How to set Healthy Boundaries to increase Self-Care within the Workplace.
With the increase in Remote/Hybrid Working many professionals are struggling to keep healthy boundaries to maintain a good work-life balance within the workplace.
Many professionals are staying late, arriving early, skipping lunch to ensure that they can complete projects and tasks with the immense pressure they are under, whilst forgetting to take the time they also need for themselves.
So what healthy boundaries could we put in place to increase self-care and the work-life balance of professionals?
Schedule time for Self-Care
When creating our schedule for the week, self-care is often an element of our schedules that we leave out especially if our week gets particularly busy. We tend to be more flexible with our self-care activities as they are not concrete appointments in our routines like meetings and appointments are, which can often leave us feeling that we need to move the activities around to suit other commitments.
Dismissing your self-care needs and activities by not scheduling these activities into your diary, can leave you vulnerable to others taking advantage of free time within your schedule making your day busier and without time to practise self-care. This is particularly the case if you share your calendar with colleagues, as it shows an opening for any potential meetings rather than allowing yourself the time to take a breather.
It can feel difficult to start to schedule all self-care activities into your diary, and it may be about starting small by scheduling some time at the beginning of your work day that will help you re-energise and set you up for a good work day ahead. For example, some people like to start their day with meditation or yoga before they get ready for the day and head to work. For others, this might be scheduling 10 minutes within their day to get outside for fresh air and leave the office desk. Making this step to have a change of scenery regularly throughout the day will help you focus and prioritise your workload more, increasing your productivity and motivation throughout the work day.
Set Expectations within your team
It can be really easy to dismiss your boundaries when there are no expectations within your team regarding your work hours and the working environment. When working or managing a team, it is a good idea to set expectations for all individuals and make it clear through good communication when you will be around so that you are able to find appropriate times to interact and collaborate.
For example, those who work 9am-5pm may wish to set the expectation that at 5pm you will log off for the evening and will be unable to respond to any queries, this will allow you to create and be accountable for the boundaries you place around your working hours, and allow others to be aware of when they will be able to contact you.
It’s so easy, especially with the increase in remote working, to be tempted to continue late if you have not finished your tasks for the day or to answer the last email that comes in at 5pm, however if you make a habit of this it will become easier for others to expect you to stay late and decrease the time you are available for looking after yourself and your wellbeing.
Setting expectations and communicating this with your team can be particularly helpful for people who may struggle to switch off or be tempted to answer another message during the evenings, as others will be able to hold you accountable for sticking to your own boundaries.
Technology has improved a lot in the past couple of years, and now there are so many ways to effectively communicate with your team and manage your workload without needing to compromise your time and self-care.
Platforms such as Slack or Teams help bring teams together even if they are working remotely or during separate times, allowing for many meetings or live conversations that may have previously been scheduled to happen in an offline manner effectively.
This is great if, for example, your team has flexible working hours and some members are only available during the evening whilst others prefer to work in the morning. These apps make it easy for you to manage your time without numerous zoom calls. No more late night meetings or rushing back from the school run to attend a meeting. Instead, you can post a message on your team's platform and allow employees to reply at their own leisure.
Managers can also use these platforms to have an ‘informal’ chat thread where staff are able to ask questions that they would usually ask in the office such as what others are getting up to at the weekend, or what are they doing for themselves when they get home. This will in turn encourage healthy self-care behaviours within the workplace and help create a positive working environment.
Taking breaks can be difficult during stressful periods and you may struggle to switch off when you are scheduled for a break. However, if you do manage to schedule some time for you, whether this be scheduling your lunch break into your packed day, or you take a day off to spend some time doing something you enjoy - make sure you take the break and switch your phone and laptop off.
When everything is busy, there’s nothing worse than getting a message from a manager asking you to log in to ‘just check’ your notifications during an off day or to log in for just one call during the time you are scheduled off. When you do this once, it becomes easier for managers and supervisors to ask for you to dismiss your boundaries and come into work. It may also be an urge that you feel to check your notifications when you are off to make sure nothing urgent is happening.
Sometimes it can help to put an ‘Out of Office’ on auto-respond so that everyone who messages you knows that you are off, and supplies some further information for any urgent query, such as a manager's contact information. This also helps you to become accountable for taking time off when you schedule it as your colleagues will be aware of your time off and will not be expecting you to answer.
Frequently Asked Questions
What activities could you do to increase self-care?
There’s lots of different activities that you can do to increase your self-care. It's good to think about all areas of self-care when discussing this. You could do some physical self-care such as exercising, doing a face mask or doing some yoga. Alternatively some people prefer to do some other self-care such as listening to your favourite song or tv show. Whichever your preferred method is, you should try and schedule something that makes you happy and re-energizes you throughout your workday so that you can increase your productivity, motivation and happiness levels.
How long should you spend on self-care per day?
There’s no set time to spend on self-care per day, however it should be an amount of time that works for you within your day. Spending just 5 minutes partaking in a self-care activity can make the difference between how focused and productive you are at work, and your happiness levels throughout the day.
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