Nothing screams Gen Z more than creating healthy boundaries at work. Maybe it’s my TikTok algorithm, or maybe it’s my pride thinking it’s just us doing it, but it feels like we are a generation that couldn’t give a flip about pleasing our bosses beyond expectations. Gen Z has the mentality that we are paid to complete a certain job, and anything outside of it is beyond the scope of our current responsibilities, which is just a corporate way of saying that we aren’t paid to do something. But what do healthy boundaries at work look like for us?
Creating Boundaries at Work
Let’s be completely real for a second. Physical boundaries are the easiest boundary to tell if it’s being crossed or ignored. It’sFor example, it’s apparent to us if someone is randomly hugging us at work. And if we are struggling to enforce physical boundaries, then our other two, emotional and mental boundaries, are probably ignored.
Just like in any relationship, physical boundaries are important because they prevent us from feeling unsafe or taken advantage of. And in a workplace, you should never feel those things because it leaves you with a feeling of resentment or burnout.
The key to physical workplace boundaries is finding the key boundaries that work for you. For example, don’t hug people at work. Don’t be the creepy kid from middle school who was walking around looking to hug a bunch of girls. Your workplace is just that, not a middle school cafeteria. Another big boundary that I have, I don’t do any work events after work hours that aren’t mandatory. I’ve got a life to live outside of work. Something else to keep in mind is if you work a nine to five office job, avoid working on the weekends.
Mental boundaries are harder to maintain in an office setting. We meant to be available 100% of the time, which isn’t that big challenge. But when you get stuck in meetings all day and still have a big project you need to work on, the stress and annoyance can build up. Or maybe you find yourself getting exhausted mentally by 2:00 PM, which is fair, especially after working from home the last two years. So how do you enforce mental boundaries without coming off as an A-hole?
Maybe it’s the neurodivergent in me, but the biggest mental boundary is sticking to my routine. And by that, I mean setting your daily work hours and sticking to them. When work from home hit after the pandemic started, I saw the lines between home and work bleeding together. I would find myself answering emails at 9:00 PM instead of getting ready for bed. If I can’t respect my work hours, why should I expect anyone else would do the same?
Again, it might be the neurodivergent part of my brain, but setting away messages for my hyper-focused working writer mode helps me not get distracted. Blocking out time in my calendar for writing sessions and setting away messages help my ADHD brain from getting completely sidetracked by whatever the world might throw my way. I’m like the dog from UP who gets distracted by a squirrel.
Emotional boundaries in the workplace are all about protecting yourself. Which, I guess, is true for any kind of boundary. With emotional boundaries, it’s to help avoid having a bad day just because someone else is having a bad day. It’s sort of like how you can play video games with your friends, but when one friend gets tilted, it kills the vibe for everyone else.
Emotional boundaries depend on your ability to communicate. Communicate to your boss and coworkers the best way you receive feedback or criticism. It’s not letting Kevin two cubicles down from you ruin your day because he is in a rage. That’s not to say you should throw empathy out the window. You can understand why Kevin is upset, but you don’t have to let it affect your attitude.
Things to Keep in Mind
The first step to maintaining boundaries is figuring out your workplace boundaries. We all have different triggers that make us uncomfortable. We all need to receive feedback and criticism differently. We all have different routines that help us get through the workday and that 2:00 PM slump. So once you figure out your workplace boundaries, you need to communicate them. Setting expectations for boundaries without communication is just asking for those expectations to trashed.