With a globalized workforce, the competition for jobs has intensified. Today, there are more work opportunities than ever before. However, there are many takers for these opportunities too. As such, companies know that employees will not quit easily, even if they are overworked. Conversely, employees worry that they might not get the same chance for employment again. Resultantly, a lot of people are overworked and suffering from burnout.
Being Overworked: The Meaning
When employees go above and beyond their capacity and strength for their workplace duties for extended periods of time they are overworked. Excessive workloads can lead to stress, and ultimately, burnout. There is an entire generation of overworked and underpaid employees.
You can notice this trend from the plethora of overworked memes that you see on the internet.
What are the Symptoms of an Overworked Employee?
The signs of overworking can be subtle and obvious. Here are some signs of overworking to look out for.
No Disconnection From Work
Some employers expect you to work all the time. You have to burn the midnight oil every day. Thereafter, the stress and overworking get addictive. The problem with overworking is that people cannot disconnect from work at any time.
They’re constantly looking at emails and refreshing their Slack and MS Teams notifications to “stay on top of things”.
You Always Have Work To Do
Has it ever happened that you have just finished your work after pushing yourself for a long period, and you still feel you are lagging? It means that you have too much on your plate.
Moreover, when there’s no respite from work even though you are doing your best, your employer may be throwing too many things at you.
With overwork, if your mind is tired all the time, your body suffers as well. Your immune system does not function properly and you become vulnerable to diseases. In fact, you may even suffer from lifestyle-related conditions such as high blood pressure, IBS, and insomnia due to mental fatigue.
When mental health manifests itself in the physical body it really is time to take action.
When you are overworked, you get no joy from your work life. You go to the office and count the hours so that you can go home. Every day is difficult to get through. When you do not derive pleasure from your work, your productivity declines. Your mental health suffers and you may feel like resigning from your job every day.
Lastly, being underappreciated can also lead to a lack of work satisfaction.
Distance From Friends and Family
Working all the time can result in less personal time. It eventually leads to not getting time for friends and family. When you preoccupy yourself with work, you will not be able to give time to your precious ones. Your work life and personal life go hand-in-hand. If one suffers, the other will take a hit too.
Americans are Overworked
It is evident from the latest results: American work hours, compared to other countries, can tell us that Americans are overworked. Every year, Americans work 137 hours more than their Japanese counterparts, 260 hours more than British workers, and 499 hours more than French employees.
Japan’s Overwork Problem
Overworked employees are not endemic to the United States. Many countries suffer from this problem.
One such country is the South East Asian island country of Japan. Japan’s overwork problem is not new. For decades, Japanese workers have logged in excruciating hours, worked tough schedules, and rejected their earned leave.
Experts have argued that this trend started after the devastating WWII wherein Japan was decimated. After that, the workforce threw themselves into work to cope with the defeat. Then, following the 1973 oil crisis, Japan saw enormous corporate restructuring that resulted in massive job losses. Due to job insecurity, people overworked themselves, sometimes to death. The problem has still not ended. In 2020, 2,000 people died by suicide due to work-related issues. In conclusion, Japan’s overworking problem is a massive issue for the country, and the government has to deal with it.
How to Recover from Burnout?
Here are some things you can do to recover from burnout.
Accept the Burnout
The first step to solving a problem is admitting there is one. If you relate to any of the signs of overworking mentioned above, you are probably overworked. Many people are hesitant to say that they are unhappy and burnt out. You have to accept the problem; only then will you be able to recover from it.
Identify Your Issues
Burnouts are caused by a single issue or a plethora of problems. It could be due to demanding schedules, relationship troubles, mental health issues, unappreciative bosses, or a combination of these factors.
Undoubtedly, you should change some things immediately. Furthermore, you will need to make long-term changes based on a strong foundation. Long-term changes need discipline and patience. Therefore, figure out the changes you can make immediately. For example, people who are non-confrontational take on too much work from their peers and managers. They can start by saying “no.” Moreover, many people cannot take their mind off work, fearing that they will no longer be relevant and might get fired. For that, you must help yourself believe that you are valuable.
Talk to People
Your friends, family, or colleagues can spot the signs of overworking that you may not see. Some of them might be worried about you but may not know how to talk to you about it.
Everyone needs to blow off some steam now and then. Bottling up feelings can increase stress. To identify your issues and come up with solutions, talk to people that you trust. It will help in two ways. First, you will get an objective take on things. Second, you will get better advice since the other person is not close to the source of your conflict. Sometimes, our proximity to our problems blinds us to obvious solutions. Finally, even if nothing is resolved, sharing helps you to release the pent-up pressure.
People who have trouble setting boundaries are more susceptible to burnout. Accepting too many commitments can lead to overwork. It is not possible to take on everything that comes your way. You cannot give your all to your job, friends, and family; you need time to do things for yourself. It is crucial to set some time apart to pursue your hobbies. In addition to that, If you are asked for a commitment, do not say yes right away. Take your time, think about it, check your schedule, and make your decision.
