Laura Berlinsky-Schine
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In early November 2021, Portugal’s parliament passed new legislation to protect workers. Under the law, which was approved in response to more and more people working remotely due to COVID-19, employers cannot contact workers outside of office hours, aside from circumstances deemed extraordinary. Meanwhile, businesses must also compensate employees for work-related expenses. Companies that violate this measure will be subject to fines.

This is excellent news for workers in Portugal. But what about those of us who don’t live in a country with laws that protect work boundaries? While you may not have legal recourse, there are still ways to protect yourself.

How to set boundaries at work.

Say no.

It’s okay to say no when you simply can’t do something or feel that it would violate your boundaries. If you have too much work on your plate or know that taking on an additional assignment would force you to work well into the night, explain that to your manager. 

Saying no doesn’t come easily for many people, so it may take some practice. Once you’re able to comfortably do it, you’ll find that it’s a helpful tool to have in your arsenal.

Address boundary violations immediately.

When someone violates your work boundaries, speak up right away. Don’t let it fester. Address it head-on, explaining what happened and why this is a problem.

Give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they didn’t realize they were doing something wrong. By vocalizing the issue, you’re giving them a chance to rectify their mistake and do right by you in the future.

Communicate your boundaries.

Boundary violations will inevitably occur if your colleagues and managers don’t understand what your boundaries are in the first place. That’s why it’s so important to communicate them to your team members.

For example, let them know that you don’t check your email after 7 pm. That way, they will understand when you don’t respond late at night and won’t bother you.

The U.S. hasn’t caught up to Portugal in terms of protecting workers from overdoing it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still establish clear boundaries. Doing so will help you feel more respected and allow you to maintain a better work-life balance.

What's your no. 1 piece of advice for better work-life balance? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers!

About the Career Expert:

 Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket and The Haven.

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