As a team leader you are in a position to create and model a work culture with healthy boundaries.

Why is it important to set boundaries?

“Setting boundaries is essential for mental health and wellbeing,” says Frouke Horstmann, Managing Partner at TPC Leadership Netherlands. In today’s technologically advanced, global business environment, work demands are high — people can spend 12-14 hours behind a screen which can lead to burnout. A 2016 report conducted by Kronos and Future Workspace revealed that employee burnout was responsible for a striking 20-50% of their annual employee turnover.

How do you set boundaries?

“As a team leader, you have a huge amount of responsibility and power to set boundaries that protect your team,” says Charles Brook, Founder and Managing Partner at TPC Leadership UK. “First, take a step back and review what you’re doing. Look at what’s working and what isn’t and then do a reset.” The aim is to become more effective, efficient and healthy.

Charles explains the boundaries he sets for himself. “I don’t start work early and I have a rigid routine with a clear finish time. I eat a healthy breakfast and for the first half hour of each day, I block ‘creative time’ in my diary, when I focus on creative development of one area of responsibility.” 

Frouke recalls a client who models admirable rules of engagement. The company has quiet Friday afternoons when there are no meetings. Meetings are only held between 9-5 and always set for just 50 minutes. Employees are encouraged to take time to rest and exercise. “Because boundaries are clear,” says Frouke, “people feel safe to sustain a work / life balance.”

What is your work belief system?

Charles uses a model known as ‘The Wheel of Thrive and Succeed’ to audit and reset himself, and as a discussion or performance management tool for helping team members set boundaries. The wheel consists of eight different elements:

Wheel of Thrive and Success

Charles assesses how well he’s managing each element by scoring them from 1-10, then uses the scores to set targets for improvement. Frouke agrees that “it’s about making time to pause and reflect on whether you’re the most productive you can be.”

Deep dive into your own mindset and consider your belief system in relation to work. “Ticking everything on your to-do list makes you feel productive,” says Frouke. “But sometimes, taking a walk can inspire the most brilliant, unexpected ideas.” 

What is the ROI on setting boundaries?

Any change is difficult and takes energy, but the advantages of setting boundaries are huge.

“Research shows that our brains are too active nowadays,” says Frouke. “When we work all the time, we only use one part of our brain. Doing other things activates different parts of the brain, stimulating ideas, innovation and improving decision-making.”

Boundaries increase employee engagement. “If people can feel multidimensional,” explains Frouke, “if they have leisure time to be themselves and are allowed to take on deeper work as well as the to-do list, there is a much stronger sense of belonging, a willingness to contribute and an intrinsic motivation to be wholly engaged and productive when at work.”

Setting boundaries has a positive impact on retention, recruitment and marketing. Leaders who model boundaries show the younger generation that it’s possible to be a high achiever with huge responsibilities as well as enjoy a healthy, rewarding life outside work.

Promoting a culture of work / life balance reduces employee burnout at all levels. “It raises aspirations and makes people proud to be a part of your organisation,” says Frouke. “And the best marketing is what your employees say.”

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