How to Set Boundaries When Starting a New Job

By making time to recharge and reset, you’ll avoid burnout and show up as your best self.

RgStudio/ Getty Images
RgStudio/ Getty Images

Setting boundaries to protect our well-being at a new job can be challenging, especially when working from home. With hustle culture telling us we need to work overtime to get ahead, taking time for ourselves can easily become an afterthought. “At a new job, we feel like we are on trial and need to be on our ‘best behavior,’” Rachel Goldman, Ph.D., FTOS, a clinical psychologist, tells Thrive. Plus, we might not know about the team’s norms and culture when we’re not physically in the office. “Being remote can leave you feeling confused as to what you are supposed to be doing and disconnected from the group,” adds Sherry Pagoto, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and University of Connecticut professor.

However, putting guidelines in place is crucial when it comes to avoiding stress and burnout. “If we remember that self-care is necessary in order for us to be at our best,” Goldman adds, “we need to set certain boundaries in order to work efficiently.” If you’re struggling to set boundaries in your new role, here are a few tips to help you get started:

1. Start a daily check-in with yourself

When we start a new role, we can get caught up in the day-to-day busyness of our to-do lists and projects. And oftentimes, a crowded schedule leaves little time for any sort of boundaries. Goldman suggests taking time each day to check in with yourself. “It’s important to first ask yourself what you need to be the best you,” she says. “Take a look at your daily routine and ask yourself what your health behaviors look like — from your sleep, to your hydration, to your movement.” When you take a moment to self-assess each day, you can see which areas of your routine need some boundaries, and then set them accordingly.

2. Talk to your manager about your hours

One aspect of remote work is that you may be communicating with colleagues in different time zones, which can interfere with your established working hours. “If you are working across time zones, learn the norms about how this works,” says Pagoto. “Most companies have norms about how people across time zones can work together.” Have an honest conversation with your manager about the expectations for working hours and be upfront about your own boundaries. “If you feel like you need to be front and center from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., you will burn out fast.”

3. Take small self-care breaks

It can be tempting to power through a new project or brainstorming session without taking a break, especially when we’re eager to impress our new colleagues. But stepping away from our desks even for a short time can increase our productivity. “Find pockets of time throughout the day for some ‘me time’ or self-care,” Goldman suggests, “whether it’s taking a break when you get off a Zoom call to take some deep breaths, or having a mindful minute while you are making your lunch.” When you take time for real breaks that benefit your well-being, you’ll find that you’ll be even more efficient when you return to your work.

4. Be mindful of your physical workspace 

Establishing clear boundaries with your work includes having a distinct workspace, Pagoto explains. “Having an office space at home and a structured workday is very important for drawing boundaries between work and home,” she says. “A kitchen table isn’t ideal, not only because of disruptions but also because it erases the lines between meals and work.” By being intentional about where you’re working, you can designate one area as your workspace, and then physically separate yourself from it at the end of the day.

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