The cut-throat world of modern business spares neither the highly successful multi-national nor the struggling start-up from the troubles of overburdening. No matter if your firm is making millions, or fighting to stay afloat, everyone who works for any firm suffers from “too much workload”! Not just employees, even entire organizations seem to be dealing with similar problems – namely, Overworking.
An organization may report being overburdened in one of two situations –
- Business is growing too fast for the company to keep up with.
- The existing structures are inadequate to properly manage the current workload
Now, these may not seem like very obvious problems at first glance, but the consequences of overworking are many. They affect the employee, and thus the organization as well.
At an individual level, it adversely affects physical and mental health in the following ways:
- Disturbed sleeping patterns
- STRESS (can’t stress it enough)
- Susceptibility to bad and harmful habits like drinking/smoking
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Poor lifestyle choices leading to higher chances of obesity, diabetes, etc.
- A general lack of motivation leading to reduced productivity
It is then easy to see why overworking is detrimental to the organization as well.
- Employee performance severely suffers due to prolonged periods of overwork. Workers ability to concentrate on a task is severely hampered, which causes loss of accuracy and efficiency, leading to a high rate of human errors. More errors mean more work to review and redo, which then leads to lagging deadlines… it’s a train of consequences which affect the entire organizations’ output.
- Overworked employees are physically and mentally exhausted which affects their overall well being, hence resort to absenteeism. Organizations incur high costs in terms of loss in productivity, frustrated management, team morale, delayed deadlines, not to mention the monetary costs. A study showed that employers in Ireland can expect to pay around 596.64 Euros per employee for approximately 10 days of absence in a year. (https://advancesystems.ie/the-prevalence-of-employee-absenteeism-infographic/ )
- Overworked employees are exhausted and unmotivated hence they are prone to moodiness. This creates a volatile work environment where minor conflicts can escalate at the drop of a hat, creating a stressful experience for everyone at work.
- Longer working hours do not guarantee more results. Studied show that increasing the working effort of a team by 50 percent (from 40 to 60 hours a week) can only increase productivity by 25-30%. Occasional instances of overtime may be beneficial in some situations, like meeting a critical deadline. But prolonged trends of overworking greatly hamper productivity and morale. (https://www.salon.com/2012/03/14/bring_back_the_40_hour_work_week) (Study by Business Roundtable http://www.hcgexperts.com/scheduled-overtime-effect-on-construction-projects.php
OK, it’s a real problem… HELP!
The Oxford dictionary defines overburden as a verb meaning –
“Give (someone) more work or pressure than they can deal with.”
The Cambridge dictionary says the following:
The crux of the problem lies in this definition itself, the key phrase being “too much”. Therein arises a simple logical solution – give them as much as they CAN deal with. The answer lies in finding BALANCE.
Several people suffer from the need to “prove themselves” in the workplace, and as a result, take too much upon themselves. Some simple adaptations to work habits can make life at work much easier.
- Take a break! – On average, the top 10 percent of employees take regular breaks of about 17 minutes after working for 52 minutes. Even though on break for almost 30 percent of the workday, these star performers work very hard with high concentration while they’re actually working. This makes them efficient while they’re handling a task, and also helps them to relax periodically. (https://www.qnnect.com/blog/8-eye-opening-employee-productivity-statistics )
- Plan – Make a to-do list for each workday, and it is even better if you can plan your week in advance. Make a priority schedule so that you can identify tasks according to their order of importance and tackle them as such. This helps to use your working hours productively instead of unnecessarily stressing over things that do not require immediate attention.
- Postpone – It’s ok to say you’re going to handle something at another time. When you’re already pushing a critical deadline and more work comes in, be polite and say that you can handle this new task on another day, and specify when you will be available for it.
- Decline – If you’re already swamped with work, and you notice there are others who are relatively easy going on that day, it is OK to politely decline and say that maybe another colleague could handle it. Don’t be afraid to communicate with your superiors.
- Share the Work –If you manage a team, distribute the work to other members. If your colleague is setting Temple Run high scores all day, share the joy of working with them! Remember, you don’t have to do it alone. There are some tasks that you absolutely must do yourself because you are the person for the job, but it doesn’t have to apply for all tasks.
