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Out of Office: Setting Boundaries

‘Tis the season for summer holidays… whether that’s a staycation to the countryside, a jaunt to a Green or Amber country, or some time in the garden, away from the daily grind. Perhaps we won’t be venturing anywhere far-flung this year, but now, more than ever, it’s essential that we unwind and stick to our intentions of having a break from it all. 

But switching off entirely during annual leave – is that actually humanly possible? Of course, these days it’s easier said than done, with notifications pinging across Slack, WhatsApp, Twitter, LinkedIn, emails, text messages and calls. 

However, it is extremely important for our health, and well-being, that when we log-off: we shut down in order to start afresh upon our return to work. One way to do this is to ensure we’ve set boundaries with our colleagues, suppliers and clients. Answering messages and emails out of hours can lead to a slippery slope of high expectations from others, disappointment from our family and higher stress levels during our holiday and even on our return to work. 

Boundaries 

A boundary is simply the line that exist between feeling of okay and not okay about something. Feeling not okay with something might include feeling a mixture of concern, frustration, anxiety, envy, resentment or guilt. It can even show up in how we feel physically such as feeling tired or overwhelmed. If you feel any of these things, it’s a good time to check whether a boundary has been breached somewhere along the line. It’s our job to get ourselves back to a place of “I’m good, I’m okay” as soon as we can. 

This might mean having a difficult conversation or making a tough decision. Try saying the motto: “say the awkward thing”. We sometimes avoid these sorts of conversations in case we end up ruffling feathers or to avoid appearing demanding. As humans, we’re notoriously bad at setting boundaries because we are concerned about what others might think.  

Setting boundaries is essential for our well-being. Getting into bad habits and allowing our boundaries to be crossed is a sure-fire way of adding extra stress and other unwanted emotions to our list. 

Going off the grid 

How can you ensure you put boundaries in place and really benefit from being out of office? Here are four simple rules to follow: 

  1.  Manage Expectations: Make sure you tell your colleagues, co-workers, suppliers and clients that you’re switching off completely, and to contact another member of the team (if you have one) and that you will respond on your return. Explain you won’t be checking emails but look forward to catching up on your return. You need to be strict about this (unless it’s a life or death situation, of course). 
  2. Remove Distractions: If possible, consider deleting social media and emails – or anything else work-related that might distract you during your time off. It’s time to be unrelenting. This is so that you can be fully in the zone with your friends or family, so you can experience complete peace from work. It might seem extreme and it is a personal decision to shut out the noise. 
  3. Be Firm with Yourself: Be really clear with yourself too. Don’t feel tempted to have a sneak peek at your emails, it’s likely to only fire up your cortisol levels and send your afternoon into a spin. So just don’t do it.  
  4. Perfect the Art of Not Working: Learn to switch off. There is an art to it, and it involves finding things you love outside of work and people you love to be with to help you get into that zone. When you take the time to properly switch off, when you go back to work, you’re more likely to return with a fresh perspective, new ideas, more clarity on what’s important and lower stress levels.  

Finally, don’t forget to set-up an out of office email. 

Your post-holiday self – clients, family, colleagues – will all thank you for it because you’ll be firing on all cylinders.  

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