Draw the Line

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If you worked from home for any length of time during the pandemic, you probably noticed just how easily the line between your job and your personal life blurred. Setting up your workstation at the kitchen table just made it easier to slip back into professional mode after dinner to try and get ahead before the next day.

“Don’t mix your personal life with your work life,” said Jessica Murph, a local licensed marriage and family therapist. “Just like you clock in and clock out for work, you need to clock out. And once you’re done with work, you are done. Just like they say ‘you leave work at the door,’ that’s kind of impossible if you’re working from home.”

Putting in extra hours at work — particularly if they’re off the clock — robs you of other things.

“You have to ask yourself, is losing your self-care, spending less time with your family, getting sick all the time — is all that worth it?” Murph asked.

Whether you’re working at home or in an office, it’s important to establish boundaries as you do so.

“You can’t blame another person for violating your boundaries if you never set those boundaries,” Murph pointed out. “You need to know what your boundaries are. We all know when we’re being pushed too far and we need to communicate that.”

That includes reinforcing your commitment to not be contacted about work matters after business hours — and being respectful of other colleagues’ time in the same way.

But if you’re already struggling with establishing boundaries with your manager and coworkers?

“Work is likely not the only place where that behavior is happening,” Murph said. “It’s most likely happening in other areas of their life.”

Examine how you communicate and function in your relationships with spouses, families, and other loved ones. Some warning signs that your boundaries might need a little work can include overly passive or aggressive communication, jealous tendencies, codependency, or narcissistic behavior.

Take, for instance, the division of labor. Passive communication might be requesting that your partner wash the dishes instead of expecting them to complete the task. Aggressive communication would be shouting about the dishes always piling up in the sink.

And when the boundaries are enforced and understood properly and the communication flows well?

“Some great examples would look something like not even having to have the conversation of things that need to get done — both partners are just on it,” Murph said. “Someone shouldn’t have to tell the other person that they need to wash the dishes. This is something that you do for each other. You’re sending a very positive message to the other person, which is ‘I love my home, I love my life, I love you. This is not an obligation. This is something that I want to do because it feels good — because I want you to feel good.’”

Prioritizing yourself and maintaining your boundaries can enhance all of your personal and professional relationships.

“Understand and realize and actualize that you are number one in your life. Not your kids, not your husband, or your wife, or your work. You,” Murph said. “Every decision you make, you have to ask yourself, is this helping me, is this nourishing me, or is this hurting me?”