Five ways women can say no to ‘office housework’

A new book ‘The No Club: Putting a Stop to Women's Dead-End Work’ argues that ‘non-promotable work’ (the kind that is important to not only a team that works well together but a bonded one) is unlikely to ever be rewarded or recognised. It is seen as an invisible hurdle to gender equality in the workplace, with women’s time and energy being disproportionately expended on thankless tasks. For more information check out this guardian article or better still, get the book!

As a bite size summary, here are five ways you can say no to office housework:

1. Your time is more valuable elsewhere (you know, doing actual work)

Sometimes it is hard to say no, we get that. But sometimes you have to remember that you do have actual work to do that is more significant than organising the annual Christmas lunch.  As if trying to prize a £10 deposit out of people’s hands so that you can all enjoy the 3rd turkey dinner of the week doesn’t take up enough of your time already. There is the circulation of the menu so you can pre-order because you only get an hour for lunch and you have SO MUCH TO GET THROUGH because of the time it’s taken to organise the lunch that you daren’t go a minute over. Yes, everyone has had a nice time but it's you that has to stay an hour later at work to meet the other deadlines because of your actual work.

2. It isn’t part of your job description

A man working hard on his laptop computer
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

I know that for some, organising leaving gifts and a new baby bouquet of flowers is in their job description (after all someone has to do it). If it isn’t, then make sure you say no to those tasks with plenty of evidence to back it up. Have a list of all the money making or value adding projects that you have on at the moment, and be clear and concise that these parts of your work take a lot more priority because they are part of your job description. These parts are often the critical elements that will support your ambitions for career progression. I mean, when have you ever sat in a job interview for a bigger role and been able to say ‘I sorted Geoff’s retirement present a treat and I nailed Sheila’s ‘emigrating to Australia party’ as the main reasons you should be a ‘Head of’ with the accompanying 15k hike in salary? Ask yourself this question…does John at the next desk have as much on as you? Then suggest him as an alternative. Your time is just as valuable as his and you can always do the next one.

3. Suggest a rota

As we mentioned just now at number two, you don't necessarily have to say no but you can ‘defer’ or suggest a rota. A rota is a great way to ensure that those office admin tasks (also known as office housework!) are spread out evenly across everyone, rather than one person taking it all on (i.e. it always being you!). You can probably bet that once others get a taste of the organising lifestyle they will appreciate your efforts a whole lot more … who knows, they might even say thank you when it's your turn!

4. Be straightforward and honest

A wooden sign which read 'speak truth'
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

We are all guilty of sugar coating things … sometimes because you feel uncomfortable at expressing the real reason behind your answer, or you don’t want to make anyone else feel uncomfortable. If you feel that you are being singled out for the task because you are a woman, then you should say so. Challenging stereotypes is the first step towards gender equality in the workplace. Often people won’t know they are doing it and will respect your challenge (as long as you do it respectfully of course!). You should never feel guilty of being honest if you feel that in a room full of men, you are the only one who has been asked to take minutes of a meeting.

5. Don’t say sorry

I mean, of course say it if you have something to apologise for but are you really sorry that you have too much on your plate and you don’t have the time to organise the retirement gift for Barbara whom you have never even met? Didn’t think so. Of course don’t just say ‘no’ - that would be rude - but embed all of the tips that we have mentioned above and you will never be stuck with the office housework again! (Well unless it is actually your job … you can't really say no I am afraid!)

Of course, sometimes the need for office admin does still arise and there’s no avoiding it, so read on for how you can ensure it doesn’t have an adverse effect on your productivity, perception and mental health!

Do you need to collect for a gift for work colleague or know someone who does?

Gone are the days of the brown paper envelope. No longer can  you minesweep for the loose change in people’s pockets - not least because they don’t carry cash any more but also because very rarely, since Covid, is everyone in the office together, if at all!

So you face a dilemma - do you send your bank details out to everyone across the email network? I mean, you spend time shredding your mail to ensure less obtrusive details can’t be gathered, so ideally you really don’t want the details of your current account floating around the email inboxes of the majority of your organisation.

Then there’s the issue of trying to reconcile payments against all of the other activity on your account. Direct debits, food shops, refunds from online outfits you sent back last week. I mean, you can guarantee people won’t follow instructions and put the simple reference you asked for on their payments, can’t you? So you’ll then need to spend yet more time studiously scouring your statement, highlighter in hand, to identify who has paid what and when.

People often forget as well the added pressure on those organising these things: everyone else’s money - that they gave in goodwill for beloved Barbara - is now sitting in your personal account! Who’s to say the company won’t receive an email from you from a beach in Mexico, sipping on a Piña colada with the subject line  ‘So long, suckers!’. Of course, you know that’s NEVER going to happen, but you can be fairly sure it’s crossing people’s minds to some extent. In some instances it’s actually against company policy, potentially breaching bribery policies, or simply on a moral level, it can make you feel compromised or exposed.

How can I easily arrange a money pool in my workplace?

So how about this - an app that makes it easy to collect money from people whilst also making it easy for people to pay in? Too good to be true? I think not.

Collctiv is a free app that allows you as the organiser to create a money pool that in turn generates you a payment link or QR code. People paying in simply click this link or scan the QR code and within 10 seconds have paid into the office whip-round…..from anywhere! They haven’t needed to download the app, create an account or activate an email. They just tap to pay and the funds are right there (anonymous to everyone but you) in your pot!

Download the Collctiv app today for the best solution to collect for work colleague gifts! Since 2019, Collctiv has helped over 320,000 people from 83 countries come together by making it simple for Organisers to collect money from groups. Whether it's group gifts, retirement presents or charity collections - download our free app today and start bringing people together!

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