27 September 2023

Saying no: Where to draw the line

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Stacey Back* says there are seven things highly successful remote workers say “no” to every time.

When I started my first business back in 2013, working from home was rare.

I often tell the story of how embarrassed I’d be when my corporate clients asked where my office was.

I’d mutter the name of the suburb I lived in (where my home office was!) and would quickly move the conversation on.

But after the “remote work experiment” of the past year, many of us have had a taste of it.

With flexible working here to stay and a hybrid workforce emerging, what makes people more effective at remote work?

Here are seven things professionals say ‘no’ to every time to make remote working a success.

Find out how to create better boundaries and become more productive too.

  1. Distractions.

Many people find the biggest challenge of remote work is dealing with distractions. Whether it’s their kids, partner, TV or a fridge full of food.

People who work well remotely know how to focus and avoid distractions.

They say “no” to doing laundry and other household chores during their workday.

Social media is a great way to stay connected when working from home, but it’s also a big distraction.

Scrolling through social media and being constantly bombarded with information impacts productivity.

Successful remote workers disconnect from social media or at least limit consumption time.

  1. Overworking.

In 2017, I hit yet another cycle of burnout after working 60+ hour weeks, late nights and weekends.

Although I learned my lesson this time, this inability to switch off (or ever stop) is a big problem, especially for remote workers trying to balance their personal and professional lives.

Those who subscribe to the philosophy “work smarter, not harder” say no to overworking.

They have clear boundaries around their schedule, working hours, work and home life.

Creating a work schedule is the starting point.

Smart workers also block it out in their calendars and stick to it.

They also put limits on their start and finish times.

By clearing their desk or closing the office door at the end of the day, they can switch off and enjoy their evening.

Taking regular breaks and putting a hard stop on overtime is also key.

  1. Putting everyone else first.

People who are successful at working from home also create boundaries with others. They say no to people-pleasing and put their priorities first.

Putting everyone else first (your clients, work deadlines, family, boss) reduces productivity.

For years, I prided myself on providing a high level of service to my clients.

But often, I put others’ needs ahead of my own.

Working this way is unsustainable and I learned the importance of respecting my own time, too.

Remote workers with healthy boundaries limit the times they’re available to clients.

They set clear expectations around when they’ll respond and in what timeframe. They’re also adept at managing unrealistic expectations from others.

  1. Skipping their morning routine.

Having an effective morning routine is critical to stay focused and productive, especially with the lack of separation between your home and work life as a remote worker.

The way you start your morning sets the tone for your entire day.

Highly successful remote workers say no to skipping their morning routine.

They get the basics right: enough sleep, a balanced diet and daily movement.

Then, they start their day with self-care activities: mediation, journaling, exercise, yoga or mindfulness.

  1. Being perfect.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest productivity killers, particularly amongst those working alone and relying on their internal motivation.

Overachievement is common and leads to procrastination when overachievers struggle to meet their own unrealistic goals and high standards.

Meanwhile, successful remote workers commit to taking imperfect action.

They focus on doing their best, celebrating their successes—and failures.

  1. Trying to “do it all.”

Another roadblock to effective remote work is trying to do everything on your own.

You believe no one can complete a task as well as you—so you may as well do it yourself.

You think it’s too difficult to train someone, especially when you’re not based in the same location as them.

Failing to delegate or ask for help comes from a fear of letting go and a need to control.

Working this way negatively impacts your time management and productivity.

The most effective workers don’t try to “do it all”—they remove anything outside their expertise.

  1. Doing it alone.

Social isolation is one of the downsides to remote work.

It’s the reason many professionals can’t wait to get back to the office in some capacity, despite enjoying the flexibility of working from home.

Successful remote workers say “no” to loneliness and isolation by refusing to do it alone.

They prioritize social interaction and find ways to stay connected with others.

This may be in their daily work, business networking, professional development—or by making time for social activities and interests outside work.

While there are many benefits to working remotely, it’s not always easy.

Building these boundaries has helped my clients and me make working from home a success.

I hope they support you too.

*Stacey Back is a career strategist, leadership coach and Founder of Profile Careers.

This article first appeared at fairygodboss.com.

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