Working At Home Means Knowing When To Say No

Working At Home Means Knowing When To Say No

Do you feel respected when you tell family and friends that you work at home? While some do, others don’t. This is because some people assume that work at home moms or dads are available to them all day. It becomes extremely important to know when to say no when you work at home.

The image many people have of what people do when they work at home is unrealistic, although it has improved as remote work has become more common. Nonetheless, some will picture you lazing about, not really getting anything done for the day, maybe playing with your kids or pets.

Odds are that they have no idea what the reality looks like.

Explain Work At Home Reality

When you’re having a lot of trouble with someone who makes demands of you during your work hours, it helps to explain the reality of working at home.

  • You aren’t free to watch their kids.
  • The time you can spend texting, chatting on the phone or in person is limited or nonexistent.
  • You really do have to get things done.
  • Yes, you do have a schedule, whether it’s a personal preference or a professional obligation.
  • Your work at home time is precious, and sometimes hard to find.

When To Say No

People generally feel free to make demands of people who work at home that they wouldn’t consider making of other people. They want your time or services. They don’t understand what you do or how important it is that you keep working.

yes or no

Some people will just come up to you and ask if you can (fill in the blank, but keep it clean) for them. Maybe it relates to what you do at home or maybe they just want a babysitter for their kids. In any case, it’s probably completely ignoring the value of your time.

These are the things you may have to learn to say “no” to.

  • Working for free. Exposure to their hoped-for audience is not payment.
  • Watching their kids for no pay, unless it keeps your own kids busy.
  • Idle chitchat during your work hours. Just because they have time doesn’t mean you have time.
  • No, you won’t (fill in the blank. Are you still keeping it clean?).

Yes, sometimes you can decide to give someone a freebie. If you do this, make sure you explain what you normally charge and that you won’t keep doing it for free. Build respect for what you do at home.

But They’ll Be Angry At Me!

Yes, some people may be angry when you start saying no to them when you used to do things for them. That’s not your fault. It’s theirs.

If you want to work at home successfully, you can’t let people walk all over you, demanding time you don’t have to spare.

Hopefully, most people will be accepting when you say you can’t do things you used to do. But if someone is angry at you, don’t give in. Don’t let them walk all over you. Stand your ground.

Besides, are they really a good friend if they get angry at you for needing to work?

Consider saying no as a form of self care. You’re cutting down on the stress caused by trying to combine work with whatever others are asking of you. It’s not selfish.

You Don’t Have To Answer The Phone Or Door

When people call you on the phone or come to your door while you’re working at home, you may feel an obligation to answer.

work at home reality

You really don’t have to.

Build the expectation that you won’t answer the phone or door when you’re busy. This won’t be easy with some people, but others will be quick to understand that they need to respect your work hours the same as if you worked outside the home.

Set your smartphone to its Do Not Disturb mode when you need to work uninterrupted. Turn off the ringer of the house phone, if you have one. The only phone you should be hearing from is any phone related to your work.

I don’t answer calls from unfamiliar numbers very often these days, regardless. They’re mostly spam or fraudulent calls anyhow. I look at the caller ID and decide if it’s worth the trouble or if it should just go to voicemail.

I strongly recommend getting a Ring or other video doorbell when you work at home. Not only will it help you see who’s at the door, but it can also help you spot when deliveries come. Not all delivery people ring the bell, so having a doorbell that will alert you anyhow is nice.

The ability to see who’s at the door without leaving your desk can be a huge help. If you need quiet because you’re working on the phone, you can turn the sound on your phone or other devices connected to the doorbell off.

Build Respect For Your Work Hours

Overall, you need to build respect for your work hours. The more you show that you respect these hours by refusing distractions, the faster others will learn to respect them and you.

Talk to people who interrupt your work hours about the times that you are able to just sit and talk. Especially if you have young children, your work hours may be sharply limited. You cannot tolerate losing too much work time.

Others will assume that it’s so easy to work at home that they can interrupt you freely. Sure, it’s easy for some people, but most of us have to work hard at our remote jobs or online businesses. Most people don’t get the big bucks for just a few hours’ work.

When To Say Yes

when to say yes

Just because you need to be careful about agreeing to do favors when you work at home doesn’t mean you should always say no. There are times when yes is a perfectly reasonable answer.


I like volunteering at my kids’ school when possible. It’s a good way to keep up on events happening at school, and I get to see the kids. My youngest still loves seeing me there. It’s also a bit of social time for me with other adults.

But I do not volunteer for everything that comes up. I choose my times. If I’m too busy, it’s a no.

I also make sure my husband takes on his share. Our youngest is doing Destination Imagination (DI) this year, and he’s the appraiser for one of the challenges. Every team has to supply appraisers, so this is an important time for us as parents to step up and volunteer.

What we don’t do is assume that I’m the one who handles all the volunteer work just because I have a more flexible schedule. DI appraisers attend training on weekends, and most competitions are on weekends. Short of making Global Finals, it’s as easy for him to handle as it would be for me. This year it’s his turn.

We also volunteer at a local animal shelter. Once again, it’s fun, a nice break from my work routine. It also helps that we do this on Fridays, which is one of my less productive days due to the kids’ school schedules. Some of the time I lose volunteering would have been spent picking kids up anyhow.

Don’t let volunteering take up too much of your productive work time. But when you want to do it and it fits in your schedule, go for it!

When It’s A Part Of A Commitment

There may be things in your life that take up time you’d rather spend working that you can’t get out of. In some way, you’ve already committed to it.

For example, what activities are your kids in, and what do those activities demand of you?

My older two kids do archery, and my youngest does Destination Imagination, as mentioned above. While neither of these require much of time time most of the year, competitions for both happen in the spring. Often, they involve a bit of travel.

Having both of those hit at once can be a bit hellish on my work routine. Even the regional competitions can be a 1-2 hour drive away, depending on location and traffic. As they start early in the morning, we often opt for a hotel stay rather than getting up at 4-5 in the morning and trying to make sleepy kids compete.

While these mess up my work routine, that’s something I accepted when allowing my kids to participate in these activities. They can’t be on these teams if they don’t compete, and they can’t compete if we don’t take them there.

When You Can Afford The Time And Want To Do It

make it happen

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing favors for others when you want to and it won’t interfere with your work.

Since I don’t need quiet when I work, for example, I often let my kids have friends over while I’m working. This was especially useful when they were young enough to want someone to play with all the time. If a friend came by, they were it. Otherwise, my kids wanted me.

That made it practical to sometimes help other parents out by having their kids over. Sure, I had to get snacks for the kids sometimes, but otherwise working was often easier with an extra kid or two in the house, not harder. Weird, but true.

These days, the school my kids go to is far enough off that I drive to pick them up. I also sometimes end up driving some of their friends home. As this adds less than 10 minutes to the trip, I don’t have a problem with it. It also means their parents are willing to do favors if I need them.

Remember That You’re Fortunate To Work At Home

Even with these challenges, make sure you make the most of being able to work from home. Enjoy yourself. Talk about what you do just as other people talk about their jobs. Enjoy the ability to be closer to your family, even when you have to sacrifice and work more hours at home than you’d ideally like to.

You’re very fortunate. You can do something many only dream of. Earning money from home is something very, very special.

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