If you look at trends in workplace satisfaction and expectations in 2018, one of the leading topics is workplace boundaries. But what exactly does it mean to have healthy boundaries?

There are a few types of boundaries. One has to do with workplace behavior and consideration, the other is more about work-home life balance.

Workplace boundaries, first and foremost, concern cooperation and respect. Think of when you were in school, even as far back as kindergarten — boundaries were rules that governed what behavior was acceptable or not.

Children in their primary years of school are taught when and how to talk to the teacher and other students, as well as rules related to eating, raising a hand before speaking, and how to take turns. How is that many adults either never learned these basic boundaries or have chosen to forget about them in the workplace?

In offices across the country, people spend as much time, if not more, with their co-workers and bosses than they do with family members. Workplace boundaries continue to be a source of contention and struggle in many organizations, including the federal government, which is why annual training about respect and healthy workplace boundaries is required.

The second type of workplace boundary addresses the need to keep homelife and work separate. Far too often, the line between work and home overlap. There is a delicate balance between sharing too much at work about family or personal situations, and on the flip-side, it isn’t healthy to bring work strife or problems home.

Here are a few specific examples of poor workplace boundary behaviors to avoid:

  • Chatty Charlie talks too much at work about sports, to the point of disrupting his coworkers. He stops by their desks and isn’t considerate of their space and time. Charlie thinks he is being friendly, but he oversteps his boundaries and becomes an annoying nuisance.
  • Doris Downer burdens her coworkers with too many details about her poor health and relationship issues. Doris goes beyond normal sharing and conversation by making her coworkers feel uncomfortable and awkward with the level of private matters she discusses at work.
  • Angry Andrew takes out his work frustration with his wife and children because he knows he can’t do it at work and stay employed. Andrew is angry the moment he gets in his car after work and shows poor boundaries by burdening his family with his unhappiness at his job instead of resolving matters with his supervisor. The family suffers because Andrew is unable to address his work problems appropriately.

These are a few examples of how workplace boundaries can go wrong. It’s important for everyone to self-monitor and check themselves to be sure they aren’t crossing boundaries at work or home.

Want to be happy at work? Learn to leave it there.

Eight hours – or more – each day in the office is plenty of time to keep work at work, and home at home. Homelife should be a respite from the office, and the office should be where the focus and energy are used on the tasks at hand.

In my experience, the most successful, fulfilled people are those who can strike a balance between their home and work lives. It is entirely possible to stay focused and present and share some aspects of the job with family and friends, and some personal life at the office. The key is knowing how to keep boundaries healthy and balanced.

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Diana M. Rodriguez is a native Washingtonian who works as a professional freelance writer, commentator, and blogger; as well as a public affairs, website content and social media manager for the Department of Defense.