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Setting Boundaries in the Workplace


By: Erin Roberts

We are in an era where not putting your employees first is no longer an option. If organizations don’t give their current and future employees flexibility in the workplace, someone else will. This goes beyond PTO and the ability to work remotely: we must respect employees’ workplace boundaries. 


Workplace boundaries are more important than ever 

Today’s environment already causes such high-stress levels at work, much of which is due to companies’ constant recruitment and retention issues because when position vacancies occur, it is the staff that remains who are picking up that slack. This is a recipe for burnout. Amid the great resignation, the flexibility that employees are looking for includes respect for their time when they are not working. 

Employees need to be able to mentally destress from the workday in the evenings and from the workweek on the weekends. If an employee is constantly answering their emails after hours, they cannot take the breaks they need from the stress in order to recharge. People need their boundaries respected and they are no longer sticking around if they are not …creating more vacancies.


How the age of technology has brought us here

In the age of ubiquitous technology, Android and IOS have apps for every email service and internal communications service that companies use today. This means employees are constantly reachable unless they purposefully turn off those notifications or uninstall those apps from their phones.  

Just because employees are accessible, doesn’t mean they should be reached out to outside of business hours or when they are on vacation. Employees shouldn’t feel obligated to be readily available at all times, they should have the opportunity to unplug. 


There is a generation of people who felt that to get ahead, they had to be constantly working.


That doesn’t have to be the case anymore.


What does respecting boundaries look like?

Signs that employers aren’t respecting employees’ boundaries:

  • Wondering what ‘boundaries in the workplace’ even means
  • Expecting employees to work after hours
  • Expecting employees to be accessible during their PTO
  • Advertising the role as remote and still expecting people to be on site

In certain industries and on certain projects, work after hours is necessary, but even then boundaries can be respected. 

Here are some tips for setting proper boundaries:

  • Be clear about what hours employees are expected to be available, and if after hours response is necessary
  • Be clear about the working hours for global teams (what time zone is everyone working off of?)
  • Be clear about any evening and weekend work that is expected
  • The key is CLARITY

Employees need to do their part

Employees need to know what boundaries they need and to stand firm in them. It’s not only possible to be dedicated to the company’s mission and have strong boundaries, the two go hand-in-hand. In other parts of the world, employees are not seen as team players if they don’t take vacation time, because team members are strong when they are also well cared for personally. A well cared for employee outside of work is a productive and clear-headed employee at work.

Employees should do these things to ensure healthy workplace boundaries:

  • Get clarity on what is expected of you
  • Do not communicate during hours you are not expected to be working – let it wait
  • Take your vacation and your sick time, don’t work when you feel ill
  • Convey your dedication to the company and role

Doing these things will set a strong standard for the whole team. When employees are clear on their needs and uphold their boundaries, employers will be more likely to honor boundaries as well. If it causes friction, talking through it to a place of understanding is key.


Employers who are not adapting to this will be left behind


The old way: You are so dedicated when you are always available. 
Now: We respect you MORE when you take time to unplug from work and recharge. We are respecting you by respecting your boundaries.


Employees are no longer a number on a spreadsheet. Companies HAVE to think about their employees’ quality of life at work first. Employees cannot be dedicated to the company’s mission if their needs are not met. The best way to ensure a company’s mission succeeds is to take good care of the people who are fueling it.