Work – This is where we spend most of the hours that life has blessed us with. Yet, many of us are unhappy at work which filters down and affects other areas of our lives. It is therefore important to find your happiness at work, for better mental health and physical wellbeing!
Research has shown that the happier you are, the more productive you are – any business who values the bottom line should prioritize the happiness of their employees. When you find yourself working for a company that does not understand this, you can set boundaries to safeguard your health.
In the absence of clear boundaries, your time is not your own. Overworking yourself can lead to internal frustration, conflict and resentment towards your job and manager. Learning to set boundaries will foster happiness at work. Here are some tips for setting boundaries:
- Know when to call it a day. In the age of smart phones and tablets, work can follow you home. It’s important to know when to call it a day! Checking and responding to emails late at night (or even just after dinner) extends your workday into your downtime. Set a boundary with yourself to not check email or voicemail after a certain time. If you can avoid taking work home with you, do so. And don’t stay late at the office unless it’s a genuine emergency. When work bleeds into other aspects of your life, you can suffer from burn out and/or stress. While work occasionally intrudes on non-work time, practicing ending your workday at a regular time can help you avoid overload and burnout.
- Protect your Downtime. You may often find yourself working through lunch, answering emails on weekends, staying late to finish one last thing, or going without a break all day. When you do take a break, you might cut it short to help a co-worker or address an issue that could have been handled by someone else. This can breed exhaustion, burnout, and resentment. Learn to protect your downtime. If this is hard for you, take baby steps – take a full lunch, or close your door when you take a five-minute break between projects and meetings. Let your team members and clients know that you do not check email on the weekend, or that you only check a set number of times. Be firm, clear, and polite about the fact that you are protecting your “you” time so that you can better serve your clients or colleagues’ needs.
- Learn to say No. Saying “No” can be very difficult, especially to those you need your help. You may feel guilt and/or fear that the person won’t turn to you the next time he needs assistance. Learning to say no is one way to protect your own work time and down time. While you may sometimes have to say yes to something that turns your entire day upside down, learning to say no when you are not able to execute what is requested from you, is a key skill. Saying “yes” when you really want to say “no” is a breeding ground for unhappiness at work. This can lead to passive aggressive interactions or outright conflict, which is destructive to all parties. You need to understand that saying no will not make you a bad person, or otherwise a poor colleague. Learn to say no firmly but kindly, and be very clear about what you can and cannot do in any given situation.
- Learn to say Yes. Human beings are sometimes afraid to say “yes” because of a risk of failure. It’s hard to say yes to things that stretch you beyond your current skill set. Learn to say yes to things that you want – be willing to change your plan to take advantage of a good opportunity. Drive your own professional development, plan it and be willing to say yes to projects or experiences which take you out of your comfort zone. When you can say yes – whether to a new project or to a little time off – you are also setting good boundaries for yourself. Saying yes allows you to grow and experience new things, even if you feel a little fear at first.
There is a lot more that you can do to increase your happiness at work, from engaging better with others to creating routines. Setting boundaries though is a good start! The more you feel in control of our own time, the happier you will be.
Should you still struggle with setting boundaries due to an inherent need to constantly please others, or fear of being viewed as incompetent, then our professional Employee Wellness Counsellor can help you from the comfort of your home/office through online counselling. Alternatively, take our full online course “Increasing your happiness at work”. For more information, go to https://icwsa.com/course/increasing-your-happiness/
© Institute of Competency and Wellness (ICW), 2018