Setting Boundaries At Work

March 12, 2024

Black and White sketch image of an exhausted man at his desk buried in a heavy workload

As entrepreneurs, we give our all to the success of our business. We dive into the adventure, headfirst, poised for the challenges inevitably around every corner. We thrive on making a difference in our clients’ lives. But at some point, does our work identity become our only identity? Professor Arthur Brooks* at the Harvard Business School observes, ”One of the growing trends in business today is “workism,” or the tendency for some people to self-objectify, specifically on the basis of work.” He argues that this approach leads to diminished satisfaction and happiness, even if you are incredibly successful at work. 


Be honest with yourself. What would happen if you lost your job? Would it feel like a death in the family? Have you neglected friend and family relationships for your profession?


If you are nodding your head at all, you are not alone. Thousands of professionals feel the same way. To counter this growing trend, Professor Brooks offers two suggestions:


Get some space from your job by setting boundaries at work.

Be okay with stepping away. When the work day is over, let it be over. Give yourself permission to explore other things.


Find friends

Real friends see you for who you are, not for what you can do for them professionally. These are people who encourage you to develop talents and interests outside of your career.


On the whole, professionals are becoming more successful than ever, but national research shows declining happiness. Instead of becoming a statistic, stop the slippery slope of “workism” in your life. Make intentional decisions to embrace the normal, everyday person you are, outside of work. 


*Arthur C. Brooks is the Parker Gilbert Montgomery Professor of the Practice of Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School and a Professor of Management Practice at HBS.