Overwork is nothing new, but Covid-19 has made it even more rampant. Many employees are working from home, which makes it harder to switch off at the end of the day. According to the Society of Human Resource Management, 60% of employees say they are burned out from overwork, and 45% say they’ve worked more hours during the pandemic than they did before.
Overworking means having such a high workload that you feel you’re constantly under pressure, and work spills over into your non-work time. Overwork also has a ripple effect that can have devastating ramifications, including lack of sleep, poor decision making, high anxiety and burnout.
Our bodies and our brains are amazing and as the pandemic has shown us, we have an enormous capacity to be resilient and adaptable. However, our bodies and brains have their limits and need to be taken care of to be able to function well. When we overwork and fail to prioritize self-care, we don’t give the body or the brain what it needs to rest and recuperate. Ultimately, that tends to lead to both physical and mental distress.
Neither work nor stress necessarily has a negative impact as it relates to our well-being. However, it is detrimental when we overwork without self-care or over stress for such a prolonged period that we begin to feel both the physical as well as mental ramifications and ultimately an overall decline not only in our sense of well-being, but often our health.
Women Are Hard Hit By Overwork
Women in the workplace have been hard hit by overwork. Unfortunately, tasks traditionally assigned to women, such as childcare, may not necessarily be viewed or considered as “work“ by some. Nevertheless, they can take the same or more of a physical and mental toll for many women and are often in addition to their work outside the home. Women’s invisible labor comes with a cost. It can make challenges of work-life integration and finding enough time for self-care even more difficult and therefore ultimately lead to challenges in maintaining one’s physical and mental well-being.
Our data found that women and workers under 40 have been the hardest hit by burnout, impacting motivation, focus, sleep. Women suffered a 10X greater increase in stress than men.
How Employers Can Address the Impact of Overwork
First and foremost, employers need to maintain an open dialogue and lines of communication with their employees to truly understand the challenges with overwork that their employees may be facing. Emphasizing that employees should take time to rest and recharge and take their vacation days is a critical role for leadership. Stressing that managers should do their best to minimize excessive meetings and administrative burden is also important. In addition, frequent communication around available resources to support both mental and physical well-being that employees have access to within a company is critical.
Individuals need to be willing to advocate for their personal mental and physical well-being. Ideally, psychological safety should exist within a company such that an employee could speak with their supervisor regarding concerns they have around overworking and the impact it is having on their emotional and physical health.
Fortunately, managers and leaders are increasingly aware of the toll that overworking is taking on their employees and, although not always the case, are more sensitive to finding creative solutions such as added flexibility around schedules and hybrid models of working from the office as well as virtually.