We set boundaries at work in a number of ways. At work we refer to these as 'professional boundaries'. All companies will have their own guidelines on what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour at work, but here are a few examples of what companies may consider in their professional boundaries policy:
Appropriate workplace behaviour
At work you are representing your employers, your attitude and actions will have an impact on how people view your company. Employers will expect their staff to act professionally at all times, whether this is inside a building or working out and about, e.g. as an electrician or labourer. Every company will have an appropriate behaviour policy and guidelines of what is acceptable and unacceptable workplace behaviour, so make sure you are familiar with these and act accordingly.
Working within your competency
This means knowing the scope of your job role and working within that - you should not be undertaking tasks or carrying out actions that are not part of your job description, or that you have not been asked to do without checking with your line manager first. It is also important that you understand your personal capabilities and seek help or advice if you feel a task is outside your level of competence - working outside your capabilities can lead to mistakes, but in some cases can also be dangerous for you, your colleagues or a company's customers and clients.
Appropriate workplace communication
We often share our work space with many other people and it is important that you behave and communicate in a professional manner at all times - employers may not mind if people chat at work, but remember you are being paid to work so you should keep this minimal.
Whether you communicate with people face-to-face, over the phone, by email or any other means, you should make yourself familiar with the company's expectations on how they like staff to communicate and aim to stay within these boundaries.
If you are unsure about what you should and shouldn't discuss at work or what language is appropriate to use, please check your staff handbook, speak to your line manager or ask your Employment Coordinator for guidance.
Do not overshare your personal life to colleagues in the workplace. As you work somewhere for a period of time, you may make some good friends and see them outside of the workplace environment. However, conversation and behaviour should remain professional in the workplace and you should set boundaries with colleagues as to what you discuss.
Professional boundaries also includes not sharing confidential information about the business you work for, colleagues, customers or any other entity that you are associated with through your work.
You may hear the term 'GDPR' spoken about at work. This means the General Data Protection Regulation, which refers to the way companies are allowed to collect, process, store and share information. As an employee, you commit to abiding by the GDPR policies of the company you work for, so it is important to familiarise yourself with these policies and make sure you understand them.
In both of the above examples, the key point is that you should not go home and discuss details about your work with your family, friends or any one else outside of the company you work for.
Work life & personal life
We spend a lot of time at work and it not unusual for work colleagues to become friends, or for people not to get along well all the time. It is important that you understand how to separate your personal life and professional life to ensure you conduct yourself properly at work, but also to protect yourself from unwanted attention from others. Here are some things to think about:
Social Media can sometimes be difficult when it comes to colleagues. People may add you on Facebook, or follow you on Instagram, and by doing so will have more of an insight into your personal life. If you want to keep a strict boundary between personal and work life, it is absolutely fine to not accept friend requests from people at work - it is down to you who you accept and you should not feel pressure to do so. It is important you do not talk about work on Social Media - this is a boundary that needs to remain at all times.
Sometimes things that are happening in our personal life can affect how we feel or behave, but it is important to separate these things from work. If you are struggling with something personal you can speak to your Employment Coordinator for advice on how to manage this at work, or to your line manager who may be able to put in place some temporary adjustments for you.
Different organisations have different policies around romantic relationships in the workplace. Please refer to these policies and speak with your Human Resources (HR) contact at work, or your Employment Coordinator if you do not understand any policies and procedures in your staff workbook.
If you have any questions or want advice on professional boundaries and workplace behaviours, you can speak to your Employment Coordinator who can assist you.