6 Signs You're Being Overworked (Plus Tips for Burnout)

Updated August 31, 2023

Employers may overwork employees during busy periods or after staff reductions. Individuals who understand what overwork feels like can better manage their workload and implement strategies to prevent or overcome this situation. Identifying overwork can reduce stress and improve your overall job satisfaction.

In this article, we discuss six signs of being overworked and tips to help you manage burnout.

What does it mean to be overworked?

When an employee is overworked, their employer requires them to work beyond their standard capacity. The employee might encounter long hours, stressful tasks and few breaks, making maintaining a good work-life balance challenging. Some overworked employees describe feeling burned out and may experience exhaustion, reduced efficiency and job dissatisfaction.

Related: How To Deal With Job Dissatisfaction

A person looks at a computer monitor while resting their chin in their hand.

Signs you're being overworked

Here are six signs that you're being overworked:

Working outside regular hours

If an employer assigns too much work, you might find yourself working outside normal business hours. Answering work calls and responding to emails can disrupt your free time. It may be more challenging to identify this problem if you're a remote employee, but consider asking yourself whether you work excessive hours.

Doing more work than normal

Overworked employees tend to do more work than normal, with some even doing the work of multiple roles. Excessive work doesn't necessarily make you more productive, as it can prevent you from meeting deadlines and prioritizing quality.

Putting in a lot of overtime

While some employees like to work overtime to earn more money, it can leave them feeling exhausted, especially if it's done frequently. Commit to a limited amount of overtime to prevent burnout. Additionally, consider whether your employer pressures you into agreeing to work extra hours.

Experiencing mental and physical effects

Overworked employees can experience mental and physical effects. Mentally, you might lack energy and find it challenging to focus on important tasks. Stress and overexertion can also lead to sore muscles, headaches and chest pain.

Losing interest in your work

Another sign of being overworked is that you're less interested in work you previously enjoyed. You might find work boring or even dread going into the office.

Misplacing your frustration

Overworked employees may unintentionally turn their frustrations on friends and family. Overwork usually leads to fatigue, causing some to neglect or argue with those close to them. Consider talking to your manager about your workload if your personal relationships begin to suffer.

Related: 20 Signs You're Overworked and Underpaid

What causes overwork?

Here are some reasons why employers tend to overwork employees:

Busy periods

Employers in certain industries may be busier at certain times of the year. Holidays and industry trends can affect the amount of work that's necessary for employees to complete. Instead of hiring additional staff, an employer might extend the hours of existing employees, assign them extra work or establish stricter deadlines. Employers may compensate for these increased expectations by providing overtime pay.

Related: Guide to Overtime Pay

Workplace culture

Another reason employees may feel overworked is due to the workplace culture employers create. For instance, managers who go to work early and stay late might pressure other employees to do the same. Newer employees might be especially susceptible to this type of pressure, as they may feel the need to prove their value to the company by working more hours. Employers can prioritize the well-being of employees by establishing reasonable working hours.

Related: Guide: Business Culture

Being connected at all times

Technology may prevent employees from having enough time away from work. Employers might expect employees to complete work or respond to messages at any time, making it challenging for them to enjoy their free time. Workplaces can prevent this type of burnout by respecting employees' boundaries.

Consequences of overworking

Consequences of overworking as an employee include:

  • Lower job satisfaction: When you have too many responsibilities, you may experience lower job satisfaction even if you're passionate about your industry.

  • Decreased productivity: Overworked employees tend to be less productive, affecting their performance and ability to help the company succeed. Failing to meet your employer's expectations might also prevent you from qualifying for raises or promotions.

  • Decreased morale: Overworking can lead to decreased morale, as employees have less motivation to perform well. Additionally, morale may decline if many employees leave the company to escape excessive workloads.

  • Poor health: Stress due to overworking may lead to serious health consequences ranging from mental health issues to physical conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease.

How to talk to your manager about being overworked

If you think you're being overworked, consider talking to your manager. Part of their job is listening to your concerns and creating a healthy work environment. Consider scheduling a meeting with your manager so they can focus on providing the appropriate solutions.

You can begin the meeting by being honest about how you're feeling about your workload. You might provide specific examples of how you have excessive responsibilities that are beyond the scope of your job description. Your manager can use the information you provide to propose solutions. For instance, they might adjust your work hours, provide more breaks, offer additional training or allocate some of your tasks to team members.

What to do when you're overworked

Aside from talking to your manager, here are other steps to take when you're being overworked:

1. Set boundaries

Set boundaries for yourself and with people in your organization sooner rather than later. This way, you can commit to creating a good work-life balance. For example, you might refrain from checking your emails once you're done with work for the day. In addition to following through with this goal, you can inform team members of this intention so they know when to expect responses.

You can set similar boundaries when taking paid time off. Before your vacation, try completing all your essential tasks and meeting with your team to delegate your responsibilities while you're away from work. You might also set an away message on your email and inform your team of your plan to respond to their messages when you return.

Related: Ultimate Guide to Work-Life Balance

2. Complete one task at a time

In some cases, employees can create the feeling of being overworked by trying to complete more than one task simultaneously. Try to prioritize productivity by focusing on one task at a time. Create a list of your tasks and determine the most important ones. By prioritizing deadlines, you can stay organized and reduce stress.

Related: The Pros and Cons of Multitasking

3. Incorporate easier tasks into your workflow

If you're working on a rigorous project, consider breaking it up into smaller segments. Having more manageable tasks to complete can feel less overwhelming. Additionally, you might incorporate tasks into your day that require less brainpower or physical work. For instance, you might respond to emails in between completing intensive research.

Related: How To Break Down Projects Into Tasks

4. Make meaningful connections

Try creating a support system at work by establishing meaningful connections with your colleagues. Colleagues can help you provide support when you're feeling overworked. They may even volunteer to help you with some of your tasks or provide comfort by sharing that they feel the same way. If an employer realizes many of their employees feel overworked, they may be more inclined to make positive changes in the workplace.

Related: 14 Ways To Make Friends at Work (And To Do So Professionally)

5. Use your paid time off

Try to use all of the paid time off (PTO) your employer allocates to you. A good time to make a PTO request is after a busy season at work. This approach can help you reward yourself after completing hard work and make your vacation less stressful. During more busy periods, you might use a day of paid time off as a mental health day. By taking this time off, you can return to work feeling motivated and ready to be productive again.

Related: Guide to Understanding How PTO Works

6. Practice relaxation techniques

Try finding relaxation techniques that reduce your stress. Exercise is one great way to unwind and increase feelings of happiness. Another relaxation technique is to find hobbies you enjoy outside of work. This way, you have something to look forward to after a long day.

Meditation is another way to feel relaxed, so consider taking 10 to 15 minutes daily to lie down or sit comfortably with your eyes closed. You can solely focus on your breathing to clear your mind. Other relaxing activities include going for walks and stretching.

Related: 11 Simple Strategies To Relax at Work

7. Consider a new job

Consider finding a new job if your employer doesn't respond to your needs. A new position might have a workplace culture and workload that better suits your goals for creating a good work-life balance. During your job search, try asking the hiring manager about the company's expectations of you. You might also read reviews from previous employees to gain more perspectives.

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