There was once a time when work life was confined to the office, Monday to Friday, but that seems to be changing. With so many people working remotely, and mobile technology making constant communication possible, lots of us now carry our work everywhere we go. This results in a kind of “always on” mindset, where it’s difficult to switch off, and the line between work and home life becomes blurred. This lack of work-life balance can easily lead to burning out, so it’s more important than ever to try and keep work and home life separate. It’s easier said than done though, especially when others can contact you at all times of the day. Here are five simple tips for setting boundaries:
• Set hours
• Set up lines of communication
• Learn to say no
• Be consistent
• Give yourself a break
Set office hours
The first step begins with you. You need to set yourself consistent hours in which others can contact you and expect a response. Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, is a fairly standard time frame. We’re not saying you have to stop working at 5 on the dot, sometimes you’ve got stuff to do, but tell yourself that any emails or phone calls you get after 5 will not be responded to. Set up an out of office email response to let others know you’ll respond the next day, within office hours. You can also send calls to voicemail with a similar message. This will let them know they’re not being ignored and keep them in the loop.

Set up lines of communication
Give others appropriate lines of communication to get in touch with you. Whether it’s a work email, office number, or work mobile, outline your preferred methods of communication and don’t reply to anything else. This might sound obvious, but nowadays it’s possible for others to find you on other channels, like social media.

Learn to say no
Despite your best efforts, there will eventually be others who ignore your boundaries. They might pester you outside of office hours, ask you to do something that’ll take too much of your time, or make comments that are too personal or otherwise inappropriate. The only option you have in these scenarios is to politely, but firmly, say no.

Be consistent
The toughest part of setting boundaries is sticking to them, but it’s essential if you really want to make it work. If you allow a pushy other to bother you outside of office hours, and you respond to them even once, they’ll just keep doing it because they know you’ll respond. Stay consistent with your rules, and eventually people will learn to respect them.

Give yourself a break
It can be difficult to switch off, especially when others can contact you at all hours of the day. So try not to feel guilty about maintaining your professional boundaries. We know that’s easier said than done, and trying not to feel something doesn’t really work, so if you ever find yourself feeling guilty, just remember:
• You deserve a break. Constant work will lead to a burnout, which will be counterproductive in the long run.
• Maintaining boundaries will keep work within working hours, meaning a more productive work day.
• Keeping a professional relationship with others will lead to a better outcomes all round.