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:
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
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- Three feelings are often confused with each other: embarrassment, shame, and guilt. To understand how to cope with these feelings, begin by understanding what different kinds of situations we use when we create these feelings. Available here and by RSS on December 19.
- And on December 26: Embarrassment, Shame, and Guilt at Work: Coping
- Coping effectively with feelings of embarrassment, shame, or guilt is the path to recovering a sense of balance that's the foundation of clear thinking. And thinking clearly at work is important if you want to avoid feeling embarrassment, shame, or guilt. Available here and by RSS on December 26.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.