Unhealthy work boundaries can lead to coping mechanisms such as eating or drinking too much, not getting enough sleep or exercise and an overall unbalanced and unhealthy lifestyle. Over time, this can lead to mental health problems or the possibility of burnout. Setting healthy boundaries at work is not always easy, but it can be liberating and empowering to have agency over yourself in your working life, honouring what is acceptable and what is not acceptable to you. If you have a manager, it’s important to consider that it is their responsibility to create a productive working environment and you do not have to do it for them, you simply need to look after yourself and work as a team player. The key is identifying what is unacceptable, making a plan to change it step-by-step, experimenting with one idea at a time, and being patient and flexible as things slowly change. Here are some strategies for setting up healthy boundaries at work:

• Practice saying ‘no’
o You are not obliged to agree to requests that fall outside of your remit, and it is OK to say no. Practice saying no in a way that reassures your manager that you are committed to your role, for example “As you know I put in 110% into this job. On this occasion I simply don’t have the bandwidth to take this on”.
• Take your breaks
o Instead of eating at your desk, take a real break. Go for a walk, or sit under a tree and re-charge your batteries.
• Leave work on time
o OK, this might be a stretch, but at least consider reducing how much overtime you are doing, especially if you are not getting paid for it. If you are working an hour extra every day, reduce this to ½ an hour, or leave work on time at least one or two days a week.
o Write a plan for how you are going to reduce unpaid overtime, and set an alarm to remind you to stick to your leaving time.
• Put yourself first
o Self-care is essential for a well-balanced lifestyle and it’s important to support yourself first, so you have the energy to give. Self-care starts with a good diet, exercise and sleep but extends beyond to spending time with your family and doing the activities that “light you up”.
o Commit to doing something you love at least once a week and make this a hard boundary. For example, let work know that you can’t stay late on e.g. Thursdays because you have to take your children to sport or go to choir practice/Oztag/book club etc.
o Schedule time off to relax and take a break.
• Be honest with yourself and your manager
o Having good boundaries is about honouring yourself. Letting your manager know how you are feeling may feel awkward and vulnerable, but it can help to build a more authentic relationship and highlight your needs.
o Learning to ask for what you need is a skill which takes courage, however once you receive a sign that you have been heard, it can be very reassuring.
• Avoid gossip and office politics
o Becoming embroiled in office politics adds to the pressure of the job and can make the work environment very toxic. The important thing to remember is that you can only control your own actions, other people are responsible for what they do and you don’t have to “fix” them.
o Draw a boundary on office gossip and politics by keeping your opinions to yourself and watching from a safe distance.
o If you need to support a work colleague who has issues with other employees, do so in a way that calms and reassures them, without becoming involved in the details of the problem with the third party.
• Use the tools provided by your company
o Re-read your job description and remember the details of what is required in your role and the working hours you are contracted for.
o Calmly raise any concerns during annual reviews or meetings with your manager
o Document all conversations regarding your concerns in a follow up email, so that you have a record of any agreements made.
o Talk to your HR department.
o Engage in counselling with EAP Assist.