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What is overworking?

Overworking, simply put, is the term used to describe an employee who is working too much. This could be through working a significant amount of overtime, having a workload that is too much for them, or having a noticeably poor work-life balance. It is an act that can often lead to burnout.

What can cause an employee to overwork?

The most obvious cause of overworking is a workload that is too heavy. This can easily happen if a team is understaffed or a large project is underway. While in the short term this can be manageable, working overtime or having too much work assigned to an individual can become a cause for concern. 

Another cause for overwork can be bad company culture. If a team feel as though they will be penalised for taking breaks, finishing on time or striving for a healthy work-life balance then they may push themselves into overworking. 

What are the consequences of overworking?

Performing too much work for a prolonged period of time can have detrimental effects on an employee’s health. If overworked too long, it can lead to:

  • Burnout
  • Loss of motivation
  • Extreme stress levels
  • Physical ailments (headaches, gastrointestinal problems, etc.)
  • A negative view of their company or career

If multiple employees or a whole team are overworked, it can also have hugely negative effects on a business. Some examples include:

  • Detrimental impact on the company culture
  • Reduced motivation levels
  • Poor communication
  • Lack of ‘team spirit’
  • Poor view of management/business in general
  • Decreased employee retention rate

How can you tell if an employee is overworking?

Being able to tell the signs of an employee who is taking on too much work is the best way to combat it! Some of the common signs of an employee is overworking are as followed:

  • Making frequent mistakes
  • Putting in prolonged hours of overtime
  • Changes in behaviour (e.g. irritability)
  • Less social than usual
  • More absenteeism 
  • A change in work ethic
  • Missing deadlines or tasks taking longer than usual

What should I do if an employee is showing symptoms of overworking?

If an employee is showing the above symptoms, it’s important to take action to avoid them reaching a full occupational burnout. Ignoring the problem, or continuing to provide the employee with too much work can lead to health problems and severed relationships between the employee and management.

Some simple steps you can take to rectify this situation include:

  • Conducting an employee review: Very few employees will feel comfortable enough to say they are overworked. So, if a manager suspects an employee is struggling it’s important for them to make the first move and open a conversation.
  • Discussing causes: Understanding where the extra workload is coming from will help you make the correct adjustments. If a team member has recently left the business or you’ve taken on a new client, these could be pushing an employee to take on too much work.
  • Set limits and priorities: If multiple projects are piling up, it can be easy to fall into a pattern of overworking to get them all completed. However, this is bad for both the employee’s health and the quality of output. Working with the team to set limits and prioritise tasks helps avoid this situation.

Preventing overworking in the future

Having a company culture that prevents overworking is the best way to combat overworking in your business. Find out how you can implement this in over on our Recruitment Knowledge Hub

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