Setting Boundaries At Work

By Ashley Paskill on May 23, 2022

Whether you are working remotely or in person, creating boundaries at work can be a challenge. You know you are unable to do everything all the time, especially as a student, but you want to make a good impact on your boss and coworkers. However, at the end of the day, creating boundaries will help you be the best version of yourself so you do not get burnt out. There are ways to establish boundaries that are firm but still allow you to be productive and successful.

Work only within confined hours

You may be tempted to come in earlier or stay later than scheduled. However, this may cut into your study, class, or student organization time. Yes, work is important, but so is being a good student. Working outside your scheduled times is okay every so often, but if you find that you are doing it frequently, talk to your supervisor to see what can be done. If they care, they will understand that your studies are just as important as the job. Create a schedule and to-do list for tasks to accomplish at work. Commit to a time where you will only focus on work, especially if you work from home.

Do not eat at your desk

There is definitely a culture of working through lunch and eating at your desk in order to get more work done. However, try to avoid this. It is important to actually step away and take a real break from work. Even if you are working at home, go into your kitchen, make lunch, and eat in another room and not at your desk. There may be days where deadlines are pressing and you have to work through lunch but try to limit this.

Avoid toxic behavior

At work, you may be tempted to join in with coworkers’ toxic behaviors in an effort to better get along with them. This can be anything from spreading rumors to bringing up controversial topics. However, eventually, these things can come back to bite you so it is better to stay on good terms with coworkers and not engage in these things. If other coworkers try to lure you in, respectfully decline and attempt to change the subject. Your job and reputation of professionalism are not worth engaging in these toxic behaviors to simply get specific coworkers to like you and be friends. There are better ways to become friends with coworkers.

Image: Andrea Piacquadio via

Delegate tasks

While you may not be in a position of a manager or a boss, it is okay to ask for help and delegate some tasks to others if you are feeling overwhelmed. Working through feelings of overwhelm will leave you drained and burnt out and you will be unable to be as productive. Communicate with your manager if you feel like you are receiving too many tasks and have them help you prioritize what needs to be focused on. This way, you know what needs to be done and when, and you can delegate the remainder of the tasks or save them for later.

The power of “no”

In an effort to help your boss and coworkers, you may be tempted to say yes every time someone needs help with something or need coverage for a shift. However, do not forget that is okay to say no to things every now and then. Whether that means not coming in early, not staying later, or not taking on more tasks than you can accomplish, saying no can help save you stress. While this may seem counterproductive, it is better that someone else does these things instead of you taking on more and not doing them as well as you may have if you were not as overwhelmed.

Create structure

At times, you may be in a meeting that seems like it is being sidetracked and derailed every five minutes and nothing is getting done. This means that you are getting less of what you need to do, done and you are cutting into class or study time. If you notice things becoming unhinged, see if there is a way to respectfully guide the meeting back to the original agenda. If the meeting is one-on-one with your manager every week, come prepared with your own agenda so you know what you want to cover and can plan your day around how long you expect the meeting to run.

Prepare for the inevitable pushback

If you are someone who is usually saying “yes” to helping and stepping up all the time, the first few times saying “no” will come as a surprise to your boss and coworkers. However, those who set boundaries and limits tend to be happier and healthier. In the end, these things will help you be a better employee and if your coworkers care, they will respect your boundaries.

Creating boundaries is tough and can be scary if you are not used to it, but knowing where to start can help you immensely moving forward.

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