Corporate Wellness

Setting Boundaries: A Guide To Navigating Workplace Relationships

Learn how to set boundaries with colleagues and create a better working environment. Discover tips and techniques to establish effective boundaries, protect your time, and manage difficult conversations.

By URLife Team
28 Dec 2022

With the ever-changing and increasingly demanding nature of the workplace, it can be difficult to keep personal and professional boundaries from becoming blurred. Fortunately, there are ways to navigate workplace relationships by setting boundaries so everyone is happy and can stay productive.

According to executive coach Debeshi Chakraborty, “When joining an organisation, an employee’s communication and code of conduct must align with your expectations. Becoming too personal at the workplace can make it difficult for the team, as well as the manager, to understand the seriousness of professional accountability. When you have set your boundaries at a personal and professional level, ambiguity doesn’t happen.”


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Why Setting Boundaries Is Important In Office Environments

Boundaries in the workplace are essential for a productive and healthy work environment. It’s important to set boundaries to feel respected and safe while maintaining an enjoyable working atmosphere. The ability to clearly express yourself and your needs help keep communication open and honest, ultimately resulting in better relationships with co-workers.

Creating boundaries is especially relevant when it comes to relationships at work since it’s easy to blur the line between professional and personal connections. Setting clear expectations on what behaviour is acceptable and what’s not will help you stay focused on the task at hand rather than getting distracted by inappropriate conversations or activities. Additionally, having these established rules from the get-go gives everyone involved an understanding of how best to interact with one another.


Types Of Boundaries At A Workplace

Whether you’re a veteran or new to the workplace, it’s important to understand and recognise boundaries. “If the communication does not contribute to the business agenda, then you are simply misusing the hours you are being paid for. You can have conversations outside your professional responsibilities but maintain professional accountability,” says Debeshi.

Three of the most important types of boundaries at a workplace are physical, mental, and emotional boundaries. Let's take a detailed look at each of them:


Physical Boundaries

  • Give handshakes instead of hugs.
  • If your industry permits, no "work events" should be attended after 7:00 p.m.
  • Go for a solo walk after lunch (maybe with your favourite music).
  • Don't work on the weekends, please.
  • Take days off and make use of your sick leaves for mental wellness.
  • Let other workers know you are busy.


Mental Boundaries

  • Work with your manager to set your working hours and say no to overtime.
  • Avoid work calls on days that you are on leave.
  • Never say anything that can be seen as gossip, especially regarding co-workers.
  • Do not schedule unnecessary meetings; reject them where possible.


Emotional Boundaries

  • Create a plan that ensures the balance between work commitments and leisure activities.
  • Be clear about your preferences for providing and receiving feedback.
  • Do not adopt someone else's negative attitude or irrational behaviour.


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How To Create Healthy Boundaries At Work

1. Ask Yourself: What are My Boundaries?

Start by being clear with yourself in your mind about your boundaries. Knowing what type of behaviour you will not tolerate is important, such as disrespectful communication or taking on too much responsibility. Doing this exercise beforehand will help ensure that situations don't arise where these boundaries are crossed and leave you feeling taken advantage of.

According to Debeshi, when it comes to sharing personal information and hanging out with colleagues from work, “You should always reserve answers to personal questions for your friends and family. Being friends at the workplace is absolutely okay; however, set limits typically from the opposite sex/gender and celebrate outside the office premises. “


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2. Learn How to Communicate Your Professional Limits

One of the most important steps in creating healthy boundaries is communication. Make sure to clearly communicate your desired boundaries to those around you, including both fellow co-workers and supervisors.

For example, if you don't want your team members to contact you at all hours, let them know when you'll be available for work-related chats. If you prefer not to be contacted while on vacation unless it is an emergency, make it clear what constitutes an emergency. When a boundary is crossed, it must be addressed immediately.


3. Setting Up Successful Structures For Your Team

You must create clear structures for your team as a manager or senior employee. This doesn't mean you must be a strict boss or micro-manage your team. It simply means that expectations should be transparent and well-understood by everyone involved. You can achieve this by clearly communicating job roles, responsibilities, and expectations from the start of an employee's tenure. Establishing this will help ensure that boundaries are respected and followed for employees to feel safe and comfortable in their workspace.

Creating clear rules of conduct is also key when defining healthy boundaries at work. These standards should reflect company values like respect, professionalism, collaboration, etc., and set guidelines on what kind of language or behaviour is appropriate in the workplace.


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4. Stop Taking On Too Much,Learn How To Say No

One of the most basic ways you can start creating a boundary is by learning how to say no without feeling guilty about it. Don't be afraid to politely decline tasks that aren’t within your realm of expertise or don’t fit into your current schedule—it's better for everyone in the long run!

Another way of establishing healthy boundaries at work is delegating whenever appropriate. We all know that time management is key, but sometimes taking a little extra time upfront to delegate certain tasks will save you from unnecessary stress down the line.


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5. Discover How Technology Can Make a Difference

Technology can be a great tool for establishing firm boundaries that ensure you take care of yourself while still delivering top-notch work. Start by having honest conversations with your colleagues about expectations around communication and response times. Use tools such as scheduling apps or time-tracking systems to ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to availability and workloads.

Set up calendar notifications that remind you when it’s time for a break or when certain projects need attention. This way, you won’t miss anything important but still get a chance to relax and re-energize as needed. If you want to keep your personal life under wraps from co-workers, it might be a good idea to make use of dedicated social media features that will help ensure your colleagues don't get a peek into what you've been up to.


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Setting boundaries in the workplace is essential for both physical and mental well-being. By setting clear boundaries, you can create a safe and comfortable environment to work in and have healthy relationships with your colleagues. It’s important to remember that managing workplace relationships requires time, effort, insight, and self-awareness. Take time to reflect on what you need from your co-workers, consider how to communicate those needs effectively and be willing to adjust as needed.


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