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Take Control of Your Email: 7 Tips for Setting Boundaries at Work

Ahh, the ever-persistent ding that signifies a new email notification. With so many of us tethered to our phones and always connected to technology, it’s far too tempting to check our email whenever we see a new message in our inbox.

However, if you are constantly checking your email – even outside of regular working hours – you’ll be constantly distracted, not to mention working when you should be focusing on something else, like your child’s soccer game or dinner with your partner. 

Responding to a simple email may seem harmless, but email distraction can lead to lower productivity, higher burnout rates, and poor health. Setting email boundaries at work is incredibly important for productivity and mental health. In fact, setting boundaries may be one of the best employee well-being strategies your team implements.

In this article, we’ll go over seven tips for setting boundaries at work, particularly for your email.

7 Tips for Setting Email Boundaries at Work 

Email apps are no longer the only way to communicate online, and it has quickly become a significant problem when establishing a work-life balance. Most workplaces have email, online chats, social media alerts, meeting reminders, comments, collaboration spaces and more. But with all these notifications cluttering your email and stealing your attention, it’s hard to get your work done and enjoy your time off the clock. 

By setting healthy email boundaries, you can take back your time and be more efficient at work. 

#1: Set Clear Communications Norms for Your Team

Our first email communication tip is to set clear boundaries. Email communication guidelines will look different depending on your industry, team structure, and role, but it’s important to set clear guidelines around email expectations, such as:

    • Reasonable email response time
    • Team working hours and when to respond to emails
    • Standard email signatures
    • When to use auto-reply
    • Tone of voice
    • Type of greeting used
    • Any other parameter your team determines should be included in your email guidelines

#2: Unclutter Your Email by Using Filters

Did you know you can organize your email to sort each message as it comes in? You can filter your email to separate communications by certain types of projects, keywords, certain people, and more. Using this feature on Outlook or Gmail, you can prioritize the emails in your inbox and respond to them more organized. Additionally, email filters help you avoid missed emails because they will all be neatly sorted into specific categories. Some  evenfind it helpful to color-code internal versus external emails.

#3: Schedule Time to Respond to Emails

There’s no reason why you should be responding to emails and messages every 10 minutes. If you are one of those people who receive hundreds of emails and feel the urge to respond to each one as it comes, set aside time to respond to emails. For example, you may spend 10 to 20 minutes when you arrive in the morning, after lunch, and at the end of the day to triage your inbox and answer all incoming emails. Time blocking will allow you to focus on your projects fully and not worry about answering emails all day.

#4: Respond to Emails When You’re on the Clock

Unplugging from email is the best email boundary you can set. If you’re one of those people who sends and responds to emails after hours, you may be causing unnecessary stress for yourself and your colleagues. Instead, schedule messages to be sent at a particular time. That way, you can set a specific time for your emails to send so your employees won’t receive emails late at night or early in the morning. Emergencies are, of course, an exception to this rule; everything else can wait until the morning.

#5: Overuse Your Autoresponder

Your email autoresponder can be your best friend if you use it right. You can set your email to automatically reply to any emails you receive when you’re out of the office, on vacation, at a conference, at an appointment, or even in a meeting. The auto-reply feature is not only a great way to maintain your mental well-being, it’s also good email etiquette. Setting your emails to auto-reply lets those who write to you know when they can expect a response.

#6 Don’t Be Afraid to Unsubscribe 

Your inbox can quickly become cluttered with unnecessary emails that divert your attention from important messages. Now is the time to sort through your emails and decide which ones you value and which you no longer need or never signed up for in the first place. If you’re hesitant to unsubscribe, use AI tools to sort and prioritize emails so that the most important messages appear at the top. This way, you can review the less critical emails at your leisure.

#7: Practice What You Preach

To encourage your team to maintain proper email boundaries, lead by example. If you work late and need to send emails, use the “Schedule to Send” feature. This allows you to write an email that will be sent later, which, by default, gives you the flexibility to select the best sending time for the recipient.

For instance, if your readers are early risers, sending the email at 7:00 a.m. ensures it’s one of the first items in their inbox. Conversely, if the recipient is more inclined towards a later start or you know they have a busy morning, scheduling the email for 10:00 a.m. might be more suitable. This approach respects their preferences and fosters a culture of considerate communication.

Why Are Boundaries at Work Important?

Email boundaries are an important part of a healthy work environment. In fact, setting boundaries in the workplace leads to better mental, emotional, and even physical well-being. If you don’t establish reasonable boundaries, you’re more likely to suffer from burnout, poor performance, lower productivity, and even poor health in later life, according to Medical News Today. Unless a real crisis requires immediate action, that email can wait until the following day.


Published on: September 19, 2023