Setting and enforcing appropriate boundaries can help public relations professionals be more effective on the job, resulting in better service for clients. By taking care of ourselves, we can better take care of others — and that’s true in every aspect of our lives.
Where to begin?
Define work parameters. Setting boundaries is about establishing guardrails around the work you will — and won’t — do. Write a communications plan that defines your client’s goals and outlines the steps you will take to achieve them. When you receive a work request, consider if it aligns with the plan.
If it doesn’t, or if the request is not doable within the confines of your work schedule and existing responsibilities, make leaders prioritize. Determine with your client what can fall off your plate to make room for that new, important initiative. Maintain open communication about priorities to help you stand firm where needed and be flexible when possible.
Practice saying ‘no.’ Saying “no” can be as simple as enforcing boundaries after-hours. That email you receive on a Tuesday night may be a case where someone wants to move something off their to-do list and onto yours. Just because it’s sent at 8 p.m. doesn’t mean you have to respond by 8:02. Saying “no” also means establishing a protocol for what types of issues are acceptable to contact you after hours or on weekends. “In case of emergency” means different things to different people, so be sure you clearly define that with your client.
Communicate and enforce your boundaries. Your job is to teach people how you want and deserve to be treated, and technology can help. Set an automated after-hours email or social media response message. List your work schedule and response time in your email signature. Schedule email responses to send during working hours. And enforce those boundaries! The message you send to people when you regularly ignore your boundaries is, “My boundaries don’t exist.”
Celebrate small victories. Setting boundaries is an important step in self-care, so give yourself credit when you successfully enforce a boundary. Also, engage in activities that allow you to disconnect from the work and recharge your batteries. Take a lunch break. Go for a walk in nature. Turn off all your devices for two hours every night so you can be fully present with your family. Express gratitude for simple things, and you’ll shift your energy and attitude to a more positive place.
Successful boundary setting takes time and practice, but it can ultimately help you be a happier, healthier, more productive PR professional. Decide you’re worth it!
Karen Nerney is a manager for Capital Region BOCES Communications Service in Albany, where she supports a team of PR professionals serving school districts throughout New York state. She teaches self-care and creative classes through her business, Gratitude Place. Find her on Instagram @Gratitude_Place