Overtime can be great. It’s a chance for many to earn extra pay. Overwork, however, is another story all together.
Overwork is toxic.
Overwork is ingrained in the hustle culture. The busy, busy, busy, go, go, go way of doing things. There is a misconception that overwork is necessary for success when, in fact, it leads to burnout and less productivity. Sometimes, in some work cultures, there may be pressure to overwork. Success, though, is not about working more, instead success is about working smarter.
So, how can you identify overworked employees? What strategies can you implement to make a meaningful difference in your contributors’ lives? Is your organization guilty of promoting ‘overwork’?
Check out the signs here:
Poor work performance. Overworked employees may show a dip in productivity. They might miss deadlines, turn in work that’s just meeting the bare minimum. They may be disengaged.
Strategy: Establish clear goals, metrics, and tasks. Establish what “done” looks like, so everyone is working toward the same final product. Everyone should know who is supposed to do what. Establish check-in points for everyone to regroup and see where they are. Make deadlines realistic.
Absenteeism. When employees are missing work because of illness or otherwise, this is a red flag! Likewise, migraines, digestive issues, and fatigue are all signs of stress, anxiety, and being overworked.
Strategy: Have HR pull up statistics about absenteeism and medical leave. Look at the data. Which departments or teams have lower absences? Which ones have higher rates of absenteeism? Dig deeper with an employee survey or DEI survey to identify areas that might need interventions. Also, get healthy with meaningful occupational health, mental health, and corporate wellness programs. Make your contributors’ health a priority.
Employee language. “I’m exhausted.” “I can’t possibly take a vacation.” “I practically live here.” “I could work every day for a month and never be done.” “Who has time for a hobby?” Though being exhausted is often worn as a medal, it shouldn’t be normalized in a healthy work culture. In fact, it should be discouraged.
Strategy: Managers need to walk the talk. Certainly, there are times when a late day of work is in order, but don’t normalize burning the midnight oil. Insist on breaks, starting times, and leave times. Ensure people are taking their vacation time. Make meetings matter and efficient. Don’t call people away from work to … talk about work. Establish work-life boundaries and stick to them (and don’t penalize employees who don’t respond to calls or emails after work hours. That’s why there are work hours.)
Everything becomes operational not strategic. The hustle culture mistakes busyness for effectiveness, and people (and managers) spend the bulk of their time on operational tasks, putting out fires, and getting through long lists of “things-to-do.” Certainly, every job position has an element of the operational; however, when leaders aren’t being strategic and don’t have the space for innovation, your business can stagnate. Employees who get stuck in an operational rut often slip into complacency and start looking for more interesting challenges outside the workplace.
Strategy: What processes can be automated by software? What processes can be outsourced? There are things that lead to employee overload, and by taking a critical look at internal processes, you might be able to cut through a lot of those tedious tasks. Likewise, provide challenges and room for your contributors, giving them the chance to develop new skills, learn new abilities, assist workshops, conferences, and more.
There are other signs of overworked employees including heightened emotional displays at the office (great for Hollywood films, not so great for work), lack of team mentality, lack of accountability and more. It’s important to understand that a culture of overwork leads to burnout. Burnout leads to absenteeism, decreased employee performance, and a negative workplace culture. This leads to a drop in customer satisfaction and productivity. This is, simply, bad for business.
Get to the bottom of what’s happening with an employee survey. Listen to what your contributors are saying and what they’re not saying. Take meaningful steps toward a healthier work culture. Work smarter. Work better. Succeed.