Be Kind to Yourself
Sometimes, we become overworked because we are too hard on ourselves. We push ourselves to dish out perfect results in a short time. In reality, we are not machines. The quality of our work will not be at its peak every day. There will be good days and bad days. Lastly, it is crucial to take a breather and disconnect from work; otherwise, your work and mental health will suffer.
Take Care of Your Body
Your body notices signs of overworking even if you don’t. When we are overworked, we often neglect our bodies. In addition to that, we don’t eat healthy food; we order takeout and pizza. We forget about exercising. Staying up late has become the norm. It is vital to take care of your body at all times. Otherwise, you may become trapped in a negative feedback cycle: Stress affects your body, which then increases your stress further. Finally, eat healthy meals, take a 30-minute walk each day, and make sure you get enough sleep.
Seek Professional Help
Sometimes, we are too deep in a rut to help ourselves. In such situations, it is better to take the help of a professional. Furthermore, talk to a therapist to understand what you are going through. Take your therapist’s help to recognize who you are and what you want. You will be able to resolve your issues. Lastly, always remember that going to a therapist will not solve all your problems right away. It is a process and can take some time before you see results.
How to Prevent Employee Burnout?
Employers should take a proactive approach in preventing employee burnout as it decreases productivity and creates a negative work environment. Here are some things they can do to help.
Reduce Work Hours
Plenty of research shows that shorter workdays do not affect productivity. Conversely, increasing work hours after a certain limit has the opposite effect. It decreases productivity. Employees will not be at their best when they are not allowed time after work to be with their families for leisure and relaxation. Organizations with 80- to 90-hour work weeks should think about reducing them to prevent burnout.
Create a Positive Work Culture
Underappreciated and overworked employees will get burnt out over some time. Work culture is probably the biggest factor here as employees can go above and beyond for employers who treat them well. A positive work culture motivates employees to give their best. If they are appreciated for their work, they will have the impetus to work hard and deliver good results. Criticism should be constructive and not personal. In conclusion, take care of your employees to prevent burnout.
Have a Great Annual Leave and Sick Leave Policy
Paid time off is the best way for employees to turn off work mode, kick back, and relax. Many employees do not want to take unpaid leaves as money is vital in our lives. To prevent burnout, be generous with the days of annual leave and sick leave that are allowed.
Additionally, comfort sick employees and give them the support they need. The step is important to avoid having underappreciated employees in your workforce. These investments will not go unrewarded in the long run.
Create Mental Health Awareness
Some of your employees might not be aware that they are overworked. Others might know but may not have a way to recover from it. Furthermore, you can create awareness about mental health issues, such as burnout. Hold seminars, invite professionals to speak, and generate awareness. Medium and large organizations should also have an in-house therapist to help employees.
Do Not Set Unrealistic Goals and Expectations
Many times, employers set deadlines that are almost impossible to meet. However, employees know that they will be viewed unfavorably if they fail to meet deadlines; so, they become overworked. Sometimes, employers cannot help setting unrealistic goals, but that should not be the case every time. Employees cannot be expected to overwork themselves regularly as it will inevitably result in burnout. Moreover, it is important to appreciate employees for the good work they do. Underappreciated employees will not go beyond their capacity when the moment arises.
Effect of Burnout on Quality of Work
Overworking can often lead to burnout. A stressed-out employee will not be able to give their 100%. Their creativity and ingenuity will suffer, which will hamper their quality of work. Hence, they should have an option of taking paid holidays or working fewer hours to recuperate and return stronger. Lastly, certain policies such as paid time off, Summer Fridays, and sick leaves can make a massive difference in the long run.
Being Overworked: Quotes
When it comes to being overworked, quotes that are widely quoted in dark times have been making the rounds online for some time. A few of these are listed below:
“Leisure is only possible when we are at one with ourselves. We tend to overwork as a means of self-escape, as a way of trying to justify our existence.” — Josef Pieper
“Many of us learned that keeping busy … kept us at a distance from our feelings … Some of us took the ways we busied ourselves—becoming overachievers and workaholics—as self-esteem … But whenever our inner feeling did not match our outer surface, we were doing ourselves a disservice … If stopping to rest meant being barraged with this discrepancy, no wonder we were reluctant to cease our obsessive activity.” — Maureen Brady
“If you do more than your share you’d better want to: Otherwise, you’re paying yourself in a currency recognized nowhere else.” — James Richardson
“It was well known to the team of eight extreme night shift workers that the group needed nine workers to prevent overwork and accumulation of excess night shift hours that could not be taken because there were not enough workers to cover for the absence.” — Steven Magee
“Overworking is the Black Plague of the 21st Century. Leave the office on time by using the time you have effectively. An executive at a Fortune 100 told me that to him if you stay at work late, that means ‘you’re slow.’”— Richie Norton
Can Employee Burnout be Proactively Prevented?
Overworked and underappreciated employees suffer personally and professionally. Stress and worry drain the life out of a person. Such individuals are even disassociated from their friends and family. They do not find joy in things they used to love, and their personal- and work-life suffer.
Employers and employees need to work together to avoid overwork. It will significantly affect productivity and happiness levels, leading to a win-win situation for both.