The past year has undeniably changed the way we work. Returning to the office full time has been put on hold, and remote work has taken over. With remote work as our “new normal”, the issue of maintaining work-life balance has come to light. The truth is, boundaries between professional and personal lives are now blurred. A study by Bloomberg found that employees around the world are now working more than ever before, with employees in Canada, USA, and the UK, working as much as 10 hours per day.
With your new office in the comfort of your own home, it’s easy to stay in your work mode and never stop. However, as we mentioned in Breaking Up with Being Busy, when employees are overworked, it can have adverse effects on their performance, productivity, and emotional well-being.
Business leaders need to instill the message that it is okay to set boundaries in their work day to their team members. Boundaries do not have to be physical and tangible, but can also take form as emotional and intangible limits. Once these boundaries are stated, leaders need to acknowledge and respect these expectations and boundaries. With such a fine line dividing personal and professional lifestyles, setting boundaries will prevent the team from crashing and burning. By establishing boundaries, leaders will see a stronger culture, increased productivity, and higher employee retention within their team.
Setting Boundaries with Emotional Intelligence
Leaders need to understand that everyone has different boundaries. There is no complete set of boundaries that will work for everyone in your team. Setting realistic boundaries begins with knowing your employees on an individual level. One way to understand your team on a deeper level is by tuning into your emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is beneficial in building relationships with others; by effectively managing your emotions, you will be able to notice how your emotions impact your relationships. A strong foundation between a leader and their subordinates is formed from a basis of understanding and acknowledging individual differences.
Below, we have highlighted strategies on how to set clear boundaries with your team, by using your emotional intelligence competencies!
1. Understanding Your Team Member’s Needs
As highlighted above, it is essential to understand what works best for your team. Take time to ask your employees how you can best support them, by asking them questions such as, “What is your ideal work environment?” or “What is your preferred method of communication?”. By obtaining a sense of their preferred conditions, you will be able to adapt your practices to build an environment suited towards their needs. For example, one employee’s ideal work environment may start off later than the usual 9-5 schedule, as they dedicate their mornings to caring for their children. To assist in this transition, a leader can offer flexible working hours. Instead of starting at 9am, allow your team member to start at 10am so they have the extra hour to tend to their kids.
Your emotional intelligence competencies of flexibility and empathy will aid you in understanding your team’s needs. Flexibility is the ability to adapt emotions, thoughts and behaviors to unfamiliar situations. Being flexible will allow you to implement new solutions in creating boundaries for your team. In addition, empathy is concerned with recognizing, understanding, and appreciating how others feel. Leading with empathy will make your team members feel heard, seen, and cared for. Taking the time to understand your employees’ needs should not be optional. Rather, it should be seen as a required step in effective team management.
2. Ask for Feedback
Again, there is no formula in establishing boundaries. Boundaries need to be catered towards an individual’s needs. Once you have a clear understanding of your team member’s needs, it’s time to create an action plan to make any necessary changes, then follow up with asking for feedback. Obtaining feedback is crucial so you know what is working well and what needs to be refined. Garnering feedback from your team members shows how you truly care; it is within your best interest to respect their boundaries.
This is where your emotional intelligence competency, reality testing, kicks in. Reality testing is the capability to remain objective by seeing things as they are; this competency enables you to realize that while something may work for one team member, may not necessarily work for another. By tuning into your reality testing, you are actively challenging your assumptions as you find the perfect set of boundaries for each team member. Additionally, emotional expression is another competency that can assist in gathering feedback. Emotional expression is all about openly expressing your emotions, either verbally or nonverbally. Asking for feedback is a form of emotional expression; you are exhibiting vulnerability, are demonstrating you care about your team members’ opinions, and that their feedback will have an impact on your actions.
3. Make Time for Breaks
It is easy to fall into the habit of continuously working, that you forget to take a break to recharge. As mentioned in Breaking Up with Being Busy, hustle culture is taking the world by storm and emphasizes the need to be busy all the time in order to be successful. Break the cycle of hustle culture and hold your team accountable for taking breaks. As a leader, communicate that it is okay to take a break, instead of continuously working into overdrive. If breaks are not taken, team members are likely to become easily exhausted, resulting in lower quality of work, decreased productivity, and poor emotional health. Implementing breaks into the workday gives team members time to unwind and relax their minds. These breaks can be as simple as taking a stretch break midway through team meetings, to allowing team members to take longer breaks if they feel the need to.
The two competencies that will assist you to make time for breaks is your Social Responsibility and Impulse Control. Social Responsibility involves acting in the best interest of the group; by implementing breaks, you know that the team will benefit from taking a breather. Impulse Control is the act of resisting or delaying an temptation; this competency equips leaders to avoid acting upon rash behaviours. Continuously working without breaks can result in fatigue, meaning that you or your team members are not working at optimal performance. Impulse control will prevent you from making any brash decisions while exhausted and remind you to take a break instead.
The Results of Setting Realistic Business Boundaries
When you set realistic business boundaries among your team, you will see results impacting your team’s productivity, culture, and overall happiness. Your team members will feel valued as their individual needs are met, allowing their productivity and effectiveness to flourish. In addition, your team culture will benefit, as you cultivate an environment of trust, respect, and understanding. By building a work environment catered to your team members’ needs, your team will be happier and want to stay for years to come.
Learning how to establish boundaries is essential to a successful organization. If you’re interested in learning more about how to set boundaries in your team, reach out and book an appointment with me here.
For more, you can also check out my Stress Management Strategies Workshop, where you will learn strategies to manage stressful situations and methods to alleviate stress.