How to set boundaries at work

·4 min read

With WFH becoming the new normal for so many of us, it seems like all we do is wake up, work, and go to sleep. Here are tips on how to create boundaries while working from home.

It’s quite likely that you’re finding yourself waking up in the morning, dragging yourself before the computer, shutting down, going to bed and repeating the whole exercise all over again the next day. The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously changed the way we live and work but if there’s one thing that’s most pronounced is the the blurring of boundaries. You can no longer avoid your boss’ call because, come on, you’re at home, right? What else you have going?

Setting boundaries at work can be difficult for some even in the best of times. Now, with WFH being the new normal, this becomes even more difficult. Here are some tips to set boundaries for yourself.

1. Don’t use your commute time to work

Most of us spend anywhere north of two hours travelling to and from work. If you’re living in a city like Mumbai, chances are you will be spending closer to three hours every day. While WFH has shaved off that time from your day, it’s easy to find yourelf starting work earlier and earlier. Just because you used to wake up at 7 am to get to work, doesn’t mean you have to wake up at 7 am and start working. Avoid taking calls till the time you would typically reach work. So if on a pre-lockdown time you would be at work at, say, 10 am, don’t take calls before that.

2. When you end the day, end it.

Very few of us have the liberty of keeping a 9-5 job, you know the kinds where you can call it a day at 5 pm and not worry about work till the next morning. In that sense, we will always have to be plugged in to be on top of the ball. There will always be emails you’ll need to check, calls you’ll need to take well after regular work hours. And that is okay, that’s just the world we live in right now. If your boss has a habit of calling you after work hours all the time, perhaps consider not taking their calls on a couple of occasions. Text them explaining you won’t be able to speak with them immediately but also assure them that you’d return their call the first thing the next morning. Be polite, yes, but also be firm. Most of us tend to check our emails once before we hit the bed. That’s not always a bad thing. But restrict it to just that – checking your email and not being tempted to reply to it. That shows you’re available at all odd hours.

3. Acknowledge for yourself the work you’ve done

One of the reasons why we are unable to draw boundaries with our colleagues is because, somewhere, deep down, we believe that we haven’t worked hard enough. This is especially true of those of us suffering from an imposter syndrome. It makes us want to push ourselves harder to achieve more. This means, we will likely take calls in the middle of a family dinner or walk away to reply to an email while we’re watching a movie. If you are having trouble acknowledging the amount of work you’ve done in the day, it would help to draw up a list of tasks you’ve accomplished. This serves to authenticate your efforts to yourself.

4. Make compromises

Working from home also means you may have to run an errand or spend some time with you child during their online classes. This means you’ll likely have to take some time off in the course of the regular work day to keep up with your personal commitments. In that case, it seems fair to offer equivalent hours post work or on the weekends to ensure your work doesn’t sufffer. This is important to remember becase it’s easy to paint your boss as the bad guy. Remember that managers are also under as much if not more pressure than you are. Offering a solution to a situation always goes a long way than throwing a fit

5. Have an honest conversation with your boss

Keeping an open line of communication with your boss always helps. More so in times like these when you haven’t been seeing each other every day at work and your only interaction has been through Zoom calls. Explain to them that while you will be available for anything urgent, it may not always be possible for you to take calls or answer emails beyond a certain time every day. It is also best if you address the issues bothering you sooner rather than have them pile on and let a small incident trigger you into saying or doing something you regret.

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