The HR Professional’s Guide to Setting Boundaries at Work

Without a clear start and end to the work day, many employees—and HR professionals, in particular—are working longer hours and putting themselves at risk for burnout. Here’s how to get time back in your day—for you.
The HR Professional’s Guide to Setting Boundaries at Work
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Remote and hybrid work have blurred the lines between work and home. And while many people have benefited from a more flexible work schedule, still others struggle to turn off their workplace technology at the end of the work day (or ever). 

HR professionals—we’re looking at you. Taking care of people is not only a full-time job, it could be a 24/7 job if you let it. And we get it—it’s hard to turn off when you’re in the business of helping people. But your people will be better served by an HR partner that takes care of himself or herself first.

It’s like putting your own oxygen mask on first. You need to prioritize your own well-being in order to help others—and to do that, you need to set (and stick to!) better boundaries at work. 

Not sure where to get started? We asked our community of HR pros for their advice. Here’s what they had to say.

1. Establish a Formal Start and End to Your Work Day

Establishing start-of-day and end-of-day routines will help you move between home mode and work mode. But what does this look like exactly? 

Maybe you start each day by logging into your first Zoom meeting of the day. Be sure to do this from your office (or designated workspace) versus your bed. 

If you have a home office, close the door at the end of the day. Working from your dining room table? Shut the lights off in that space to signal you’re done for the day. Better yet? Go for a walk. A physical change in your environment will help your brain reset and transition into home mode. 

Finally, be sure to turn off or snooze work-related notifications on your workplace tech (e.g., work phone and laptop) so you’re not receiving pings after you’ve “left work” for the day. 

Create a work environment that allows employees to truly disconnect with work by discouraging after-hours emails or phone calls. By implementing a disconnect philosophy, organizations encourage an effective work-life balance for employees that is likely to reduce employee burnout.”

2. Set Expectations With Clients

So, you’ve established a way to start and end your days, but what about the work hours in between? Start by prioritizing the most important work—and scheduling time to get that work done, too.

This is the year I take ownership of my time as an HR professional. Part of this initiative includes setting clear expectations of the things I will/won't do as I support leaders and managers in my role as a strategic HR partner. By empowering managers to really know, and therefore really manage, their people, I am better able to be a strategic partner by helping the leader to grow their organization and manage their group's goings-on in more meaningful ways - my time is essentially freed up to give them better support from an HR standpoint!"
Setting boundaries is essential, whether it's at work or in your personal life. For 2022, I’ve taken the time to understand my needs and communicate them. It's essential for me to start my day with gratitude; in addition, time blocking has been key. Scheduling break times and blocking my calendar have helped a great deal."

3. Set Fewer, More Manageable Goals

To help me avoid the burnout I'm putting more focus on my goals on a per-month basis and scheduling time for me on a weekly basis rather than try to fit everything into a daily routine. There are only so many hours in a day, but I want to make sure I am giving myself time to work on my spiritual growth, and my career goals without over-stressing myself, overscheduling, and causing burnout. Time management is going to be my saving grace this year."

Not sure where to get started? Heather suggested the following ways to work on time management this year:

  • Prioritizing goals and must do’s. Remember you don’t have to get everything done right now, but get the must do’s done to keep the stress away.
  • Mixing it up by working on a different project. Do a little bit, but put most of your effort on something different that gives you a fresh look. 
  • Celebrating wins, no matter how big or small. 
  • Don’t overschedule yourself. Allow there to be open time in your schedule. You never know when you may have that random lunch date pop up! 
  • Positive self-talk and being kind to yourself. We don’t need to stress ourselves out more than we already do. 
  • Focusing on building meaningful relationships. Put down the phone and be present! 
  • Setting an end time. Be able to step away to spend time with family. 
  • Spending quality time with yourself. Working on self-development and personal growth. 
  • Remembering it’s ok to say no. If you don’t have the time, you don’t have the time. It’s ok to politely decline (if it’s your boss though, you may not have a choice, but in that case try to delegate or ask for help). 
After reading the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown I was reminded about the disciplined pursuit of less. The author mentioned that "Essentialism isn't about getting more done in less time. It's about getting only the right things done." That made me re-shift some priorities in my life and now before engaging in any new activity I find myself asking the question: Is this Essential OR not Essential? The answer sets a clear boundary and keeps me focused on doing the things that matter most."

4. Seek Help From a (Mental Health) Professional

If you’re thinking, ‘these ideas are great, but I have no idea how to apply them to my life’—know that your fellow HR professionals have been there! And you don’t have to go it alone. One way to learn how to establish better boundaries at work is to ask for help from a professional. 

How did I get here? Therapy! I'm so proud of the work I've put in around work boundaries (and all boundaries, frankly). I've worked and practiced over the past ~2 years on setting limits and boundaries and overall, feel much more in control of my work life."

5. Lead by Example

Achieving success with setting boundaries means not only sticking to your own boundaries, but respecting the boundaries others have set, as well. 

Here’s what that can look like: 

  • Not sending and/or responding to emails or Slack messages outside of work hours 
  • Not checking work-related communications or technology while you’re on PTO 
  • Waiting to send communications (or, scheduling communications to send) to colleagues when they’ve returned from their own PTO
  • Blocking time on your calendar for high priority/independent work time
  • Not scheduling meetings when you/your colleagues have blocked independent work time on the calendar 
I build breaks into my day and I block off parts of my morning and later afternoon for non-meeting work so I can cross things off my list. I decline or delay meetings if they're not urgent."

6. Delegate Administrative Tasks

One sure-fire way to get more time back in your day? Delegate administrative tasks to an HR software solution that can automate the processes you once did by hand. 

… and we know just the one! At Eddy, we help busy HR professionals by taking administrative tasks off your plate, so you can focus on taking care of your employees. With our all-in-one HR Suite you can hire, onboard, manage, and pay employees with one easy-to-use platform.

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