overworked employees

Consequences of Overworking Employees

Some stress in the workplace may be unavoidable, but you may be unintentionally contributing to that stress by overworking employees—and their personal health may be declining as a result. Pressure and stress in the workplace is the number-one reason for dissatisfaction in the American workforce, and it can cause employees to demonstrate symptoms of fatigue, poor time management, and other odd behaviors.

How Do You Know if You Have Overworked Employees?

There are many pitfalls in a business structure that can cause overworked employees. Check out these four signs of overworked employees, the dangers of an overly heavy workload, and some solutions for preventing or fixing these problems.

1. Requiring Too Many Hours

You may tell yourself that overtime pay makes up for long hours at work, but overworking employees by requiring too many hours can lead to burnout, which hurts both the employee and the business.

Symptoms and Dangers

Stress from being overworked can lead to all sorts of health problems, such as insomnia, depression, and heart disease. Poor health can result in more sick days, high turnover, and rising health-insurance costs, which greatly affects your bottom line without increasing output.

Burnout can also cause your employees to struggle with basic job duties, such as:

  • No longer able to communicate effectively with others
  • Struggles to make sound judgment calls
  • Inaccurate capture and use of data

Requiring too many hours causes employees to lose sight of their goals and the big picture. They’re so buried under their task load that they can no longer see the larger purpose of their work.


Management first discovered in the 19th century that reducing workdays to 8 hours not only increased work output, but minimized mistakes and accidents. This finding was later verified by research conducted at Harvard. Limit long days and 60-hour workweeks to serious, crisis situations only. If you find that your business regularly makes these kinds of demands on employees, you may need to revisit your staffing requirements and strategic business plans.

2. Creating a Stressful Work Environment

Things like low pay, long commutes, annoying coworkers, unfair bosses, and unreasonable workloads can all contribute to a stressful work environment.

Symptoms and Dangers

Quick signs to assess of an overworked employee may be:

  • If you start to feel a shift in your employees’ attitudes
  • notice that certain employees are avoiding you
  • see an increase in absenteeism and turnover

If any of these start to become a common occurrence, you may need to reassess the work environment; these are all symptoms of people being stressed and overworked. This sort of stress can cause employees to work themselves to the breaking point or slack off and become completely unresponsive, but the end result is the same: a workforce that won’t last.


Don’t overload your employees with work they can’t manage during their normal working hours, and show your staff that you appreciate them by offering fun team-building activities, prizes, food, and even flex time where possible. Employees who are appreciated and rewarded for their hard work feel less stressed.

3. Not Allowing Them to Grow

Lack of career-advancement opportunities is one of the top 5 reasons that employees feel worried and stressed about their jobs.

Symptoms and Dangers

Workers who want to advance tend to take on too much and overwork themselves to impress bosses and supervisors, but sometimes their leaders aren’t aware of their employees’ long-term career goals. This can lead to the assumption that what they’re seeing is the normal level of work for those employees.

This work ethic can be a fast road to burnout for ambitious employees. It will also set a bad precedent for other workers who see that nothing good comes from working so hard.


Be clear with employees about their opportunities for growth and advancement within the company. Put small goals and professional-development opportunities into place for each employee. This will help your employees to stay motivated and keep moving forward.

4. Interfering with Work-Life Balance

When the scales are overloaded with work, leaving little or no time for family, vacations, or hobbies, employees know their lives are out of balance and feel overworked and unhappy.

Symptoms and Dangers

When employees are too overworked to enjoy enough personal time, they can begin to feel depressed and anxious, which can lead to other serious mental-health issues.

18 percent of employed Americans between the ages of 18 and 54 who were surveyed by researchers reported experiencing symptoms of a mental health disorder in the previous month. Left untreated, these disorders damage an employee’s health and career and reduce workplace productivity.


Encourage your employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance by training other team members to  competently manage the workload even when key people are out of the office. Be supportive of employees taking time off for family events and functions so they don’t feel guilty or worried that their jobs are at risk of using vacation time.

Find a Happy Balance: Create Solutions for Overworked Employees

Meeting deadlines is just as important as employee wellness, so take the time to assess the workplace culture and the workload you expect your staff to manage. Learn more about how you can develop a healthy working culture by partnering with the Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness (CMOE) and investing in the development of your employees.

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About the Author
CMOE’s Design Team is comprised of individuals with diverse and complementary strengths, talents, education, and experience who have come together to bring a unique service to CMOE’s clients. Our team has a rich depth of knowledge, holding advanced degrees in areas such as business management, psychology, communication, human resource management, organizational development, and sociology.

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