day.
Part of creating boundaries includes saying “yes” to you. Close and put away your computer. Turn off work notifications on your phone.
Imagine plugging your phone to charge, yet disconnecting it every five minutes; the battery is not going to fully charge. Our minds and bodies work the same way. We need to disconnect from work to re-energize and also enjoy the world outside.
13. Evaluate and Tweak
Just like how new products go through numerous iterations, so can our strategies and plans.
Test out some boundaries to see what works. Tweak any that don’t feel right and then test again.
The last thing working remotely should trigger is anxiety or burnout. Find a system that works for you and ask your coworkers how they manage their work boundaries.
Setting boundaries at work is hard, especially in a remote world when we feel that we should be more readily available. But it is also essential to look after our well-being.
What’s key is setting and sticking to boundaries that benefit you and identifying any obstacles along the way. Don’t forget to communicate your work and personal needs, and tweak as you go.
Featured photo credit: Surface via unsplash.com