Running a business

The Dangers of Overworking Employees

Have you begun to see haggard faces and tired eyes on your employees when you walk into your business each morning? If you have noticed a decline in your staff’s attitude and health, then you could be overworking your employees. It is important to provide your workforce with a healthy and positive work environment that helps to balance their lives inside and outside of the office. 

What is Work Overload?

Work overload, or overworking, is when the demands of a job exceed an employee’s capacity to deal with them using the time and resources available to them. Work overload and too many hours at the office can result in frustration, job dissatisfaction, lower-quality output, and even burnout in your employees. 

Find out how to identify, address and take steps to alleviate overworked team members below.

Identifying Overworked Symptoms in Employees

The signs of overworked employees aren’t always apparent if you’re a busy manager juggling multiple projects and individuals. And you can’t always expect your team to tell you if they’re overworked – often, employees will work longer hours and push themselves too far to be seen to be doing a good job and excelling in their career. 

Many employees don’t want their managers to know if they’re overworked, which is why it’s essential to be aware of the symptoms to look out for.

1. Lack of focus

If an employee struggles to concentrate on individual tasks or seems distracted in meetings, don’t automatically assume it’s because they aren’t committed to the job. Overworked employees often lack focus. They may be feeling overwhelmed by all the work they have to do or worrying about their workload, making it harder to concentrate fully on the task at hand. 

2. Uncharacteristic mood changes

Stress doesn’t always exhibit itself in ways you might expect. As a manager, you know your team, their personality traits, and their general demeanour. If a team member suddenly doesn’t seem like their usual self, it could be a sign of overworking. They might become withdrawn, quiet or less sociable. Or they might seem more emotional, irritable and snappy for no apparent reason. Mood changes like this could lead to more serious mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression if the root cause (being overworked) isn’t addressed. 

3. Decreased energy levels

If all their energy is going into completing their work, your employees may seem lethargic or overtired. That doesn’t necessarily mean dozing off at their desk (although this would be a significant indicator) but you might notice they have stopped going to the gym after work or seem to be socializing less. 

They might not contribute as enthusiastically as they once did in meetings, or it could simply show on their face. Tiredness is hard to hide, even with a morning coffee and plenty of makeup. Plummeting energy levels can have a significant impact on employees’ health, both mental and physical.

4. Reduced output and quality of work

This is a significant indicator of overworking and the one most frequently picked up by managers. Being spread too thin across clients and projects and trying to do too many things in too little time inevitably results in reduced output and inferior quality of work. 

Suppose a team member who is usually productive and good at their job is suddenly struggling to meet deadlines, return low-quality work, or make common mistakes. In that case, this is a significant indicator that they have too much on and may be overworking.

What Chronic Overworking Leads to

Overworking now and again to meet deadlines is a normal part of many jobs. However, when overworking becomes long-term, this can lead to a number of mental and physical health issues. From heart disease and chronic sleep loss to increased anxiety and stress levels, these are the health risks you need to be aware of:

1. Insomnia

The inability to sleep can be exhausting and debilitating. Overworked employees can struggle with insomnia as their brains struggle to switch off from work. Insomnia is bad for business too because it will inevitably result in less productive staff and employees needing to take time off work.

2. Increased risk of heart attack

People who work long hours and are continuously stressed out are more at risk of heart attacks . Studies have shown that people who work over 55 hours per week are about 13% more likely to have a heart attack than those who work 35-40 hours. Working 3 to 4 hours overtime is associated with a 60% higher rate of chronic heart disease.

3. Increased stress

In the simplest terms, being overworked leads to stress. Stress hormones trigger the body’s “fight or flight” response, which impacts the body in innumerable ways, both physical and mental, from headaches and heartburn to depression, a weakened immune system, high blood pressure and muscle tension.

4. Poor diet

Overextended employees simply don’t have time to cook up delicious healthy meals when they arrive home at the end of the day. Microwave meals and fast food have low nutritional value and are high in calories. High-stress levels can also lead overworked people to seek out sugary and fatty foods for comfort, which can, in turn, lead to weight gain and dietary-related health problems.

5. Adverse effects on mental health

Aside from the mental health impacts of stress, overworking can negatively impact employees’ mental health. If they’re too busy to socialize, relationships with friends and romantic partners can suffer. Working long hours can eat into the time they might otherwise spend pursuing hobbies or simply relaxing, all of which can negatively affect mental health.

Why Employee Burnout Matters To Your Business

So we’ve established why burnout is bad for your employees, but how does this affect your business's bottom line? At the end of the day, if they choose to work hard for you, surely that’s a good thing, right? Here’s why employee burnout is bad for a business.

  • Reduced focus: If your otherwise excellently performing team members can’t focus on their job, their work will suffer, impacting your business overall. Overly long days in the office can affect client relationships, meaning work has to be redone, which eats into profit margins, or you end up losing valuable work altogether.
  • Decreased work performance: Poor productivity is bad for business. Overtired, overworked employees simply won’t perform to their usual standards. Therefore, top-performing staff can plummet due to regular overtime and burnout, handing off low-quality work to clients and other team members. 
  • Creates an unhealthy work environment: The environment you nurture at work is hugely important for staff morale, turnover and hiring the best talent. An unhealthy work environment could mean you lose team members at a faster rate or that you struggle to attract the best people for the job, leaving you short-staffed at work. 

How to Stop Work Overload

Here are some easy ways business owners and team leaders can stop work overload in the workplace.

Start single-tasking

Single-tasking is a way for your employees to focus all their attention on a single task without distractions. This method helps to regain focus and improve attention spans. Find out more about single-tasking here.

Keep a healthy work-life balance

Implement a healthy work-life balance to support your staff’s mental health. Ensuring work does not overflow into your employees’ personal lives is a must. If all your staff do is eat, breathe, and sleep, they will soon run out of stamina. Vacation days, work-from-home days, personal days off, and employee appreciation days can do wonders to help keep this balance. 

More and more people are seeking a job that offers this much-needed balance in the workplace. Encourage your staff to take mental health checks and offer webinars or guest speakers that promote a healthy and balanced lifestyle. 

Set boundaries with employees

Some employees might think that managers will see overworking as a positive trait. It’s important to set boundaries with your team so that they know overworking is not encouraged. One simple boundary to set is ensuring that your employees aren’t checking or responding to emails outside of work hours.

Use the right tools

There are plenty of organizational and software tools out there to help manage your employees’ time and schedules so that you as a manager are aware of the work they are putting in and can nip any overworking tendencies in the bud. Employee time tracking and scheduling software gives you and your team a holistic understanding of how time is being spent and where the additional resource should be allocated if needed.

 Keep an expert eye on employees’ work hours and tasks to ensure your staff aren’t being overworked. Take care of your employees and gain control of your time with QuickBooks Time. Try it for free today.

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