Overworking your employees can lead to a wide array of problems for your business. Even if they're good, hard-working employees and even with the promise of overtime pay, too much work is too much work. Overworking leads to burnout, and burnout is a disease that will stunt your business' success.
Sometimes it's hard to know when your employees feel overworked. Look for these seven signs to find out if this affliction is happening to your business:
1. Working Long Hours
This seems like an easy one, yet so many of us fall prey to it time and time again. If you're looking for warning signs of overworked employees, look at how much they're working. When a 40-hour workweek starts to turn into a 55-hour workweek, it's only a matter of time before your employees start to feel overworked and overwhelmed — assuming they haven't already.
Working more than 40 hours a week can not only be tiring; it can also lead to health problems. When an employee's workload rises too high, the stress can lead to depression, insomnia, and even heart disease. A study suggested that people who worked a 55-hour workweek had a 33% higher risk of stroke than those who work 35 to 40 hours a week. Simply put, it can take a good employee and burn them out until they leave.
2. Declining Work Performance
If you start noticing your employees' productivity is declining, it may be a sign they're overworked. Some warning signs to look out for include lower quality of work, missed deadlines, and incomplete work.
It could be that your employees simply have too much on their plates. When they have too much work to do, and they can't seem to get on top of it, they're well on their way to burnout.
When employees don't show up to work repeatedly, they may be overworked. They may be taking time off to rest, because they're sick, or to take care of things they normally don't have the time for. If they're consistently late, find out why — the answer might surprise you. Sometimes absenteeism is a sign of a bad employee, especially if it's just one particular one. But if it starts happening to good employees, it may be a sign of burnout.
4. Emotions Are High
Each day, the workplace has an atmosphere that you and employees can sense. If you find that the atmosphere is stressful, your employees may be burnt out and unhappy with their work life.
When people are growing more emotional at work, don't assume it's their life outside of work that's causing it. If more employees are showing signs of unhappiness or disinterest with the task at hand, they might be burnt out with the amount of work they're trying to accomplish.
Listen to what your employees are saying to find the root of the problem. Which leads us to:
5. Warning Sentences
Sometimes employees make comments that reveal how overworked they are. These are sometimes overlooked or accepted as "just part of the job." But if you consistently hear off-handed statements about the amount of work they have to put in, don't let it go unnoticed. It could be a warning sign that that employee, and probably others, are being overworked.
These sentences are a way of telling others that they're not getting what they need from the job. "I feel like I just left this place," "I basically live here," and "I can't wait to be able to take a day off and relax" are some examples of the sentences you might hear. Even if they're conversational, there may be more truth behind them than you think.
6. Poor Work-Life Balance
This one can be difficult to identify, but once you see it, something must be done. Creating a good work-life balance for your employees is one of the most effective ways of avoiding burnout.
Some warning signs of this problem may come in the form of an employee telling you they feel like they can't take time away from their job to do the things they need to do outside of work. They're missing family functions, avoiding taking vacations, or they're not able to spend as much time with their kids as they'd like.
These situations may be a sign that you need to be more flexible with your employees to improve their work-life balance. If you don't, another company will.
7. Employees Quit
High turnover rates due to voluntary resignations are a sure sign that employees aren't getting what they need, and it might be because they're overworked. This symptom works best paired with the others because it's inevitably what happens when overworked employees don't find relief within your company.
The odds are that another company has worked out how to keep their employees from feeling overwhelmed at work. Your employees can find smaller workloads, a more reasonable workweek, and a healthier business day at many other companies. Try to figure out how to reverse your business' situation before you lose good people.
What You Should Do
Just as there are many ways your employees are overworked, there are many ways to alleviate the pressure for them. Communication is key. Sit down and talk to your employees about why they're stressed out.
How you fix your business' burnout problems is entirely dependent on the reason it exists in the first place. Study the situation to find out where the problem lies. If it's just one or two people, see what it is that's causing them to work so much; maybe some of their work needs to be shared. Look and listen to see why this problem exists for your company. Here are some things you can do to help out your overworked employees:
- Make sure you're creating a healthy work-life balance for your employees. Try to stick to a 40-hour plan so they can do the things they need to do when they leave work.
- See if you can move around some of the workload to even it out between employees.
- If everyone is experiencing the same burnout, you might consider hiring more employees or taking a look at your deadlines or processes.
- Create a manageable amount of work for each employee to ensure they can spend the time they need to make sure their product is optimal.
- Implement strategies to reduce your employees' stress levels.
Again, everyone's situation is unique. But the results are the same: turnovers, employee unhappiness, and decreased efficiency. The bottom line is, if you want your business to be healthy, be sure you're doing everything in your power to make your employees' work lives healthy.
If you start seeing any of these seven symptoms growing more common in your work environment, take it as a sign that it's time to make some changes.