The pressure seems to be up these days, in almost every field. The workdays are longer, the weekends start to disappear. You might tell yourself you leave it at your desk, but then find yourself checking work emails on your phone at midnight before you fall asleep. Or worse, plugging in during vacation, when you’re supposed to be a million miles away from your job.
But this kind of prolonged stress can actually be bad for both your health and your job performance. It is important to establish boundaries between the personal and the professional, to keep both parts of our lives healthy and productive.
There are some things you simply do not owe to your employer. Here are 6 of them:
1. Your Health
Your health is yours and only yours and only you can keep it up. It’s on you if the stress buildup happens so gradually that you don’t notice the effects of lack of sleep and hunching in your chair and not exercising or eating right. Before you turn into the office zombie, make sure to set up a routine that works for you. And make sure it includes work/life balance, mental space, rest time, and exercise. Once you make your plan, don’t let that one extra email from your boss derail it. Stick to your guns.
2. Your Family
We all want to work harder to be able to support our families—make that little extra bit of money and push that little bit further. But it can be easy to lose sight of how much you have to sacrifice to bring that extra home. Make sure you’re not sacrificing time. At the end of your life, you won’t regret not having that $8k raise. But you might regret not being home for dinner with your kids.
3. Your Sanity
No one can monitor this but you. And no boss should chip into your supply. Figure out what keeps you sane and balanced (hint: it’s probably your life outside of work) and make sure to claim both time and space for that. Know when it’s more productive to say no to a request, knowing you’ll work much better and harder if you’re relaxed and recharged and can tackle things afresh.
4. Your Identity
Who you are is immensely important. What you do is only part of it—a big part, admittedly, but not everything. Keep in mind the things that are most important to you. Stay true to your values and maintain your integrity. This helps you keep your eye on the bigger picture in times of major stress at work.
5. Your Professional Contacts
You owe your employer a lot. But your contacts from over the course of your career are yours. You can—and often should—share them with your company, but they are yours first and foremost and you must work to maintain them.
6. Your Integrity
Keep your actions and beliefs in alignment, or you will feel horribly stressed and uncomfortable with the results. This is part of keeping the other five in check. Stay true to who you are and what you need and what you believe in. Act according to the best of yourself. If a boss asks you to compromise this, it might be time to find another boss.
Remember: never underestimate the power of setting good boundaries.