- De-clutter – All emails that do not require a response from you, unnecessary documents of projects you are not working on, projects not due any time soon, all these are things that do not require your attention during the workday. It is important to prioritize. Clear your workspace and computer of clutter; save your energy for things that truly require your attention. Organize your workflow.
- Do – As a shoe company once said, “Just Do It”. That’s the one and only way to actually get anything done. And if you still can’t figure where to start in your ocean of work, JUST PICK ONE! Even if it’s a small task like responding to emails, once you start getting things done, the check marks on your to-do list will make you want to keep going ahead. One step at a time and you’ve already walked for miles!
- Ask Computers for Help, Digitize! – We live in a world where the click of a button can take care of all your grocery needs for the next week. Use technology wherever you can to take care of the nitty-gritty of everyday living. Automate your bill payments – like electricity, internet, magazine subscription, etc., so that when you get home from work you have nothing to handle separately. You need to set it up only once, but it can help you for months afterward! Use alarms and reminders on your smartphone to stay on track with important appointments and birthdays.
At an individual level, there is only so much an employee can do to handle work stress and this is where the company can step in to make the employees’ lives a little easier.
“3 out of 4 respondents say their employers don’t give them access to the latest technology to do their job efficiently.” – A study by Staples in 2016 (https://www.staples.com/content-hub/company-culture/work-life-balance/the-state-of-the-workplace-in-2016 )
A very interesting study reported by The Economist Intelligence Unit in 2016 found that workers who rated their employer’s use of mobile technology highly were typically more productive, creative, satisfied and loyal. The same report also says that early technology adopters score highly for measures of performance and engagement. (https://www.arubanetworks.com/pdf-viewer/?q=/assets/EIUStudy.pdf )
Thus businesses need to constantly grow and update with the changing technologies by integrating them with their business processes so that productivity can be enhanced and employee experience can be enriched.
- Organizations can automate various daily processes to make the workflow smoother and to ensure employees don’t waste time on daily trivial tasks. Studies show that over 85 percent of the best in class companies integrate their time and attendance system with the employee payrolls. Reliable and accurate time-tracking and payroll system save a lot of time for the organization while keeping employees updated with their working hours and leaves. (https://www.ontheclock.com/9-Productivity-Stats-For-Employees-And-Businesses.aspx )
- Automating the workflow sets a clear, step-by-step model for otherwise vague business processes that can be easily followed by all employees. From filling employee expense forms, claim slips, to generating client invoices or drafting contracts, everything can be made concretely systematic by digitization. This helps to save precious time and resources for the company by making the management process easier and transparent, marginalising the human error factor.
- Automating project management systems can help to establish such a facility wherein the project cycle is constantly tracked and reviewed at every level of execution, accessible to the entire project team. The greatest benefit of such a system is that personnel don’t have to wait for each other on updates, as the entire team can be simultaneously and homogenously updated – everyone is on the same page. Most importantly, workers stay motivated as they are aware of the goals and progress made at each stage.
- It is no longer enough to display premium quality goods in a brick and mortar store to sell. Business has moved into the digital world – not just in terms of selling, but for everything, from marketing, branding and advertising, to online retail as e-commerce. Websites and apps have become the medium for customer interaction and engagement. Every business needs a website and someone who knows what kind of website is right for your business. (https://www.sprybit.com/ )
- According to FlexJobs’ 4th annual survey, 82 percent of respondents say they would be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options. Digitization can help enable employers to create flexible work opportunities for their employees. (https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/survey-76-avoid-the-office-important-tasks/ ) Telecommuting over secured, private company software is a great option which can allow employees to work from remote places over an internet connection. A new, comfortable work environment away from office chatter and politics can greatly boost employee productivity and satisfaction.
Work is endless, as it should be, or none of would have a purpose without it. With work environments as stressful as they are today, most people burn out by the time they’re 40. Even those that continue to work, do so at the dire cost of their own physical and mental health, a price heavily paid over the long hard years of toil.
No individual can accomplish everything alone. Companies must look after their people if they want to keep growing, and employees must be engaged enough to do their work well. But more importantly, they must find the balance that works for them so that they may work productively for a long time.
Slow and steady always wins the long race.