Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
I recently read a Families and Work Institute (FWI) report about Overwork in America.
The report shares some interesting information about the symptoms of overworked employees and states that “one-third of all US employees can be viewed as being chronically overworked.”
The article also gave some insights into how employees perceive being overworked and the consequences of overworked employees.
Factors that affect an employee being overworked are attributed to:
- The total number of hours the employee worked per week
- the employee working more hours than preferred
- The employee did not take advantage of available vacation time
- the number of days a week the employee works
When I think of these factors, I think of employees I have managed who would agree that they would like more control over how many hours and the number of hours they work in a week.
Two Days Off Is Important
I worked with someone some years ago who was clocking a consistent 50-55 hours a week in a six-day week.
I worked with him to adjust the number of days he worked down to five.
He asked, “What’s the difference?” to which I replied, “Two days off.”
His workload required many hours, but watching the toll on him from having only one day a week to refresh was difficult.
Employers should help employees deal with being overworked by monitoring their worked hours and paying attention to patterns of consistently high numbers of hours on the job.
Overworked Employees Impact Business
Tired people make mistakes. Sometimes, it is because an exhausted person simply doesn’t care or has difficulty concentrating.
Either way, when employees are asked to do more than reasonable time allows the chances of increased mistakes are very real.
Employees who feel like they are working harder and longer can be less productive.
This is because working long hours can affect an employee’s ability to focus, finish job assignments effectively, and also impacts their ability to make good decisions.
For instance, let’s say you have an employee who is on a tight deadline to prepare a report for the board.
If this employee is not given sufficient time to complete the task, they may take shortcuts and neglect to include important information in the report.
Angry With Employer
Most organizations have seasons of extreme business. But that is typically a seasonal thing (ie, Christmas rush).
However, when employees deal with an onslaught of work that they can’t keep up with, they become angry. And this anger can manifest in the workplace.
Frustrated With Coworkers
We have all had those coworkers who simply do the minimum.
They don’t carry their weight of responsibilities and have no problem with letting others pick up the slack.
Employees who consistently work with lazy coworkers become frustrated and discouraged.
Noticeable Increased Stress
Stress is a significant symptom of someone who is overworked.
A competent employee will experience high levels of stress if they are working hard to get it done.
This stress can manifest physically, emotionally, and an employee’s productivity.
Productive employees care about work-life balance and get recharged by enjoying their family and participating in outside interests and hobbies.
Employees need to know that their life beyond work is just as important as their job. When employees lose that tender balance, they can experience higher levels of stress and less productivity.
Burned-out employees simply bide their time until they can find other employment.
These employees do the least and focus on finding another job rather than focusing on their job assignments.
Job burnout is a difficult thing in that once an employee reaches that burnout state, it is difficult to bring them back successfully.
Organizations that consistently push the limits on employees will experience higher-than-average turnover.
Employees will seek other employment opportunities to escape the perception of being trapped in a job that they feel they can never keep up. The cost to replace employees is expensive and disruptive to business.
They are angry that their employer doesn’t get them the help they need and angry at themselves for feeling like they can’t keep up.
5 Signs That An Employee Might Be Overworked
1. Increase In Overtime Hours Worked
If an employee is clocking an increased number of overtime hours, it might be time to discuss and review the employee’s job description.
Perhaps the job responsibilities warrant increased work hours, or the employee is not as productive as possible.
Either way, excessive overtime can be the first indicator of an employee being overworked.
2. Calling In Sick
I have been guilty of this. Back in the day, I would call in sick to get a break.
When you begin to see an uptick in absenteeism, it might be time to pay attention to an employee and their workload.
3. Not Getting as Much Done
Overworked employees can transition into burned-out employees quickly.
When you notice that an employee is not getting as much done as they used to or the quality of their work is noticeably less, or if the employee is missing important deadlines, pay attention and have a conversation.
Very often, this is a cry for help.
4. Mental Health Changes
Overwork can cause stress for employees. And too much stress can trigger mental health issues such as depression, mood swings, or attitude changes.
You may also notice that the employee is not as socially engaged as they used to be.
If you notice an employee displaying mental health changes, have a conversation.
5. Personal Life Imbalance
A balance between home and work is important for employees.
If you notice that an employee is neglecting personal responsibilities or is having issues at home, this might be a sign that the employee needs to focus on their personal life.
Encourage employees to spend time with family, friends, and participating in hobbies that they enjoy.
Life Is Demanding
Life is demanding, and employees today require flexibility in how they work.
This can be determined by where, when, and how they perform job duties.
Employers should design jobs and performance management systems around the needs of their workers.
For example, allowing a new mom to work from home during the first few years of their child’s life might allow that employee to balance the competing responsibilities of work and home.
This report is interesting because the demonstrated outcomes of an overworked workforce will naturally affect productivity, employee engagement, and product quality.
Employers should take heed and pay attention to and monitor employee tolerance when work becomes too much.