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July 18, 2022 Cassandra Singh

How to Set Family and Work-Life Boundaries

Knowing when to say “no” can be extremely difficult, especially regarding your job. This is mainly because of fear. Many people feel that by saying no they will be perceived as an incompetent worker or that they will lose their job. However, saying yes all the time can lead to many problems, especially when it starts to interfere with personal or family life. Not setting work-life boundaries can negatively affect your mental health, physical health, and overall mood.

Now, when is it appropriate to say no to your job?

Setting boundaries with your job is crucial. It is important not to let your job interfere with your family life and not let your family life interfere with your personal life. When the two parts of your life begin to seep together, it becomes very overwhelming. This can lead to burnout.

According to Psychology Today, burnout is “a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress.” Once hitting a state of burnout it becomes difficult for the individual to be present for both their job and their family. There are a few ways that you can go about setting boundaries:

  1. Advocating for yourself
  2. Talking about how you feel
  3. Setting a strict schedule for yourself
  4. Putting yourself first

1. Advocate For Yourself

Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself. If you feel like you are working too much or the job is too stressful for you, speak to a supervisor or higher up to see if they can assist you. You don’t want to continuously be miserable at your job, because this will make it difficult for you to enjoy life outside of work, too. By speaking up, you will open the door to support. This can make your job experience much more enjoyable and will allow you to not take your emotions about work home with you to your family.

If your manager or HR leader is unable to help you, reconsider if this is the right job for you. You can begin researching and see if there might be another job opportunity for you. If you are struggling with figuring out how to even have this conversation, try using a technique called coping ahead. The Coping Ahead Technique is beneficial because it allows you to plan and have a clear set outline of how you will go about having this conversation. You can then think about what are the potential outcomes of this conversation and prepare yourself for how you will handle the possible outcomes.

2. Talk About How You Feel

Talking about how you feel can be very beneficial for you during this tough time. If you have a therapist, talk to your therapist about the difficulty you are having with separating work and family life. If you don’t have a therapist, talk to the people around you. By doing this you can feel a lot better by getting it out and you can also get some comfort from your support system by doing so.
From my experience, I am a very vocal person when I am struggling with separating my work and family life. I look forward to talking about how I feel because it allows me to get the feelings I have about work off my chest without taking it over to my family. I can even get a clearer idea of what I should prioritize and decide how I can create that boundary for myself.

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone, try journaling. This will allow you to get the emotions that you are feeling out. This will help you to express how you’re feeling about work and get some of those negative emotions out.

3. Set A Strict Schedule For YourselfHow to Set Family and Work-Life Boundaries - man working at desk with kid on lap

Scheduling your day out can be very beneficial. Think about what you want to prioritize that day and follow through with that. If you are scheduled to work five days a week, eight hours a day then stick to that schedule. It can be very tempting to reply to that email that comes through after work hours or on the weekend. However, you have the option to decide whether or not you want to reply to it. By responding you are giving your job the opportunity to interfere with your family life outside of work.

One thing that I have found to be helpful is that outside of work hours I have all emails and text messages on do not disturb. By doing so I do not feel tempted to respond and will get back to them when working hours resume for me. With my patients, I am very open about my boundaries and prepare them ahead of time with what they can do in case of an emergency when I am not available. It is important to understand that outside of work hours, especially during the night or on weekends, there is not much that you can do to take care of work. You can incorporate the technique of radical acceptance in order to accept that this is the reality of the situation and there is nothing that can be done until you resume work.

4. Put Yourself First

Make sure that you are putting yourself before your job. Your job is important. However, you are not obligated to be a slave to your job. Overworking and not having clear work-life boundaries leads to burnout, which will make it harder to be productive down the road. Make sure you are continuously checking in with yourself about how you feel about your job, and when you begin to feel overwhelmed, take action.

Also, make sure that you are setting aside time for your family outside of work and that you are present during this time. One way to do this is by implementing a family dinner time every night. During this time you can set a rule of no technology at the dinner table and be prepared to have conversation points, such as going around the table and saying your highs and lows of the day. Also, on weekends try to spend time with family doing at least one activity together.

Whichever method you choose, always make sure to have the boundary set between your work life and family life for yourself and your wellbeing.

For more information on mental health at work, check out the following blog posts:


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Cassandra Singh

Cassandra Singh is a therapist at Nivati. As a first-generation immigrant from Guyana, this has influenced Cassandra’s interest in providing counseling to individuals from backgrounds where mental health is largely overlooked and/or misunderstood. Cassandra welcomes all individuals to have a safe space to express their feelings and work through any difficulties they are experiencing in life.

Licenses, Certifications & Memberships
Mental Health Counseling - LP
Child Abuse Prevention Certificate

Long Island University - Master’s Degree in MHC
Baruch College - Bachelor's Degree in Psychology