The Importance Of Boundaries

This month, we’re focusing specifically on the Energy pillar of our 5 Pillars of Resilience model that underpins our Wraw psychometric assessment. This key area reminds us of the importance of rest, relaxation and restoration if we want to feel and perform at our best. This sets us up to feel physically and mentally energised throughout the day, and to therefore have the energy be able to keep going during challenging times.

Some of the more obvious elements of this pillar include things like getting sufficient exercise and sleep and maintaining a healthy diet. But another crucial part of keeping our energy levels up lies in setting and maintaining appropriate boundaries – knowing our limits and when to say ‘no’.

In this context, we are talking largely about mental or perhaps even emotional boundaries – your own internal rules that guide how much work you take on, when you are willing to do that work and within what timeframe. With UK professionals currently working large amounts of unpaid overtime in their jobs – an average of 7.5 unpaid hours per person per week – the need for stronger boundaries is clear.

It’s a particularly important area to think about for women, according to the findings from Cigna’s most recent 360 Well-Being Survey. It found that women are hit hardest by the ‘always on’ culture of so many workplaces, with almost two-thirds of female employees reporting working in this type of culture and experiencing the associated pressures. This increases work stress, which itself was found to have a greater negative impact on women than men, causing more trouble with sleeping and eating well. But it’s certainly not just women – work stress is leading increasing numbers of people to struggle with their mental health. Overall, 12% of people surveyed reported being so stressed that they feel it is unmanageable.

Reflect on your boundaries:

The following ideas should help to evaluate whether you might benefit from setting or solidifying some boundaries around your own working practices.

  • Be aware of appearing to always be available – for example, being online in the evenings and at weekends (or whatever other times you aren’t supposed to be working). This goes for holiday time too – take the time to disconnect. The more you seem to be available outside of your working hours, the more others will come to expect it, and so the pressure builds. This might be more challenging if you are required to work with people in different time zones, but aim to still set some limits around your availability. Also, discuss and clarify expectations with your team members and manager about when you will and won’t be available.
  • Set up clear and helpful ‘out of office’ emails. During any time off, be diligent about setting up an automatic response for anyone who tries to contact you. If you are trying to switch off and disconnect from work, don’t promise that you’ll have ‘occasional access’ to emails – be clear that you won’t be available until a certain date, and point people clearly in the relevant directions for any urgent needs in the meantime.
  • Make use of your email signature – if you don’t work typical office hours, or work part-time, including your working hours in your signature can go a long way when it comes to managing people’s expectations. This can also apply to your voicemail message too, if you have a work phone.
  • Make a point of getting away from your desk to have lunch – ideally, a healthy, nutritious lunch somewhere where your desk is out of sight and you are unlikely to be disturbed by people with work requests.
  • Accept that work plans change, and your schedule can (usually) change with these. There are always going to be days when you don’t get absolutely everything done that you set out to do – in fact, probably most days – so avoid being tempted to regularly work late to compensate. Embrace a little flexibility and shift things around where you can. That said, these kinds of hectic days can be minimised by setting more realistic goals and plans for yourself in the first place. Factor in time for the unexpected so that you aren’t constantly playing catch-up.
  • If your workload and timelines are consistently unrealistic, speak up about it. Nothing will change if no one raises the issue. Along a similar line – learn to say no, if this is something that you struggle with. Being able to turn down work or object to plans politely yet assertively is key in order to keep in control of your workload.

In most workplaces, the chances are that not all of the above suggestions will be feasible. Some will be easier than others, so use this as a reflective exercise and apply what you can from it. Even making a couple of basic changes can influence your energy levels and wellbeing for the better.


For information about how you can use Wraw and the 5 Pillars of Resilience, get in touch with us by emailing or telephone +44 (0)800 085 6899.


Further reading:

Some simple but effective relaxation tips

Help if stress is affecting your sleep

A helpful HSE factsheet on work-related stress