Workplace burnout can assume many different forms but is ultimately the feeling of emotional exhaustion. While burnout can happen for various reasons, it often results from not setting workplace boundaries. We can’t keep up with what is asked of us, or the lines between work and personal life get blurred, leaving no room for self-care and relaxation.

Even if you’re not feeling burnt out, boundaries are an important part of maintaining professional relationships and are vital to surviving and thriving in the workplace. If you want to avoid burnout and foster better workplace relationships, let’s take a look at how to establish health boundaries at work.

Understand What Boundaries Are

For many people, setting boundaries can be intimidating because it can feel like being bossy by telling others what they can or can’t do. This isn’t the case. Boundaries are an attempt to foster and continue a relationship—not end it.

For women, the practice of setting boundaries can be especially difficult because there is a gendered expectation that women have to be accommodating to everyone. However, you do not owe your job or your boss your sense of peace or personal space. While it’s your job to put forth effort and get your tasks done, you don’t have to give every single piece of yourself to be successful.

Learn What Your Personal Boundaries Are

Before you can establish healthy boundaries at work, you need to know what your personal boundaries are, and that involves having a serious conversation with yourself. Are you looking to spend more time at home? Do you want to lessen your workload? Are you overly stressed and trying to find a healthy work-life balance? Or maybe someone at work is pushing your emotional, physical, or mental boundaries?

Make a list of whatever personal boundaries you’re trying to set and think strategically about how to implement them in the workplace.

Clearly Communicate Your Boundaries

Your next job—and often the hardest part for people—is to communicate the boundaries that you wish to set. As long as you’re calm, tactful, respectful, and reasonable, there’s no harm in telling your boss or your coworkers what your boundaries are. For example, if one of your personal boundaries is that you will no longer be answering emails after a certain time, establish contact hours. Let them know that you will not be available after a certain time, and establish what “emergencies” are and how to contact you if one should occur.

Keeping your work and home life separate is a critical part of establishing boundaries, and taking work home or working outside of work hours blurs those lines. Plus, one of the most common types of wage violations is not getting paid for overtime, which can occur if you take work home with you. Setting boundaries can therefore protect both your work-life balance and your rights.

Don’t Take Negative Reactions Personally

There is a chance that someone may take your boundaries as a slight, or they may even accuse you of trying to slack off. However, a person’s immediate reaction is not inherently your fault. Their reaction is more a reflection of who they are, what they’ve experienced, and their beliefs.

Pause, breathe, regroup, and try to understand why they may have had the reaction they did. When you’re ready, you can reach out, respond, and clarify—but hold steady to what your boundaries are.

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