Why you should encourage healthy boundaries in the workplace

When in the office one day, my boss came to me and asked me to call a client to book an appointment. Looking at my to-do list, I inwardly felt a sense of dread, but it’s one call, right? 5 minutes tops. Totally doable. And I didn’t want to say no to the person paying my bills. Later that day, a new job appeared in my list - this time to scope out a new client - a much lengthier process. Again, I accepted without hesitation.

When I was asked to take on some urgent work that needed completing within 24 hours, I flagged that I was inundated and it may take me a little longer than expected. The answer was that I can push something else, this was urgent. This pattern continued week after week. I told myself that clearly my boss expected me to fulfil all these tasks within the hours set and if I was struggling to do so, that it was because I wasn’t fast enough. So I continued. I started staying late and working through my lunch breaks, determined to reduce the size of my workload. But I never reached the end of my list and the anxiety drove me to sleepless nights and constant palpitations at the prospect of going to work. 

It would be easy to say that this was the fault of my boss – that they shouldn’t have expected so much from me. But in reality, they had no idea that I was struggling because I never said ‘no’. My failure to enforce boundaries not only led me to physical stress, had an impact on my mental health, but also led me to start hating my job and wanting something new. 

We often see boundaries as something negative – that saying ‘no’ to someone with power will result in us being seen as less able or too stubborn. And as a team leader it may seem obstructive. But by encouraging team members to set healthy boundaries, you are creating a culture of respect, improving your team health and wellbeing and in turn, creating a team people want to be part of. These are the optimum conditions for productivity and creativity and so your team performance is likely to improve the more respected and valued they feel. 

So as a team leader, here are 5 ways you can help to create a culture of healthy boundaries:

  1. Lead by example. A team who see you unable to set healthy boundaries, sacrifice your mental health or work longer hours will assume you expect the same from them. If you show how to create polite yet firm boundaries and show the importance of self care, they will respect and follow this example. 
  2. Communicate clearly. By setting 1:1 meetings regularly to discuss workload and their needs you will foster an environment of trust and vulnerability to enable the whole team to work effectively within it. 
  3. Set clear guidelines. If you set clear boundaries for your team – for example working hours, checking emails at home, availability for meetings etc, you will ensure everyone knows what their responsibilities are, leaving less room for them to misinterpret the expectations on them. 
  4. Foster a supportive culture. Having team members who are happy to communicate effectively and support one another is important. This enables people to openly discuss their needs and set boundaries without fear of judgment. 
  5. Invest in training to support your teams wellbeing. Whether time management, confidence coaching or stress management, understanding the needs of your team and providing them with suitable resources will ensure they feel valued and more able to set those important boundaries.


If you want to work on boundary setting in your team, get in touch today!