Some stress in the workplace may be unavoidable, but you may be unintentionally contributing to that stress by overworking your 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.
Check out these four ways you may be overworking your employees, the dangers of an overly heavy workload, and some strategies 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 requiring too many hours from your employees 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; they may no longer be able to communicate effectively with others, make sound judgment calls, or capture and use data accurately. 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.
Solution: 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: If you start to feel a shift in your employees’ attitudes, notice that certain employees are avoiding you, or see an increase in absenteeism and turnover, 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.
Solution: 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 and assume that what they’re seeing is the normal level of work that those employees can manage.
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.
Solution: 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.
Solutions: Encourage your employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance by instituting training that ensures that others can 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.
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.