By Dr. Karyn
Hello DK Leadership Community,
Every week when I coach clients (organizational leaders, teams and families) – I take notice whenever the same words keep coming up in different conversations. This month, the word I kept hearing was “boundaries”, and the direction these conversations took often involved the following questions:
- What are boundaries?
- Why are they important?
- If we don’t have them – how does this impact productivity and emotional wellbeing?
- How to set boundaries for working remotely?
- How to set boundaries for online school?
- How to teach others your boundaries?
- Are there different types of boundaries?
These are all great questions! I love this topic because having healthy boundaries can impact every part of our life – our leadership. communication, mood, emotional well-being, relationship dynamics, managing expectations and productivity.
The research is very consistent – healthy boundaries are critical for leadership and wellness!
Research has found that workers with greater boundary control were better at managing stress
and less likely to fall into a negative mindset.
Source: University Of Illinois
So how we can build healthy boundaries? Here are 3 tips to get you started!
Tip #1: Know WHY Boundaries Are Important (For YOU)
A boundary is a line in the sand. It represents the finish of one task and the start of another. It’s the end of your work-day / school-day and when your personal time begins. It separates what needs to be kept apart. Healthy boundaries help us to focus, drive productivity and reduce stress / anxiety because our mind knows ‘I’m working hard now so I can relax later’. Without boundaries, we risk burnout, anxiety, stress, and a lack of mental focus, which will impact our productivity, communication and relationships. Boundaries are critical for both effective leadership and emotional well-being.
If you think some of your boundaries may need some work, a great first step is to identify situations in your work or personal life that have been affected by poor boundaries and figure out WHY you need to redesign them. Once you’ve identified the benefits, it becomes a lot easier to enforce your boundaries.
Tip #2: Clarify The Boundaries
Even before COVID, boundaries were a challenge for many. In the midst of COVID restrictions and colliding home and work spaces, setting boundaries has become increasingly difficult. For those who are working from home – I often hear that they “can’t get away from work,” especially if their co-workers or managers also lack firm boundaries. Many students are learning remotely, and receiving homework and marks at all hours of the day; one of my clients recently told me that her daughter received a grade back from her teacher at 9pm! Because there are often no clearly-defined rules in place – many students feel responsible to check their emails at all hours of the evening to make sure they are not missing any assignments. This is NOT healthy!
Regardless of age, we all need clear and healthy boundaries to separate work and school from personal time. So it’s important when interacting with others to clarify your boundaries:
- Clarify with your colleagues or boss – when they send you an email at 10pm are they expecting that you read and respond OR are they just emptying their inbox?
- Just because you are “working from home” does not mean you are available 24/7. Clarify to your team what your working hours are. If you only “work 8am-5pm” – let your team know that to help manage their expectations.
- Confirm with your school and teachers – what are the boundaries for teachers to be sending emails (assignments / grades) to students? One teacher I know has communicated to her class that she will not email her students anything past 5pm. She wants her students to prioritize their class-time – and recognizes the value of protecting their personal time. As a result her students feel calmer, more focused, and less anxious.
- If you are working from home, confirm with your family when you “stop” working and when you “start” your personal time. It’s confusing for kids when they see their parents on their cellphones at home non-stop. One of my clients decided to teach his kids that all of his ‘work’ calls would happen only in their home office, and only personal calls (ex. talking with grandma) would happen outside of his home office past 6pm. This helped his kids not to interrupt important phone calls, and created a clear boundary for them.
Tip #3: It’s Your Responsibility To Teach Others Your Boundaries
Once you know what you want your boundaries to be – stand up for them, and assert them in a kind, clear and respectful way. It is the responsibility of each person to teach others their boundaries – it should not be anyone’s job to mind-read and try to figure them out. One of the missteps I often hear about is when people assume that others “should know that boundary,” or thinking “that boundary is so obvious, so why can’t they figure it out?” The truth is that we have all been taught boundaries from different sources, including employers and our family of origin. While some boundaries may seem obvious to one person – they’re not always common to another.
Taking the simple step of discussing your boundary expectations ahead of time can prevent frustration and allows you to make the most of your work-time, while truly enjoying your personal time. If you are planning a holiday from work – let your team know you don’t want to receive emails from them unless there is an emergency. If you are going on a date with your spouse – let your babysitter know you don’t want to receive texts or calls unless it’s a critical situation. When those around you understand your boundaries, they are much more likely to try and respect them.
Learning how to voice healthy boundaries in a respectful and firm way – so that others respect them – is an art and a science. Communicating this information can often be a short conversation, but it provides major benefits. Not only does it manage the expectations of others, but also allows you to be more present and focused while reducing your anxiety.
Do you have a question about this topic as it relates to work or home? Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll do a video Q&A (keeping names confidential). Let’s learn together :).
Your Leadership & Relationship Coach,