Some vocations are known for chronically pushing people beyond overwork: entrepreneurs, doctors, attorneys, and air traffic controllers come to mind, among many more. But hyper-super-overwork is now much more widespread, as companies increase workloads to compensate for dramatic staff reductions.
Overload is dangerous. To address it, you must first recognize it, and then act to control it. Here are some indicators that you might be severely overworked.
- Health effects
- Sleeplessness can result from chronic overwork. You need time to wind down before sleep. Inadequate exercise, increased use of stimulants (coffee or tea), and more frequent take-out meals can lead to sudden weight gain. Canceling or repeatedly delaying medical and dental care is risky and expensive.
- Neglecting or denying your own need for support and emotional connection is serious, but neglecting or denying the needs of others can permanently damage relationships with your spouse, children, relatives, friends, and colleagues.
- Neglecting home or vehicle care can create financial and safety risks. Neglecting hygiene and wardrobe can seem safe enough at first, but they can be demoralizing.
And here are some tips for the hyper-super-overworked.
- Recognize your own coping
- If your best friends at work have left or have been laid off, you might feel loss and loneliness. Are you coping by taking on work? Deal with difficult emotions directly. Find someone to talk to: spouse, friend, cleric, counselor, or psychotherapist.
- Get help and understanding at home
- There are two popular strategies. You can focus on work, dealing with problems at home only when they become really severe, or you can ask for help and understanding at home as soon as possible, and find ways to be together lovingly and with respect. The former is tempting because it's easier at first, but the latter is definitely the way to go.
- Beware creeping perfectionism
- Perhaps the definition of "doing things right" needs review in light of current conditions. Is it really necessary to do all you're doing? More on perfectionism.
- Deny requests for help at work
- Some of your If your best friends at work
have left or have been
laid off, you might feel
loss and lonelinessco-workers cope with overwork by asking for favors or help. Refusing management requests can be risky, especially if you need the job, but help requests from peers or subordinates are different. Delay responding. When you do respond, make a counter offer — selective assistance or looser deadlines.
- Learn and automate
- If you work with computers, almost certainly you aren't using some of their most powerful features. Be selective. Learn to use capabilities that save time by automating tasks you now do yourself.
Whether the source of your overwork is management, teammates, peers, or subordinates, you probably aren't alone. Try talking about overwork directly, if you can. Explain how you feel and ask for consideration. Work together to find clever ways to reduce everyone's load. Top Next Issue
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Own Your Space
- Since we spend so much of our waking lives in our offices, it's surprising how few of us take control
of our immediate surroundings. If you do — if you make your space uniquely yours — you'll
feel better about the time you spend at work.
- Status-Report as a Second Language
- Sometimes, the clichés the losing team's players feed to sports reporters can have hidden meaning.
So it is with Project Status Reports, especially for projects in trouble.
- Snapshots of Squirming Subjects
- Today we use data as a management tool. We store, recall, and process data about our operations to help
us manage resources and processes. But this kind of management data is often scattered, out of date,
or just plain incorrect, and taking a snapshot doesn't work. There is a better way.
- Let's Revise Our Rituals
- Throughout the workday, we interact with each other on many levels. Some exchanges are so common and
ritualized that we're no longer aware of them. If we revise these rituals slightly, we can add some
zing to our lives.
- The Limits of Status Reports: II
- We aren't completely free to specify the content or frequency of status reports from the people who
write them. There are limits on both. Here's Part II of an exploration of those limits.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming November 22: Motivation and the Reification Error
- We commit the reification error when we assume, incorrectly, that we can treat abstract constructs as if they were real objects. It's a common error when we try to motivate people. Available here and by RSS on November 22.
- And on November 29: Manipulators Beware
- When manipulators try to manipulate others, they're attempting to unscrupulously influence their targets to decide or act in some way the manipulators prefer. But some targets manage to outwit their manipulators. Available here and by RSS on November 29.
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