3 Steps to Regaining Work-Life Balance After You've Sacrificed Your Boundaries

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Marjorie Kalomeris202
Founder & Interview Coach @ MK Career Coaching

We’ve entered a state of widely-acknowledged burnout in many workplaces and home environments. Once-solid boundaries have turned fuzzy, warped or bent, and it can be tough to solidify or rebuild them. 

Boundaries at work can be even trickier, especially since we all want to seem like hard-working, efficient team players. But what good are cell phones with dead batteries? We’re the same — we need our boundaries so that we can conserve our energy and sustain a work relationship for the long-term (or however long you want to sustain it). That’s the beauty of a boundary — you get to set it, it’s yours to uphold and yours to change whenever it serves you. But make sure it serves you first, especially in the workplace.

So, how do you create a boundary in the workplace where historically there has been none? Here’s my three-step process.

1. Have a conversation with your manager about your workload and your working hours. 

An honest conversation goes a long way. Start with your manager, who should be the first person you ask for help. Record some sort of evidence of having had the conversation, and send an email with the points discussed, thanking them for listening. I sincerely hope they are receptive to the conversation, but if not, your HR rep should be your next step. 

Enter into these conversations with curiosity and an open mind: What are the expectations around my work output? My work hours? My response time for getting back to emails or instant messages? My capacity for how many projects I’m working on at any given time? Clarity on these topics can help you set some guardrails in place, and will establish a new, joint expectation between you and your employer.

2. Define and clearly state your new boundaries.  

Now that you’ve been vulnerable with your manager or HR and established that the previous situation was no longer serving you, it’s time to delineate your new boundaries. This can look very different depending on your work structure. It might be redefining working hours vs. hours on call. It might look like rescoping your responsibility within a larger project. Or it might be setting a new, more realistic timeline within which to complete a deliverable. The key is making sure that management and/or HR is on board with it. 

Boundaries should be normal in any workplace. Working hours are in your contract for a reason, so feel free to use the written expectations as a guide. No one should be expected to work all day and night — it’s not realistic, and beyond that, it’s just not a sustainable business model. If this is the case for the company you’re in, run, and run far.  

3. Uphold the consequences for the boundaries you’ve newly set. 

You’ve committed to a new way of being, of finding more work-life balance. You’ve talked to your boss about expectations, and you’re practicing giving time back to yourself and the rest of your life outside of work. 

But here’s where the tricky part comes in: you need to actually uphold your own boundaries. So, uphold them with all your might. Resist the urge to respond to an email that comes in late, and instead honor the time you have reserved outside of work. That time for yourself, for your family, for your hobbies, or for whatever else you’d like to use it for. And remember — the moment you ignore your guardrail, the boundary no longer exists. 

These days, the term “self-care” is less about face masks and spa days, and more about compassion for yourself and prioritizing your mental health. This is an important shift, one I am glad we are making for ourselves — recharging our own emotional and mental batteries before we can go out and help others. But we need to remember how to create and uphold boundaries, both at work and at home, because no one is going to do it for us, especially not a company. Take care of yourselves, check on your colleagues and stay well. 

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Marjorie Kalomeris is the Founder of MK Career Coaching, an interview and career coaching consultancy for women in tech. Marjorie is a Senior Recruiter in the tech space and has recruited at several hyper-growth tech companies like LinkedIn and HubSpot. She has lived in Ireland and the Netherlands and is currently based in NYC. Sign up for her new LinkedIn newsletter, Ask a Recruiter, here.

What’s your no. 1 piece of boundary-setting advice? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!