How to say no to taking on more work?

Ever since the pandemic has set in, employees are giving their best efforts during work from home (WFH), and this has translated into an average increase of 13% in productivity. This is an impressive stat and reiterates the viability of the WFH model. But this increase in productivity has come at the cost of increasing employee burnout.

As per a study conducted in 2021, 44% of employees complained regarding heavier workload during WFH and requested a reduction in the same. Another startling fact that emerged from this study was that more than 30% of the employees had suffered adverse effects on their mental health in anxiety, exhaustion or, even worse, depression.

Being a professional, you would not want to leave any stone unturned to impress your bosses, as it is directly related to your growth prospects. There is nothing wrong with this drive, but it should not come at the cost of your mental and physical well-being. What’s the way out? It’s quite simple as you just need to learn to say ‘No’.

The need to say no to more work

During these challenging times, enterprises are going all out to retain the existing clients and aggressively go after new clients. This zealous approach has translated into a heavier workload for the employees with a request for taking up additional work always around the corner. WFH has obliterated the boundaries between work and personal life, as employees are now expected to be available for extended hours during the entire week. The 5-day week (40 hours) is now slowly turning into a 7-day week, with virtually no upper cap on the working hours.

As a result, almost 70% of employees are reporting burnout systems such as mental fatigue, anxiety, physical stress and several others. If you are also experiencing similar issues, it becomes extremely important for you to request load management from your managers and learn to say no to more work, albeit in a polite way.

How to say no to more work

Saying no does not come naturally to most professionals as we all strive to be perceived as the ‘go-to-person at the office. Moreover, you might not want to disappoint your boss or a colleague but would then end up with more on your plate than you can manage. When you work on too many projects simultaneously, you will feel stretched and stressed. Hence, saying no to more work than what you can handle is extremely important to your professional success and overall organizational success.

While there are no good ways to say no, it is entirely possible for you to ensure that the conversation goes as smoothly. Here are some useful suggestions to help you understand how to say no to more work: –

Mention your present workload

In many situations, your superiors are not aware of the exact workload that you are managing. This tends to happen in situations where multiple individuals are assigning you tasks or projects. As a result, all those individuals might not be aware of your existing workload and consequently end up assigning you more work than what you can manage. When working from home or a remote location, this communication gap is even more pronounced. Therefore, when the next time you are being assigned a new project, but you are already stretched with your present workload, politely intimate him/her regarding the same. Moreover, you should also say that as soon as any of the present tasks you are handling are completed, you will inform them of your availability.

Recommend another alternative

While you have your plate full of different projects, managing a new project is important for the overall organization. Therefore, as a responsible employee, you should act as a problem solver for your superiors even if you cannot offer your services for the project. This can be ensured by suggesting another team member who has the required skillsets for handling the task. Though, you must pay attention that the suggestion should not sound as order and hence must be conveyed politely. Thus, not only will you be able to tactfully say no to the additional workload but also showcase your managerial skills to the employers.

Update your schedule on the calendar

This is a simple and highly effective way of communicating your busy schedule to all the team members. In WFH, teams are being encouraged by the managers to maintain their calendars on the respective CRMs. This ensures that all the team members are aware of the schedule of one another. So, you must actively update your schedule and availability on the calendar. This will let your bosses see that you are occupied with other important work and refrain from assigning you unnecessary additional work.

Appreciate the opportunity

When your manager assigns you a really interesting project, but you cannot take it up due to your busy schedule, it becomes important to express your gratitude for being considered for the task. Whether you are declining the opportunity via email, phone call or video call, start on a positive note by thanking the manager for considering you suitable for the task. After that, politely mention that you are occupied with other important tasks now and will not do justice to the new project. End by saying that you will love to be a part of the new project as soon as you complete the ongoing project.

Important tips to follow while saying no to work

– Do not give kneejerk reactions. Always assess the opportunity being presented thoroughly before deciding.

– Choose your word wisely. You should not come forth as too strong or too weak.

– Be prepared for some negative reviews. After all, nobody likes being declined.

– Make sure you practice thoroughly to get better at saying no.

In a nutshell...

Being a diligent employee does not mean that you are supposed to take on each project assigned to you. It will not only affect your health but your performance at work as well. Hence, you must stand up for yourself and say no to any project you feel is too much for you to handle.