Career Tips

Improve your mental health by setting boundaries at work

I used to think working all hours of the day and night made me a better leader. Text, call, email or Slack me anytime and I will be there to respond. In the wake of COVID-19 and a remote world, that only amplified. Roll out of bed and get on my computer within ten minutes of opening my eyes. Realizing around 4pm I haven’t eaten yet only to take a quick break before I sat back down for several more hours.

This, as you can imagine, is not sustainable and left me completely burnt out. However, as a leader, I also came to realize it had set a precedent for my team. Making them feel like they need to work at that same intensity level, causing unintended consequences of my team feeling guilty if they didn’t work as much as I did.

Things had to change. So I started by journaling out what my dream work week would look like if I set all the boundaries I desired and kept to them. From there, I narrowed it down to 5 new boundaries that I would set (to start) to help rebalance my work/home life:

  1. Set daily productivity blocks

I am most productive from 7-11am each morning. So, I blocked my calendar and I don’t take any recurring or non-urgent meetings during that time block each day. Sure, a few have crept in, but I am doing my best to protect this time block. I’ve also encouraged my team to do the same and committed to trying to respect each others blocks so we can stay productive.

  1. Remove Unnecessary Meetings

I removed myself from all recurring meetings that I was “optional” or didn’t need to be the person from my team attending. Our company encourages a quarterly  meeting review where we all do this on a quarterly basis to make sure the recurring meetings we have on the calendar are necessary and productive. 

  1. No Slack or emails after 7pm

If I read something later at night, my mind immediately wants to respond, resolve or react to the situation.This leads to me missing time with my family, my workout, dinner and leads to really poor sleep if I read things too close to bed. It was imperative that I set a cutoff time for my mental health to stop letting work come in. 

  1. No Weekends

I am 100% more productive during my work week if I have the weekend to recharge. The quality of my work is mediocre at best on the weekends, because I am way past burnout mode at that stage in the week. Every so often, an urgent project might come up that we need to get something done on the weekend, but I try to keep this to true urgent scenarios (which are rare if you assess what is really urgent). 

  1. No texting 

I don’t text with my coworkers or teammates outside of work. If you need me, Slack or email me. I feel overwhelmed by texting and it often leads to conversations that aren’t appropriate to have via text that need to be handled through work, like conflict with another employee. 

Setting these boundaries have helped my mental health tremendously. It also sets the right expectations for how my team and coworkers can communicate with me and when they can expect a response. 

What are 5 boundaries you can set for yourself this week at work? How will you communicate them with your coworkers or boss? Most importantly, how will you hold yourself accountable for keeping them?

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