Many of us were confined to our homes, forced to change the way we perform. However, proving yourself while working at home and in the office is slightly different. That’s why we’re continuously trying to increase productivity to let the company know we’re still useful. We end up being stressed and overwhelmed. Is it possible to avoid it, still being effective? How to stop overworking?
Overworking is a state of exhaustion caused by working too much, too many hours per day. The balance between a somewhat “standby mode,” when we’re wide awake doing various activities and devoted to rest and sleep, is inappropriate. Such behavior harms both physical and mental health and harms overall productivity and leads straight to job burnout.
It’s a common phenomenon worldwide; however, Japan is infamous for the most extreme cases. It’s called “karōshi” (過労死) and is literally translated to “death from overwork”. In the country of cherry blossoms, the companies have strict working policies that make the employees suffer from mental stress caused by long working hours and a starvation diet. The most common death causes are heart attacks and strokes, but the number of suicides caused by karōshi is also significant.
How to find out if I’m overworked?
It’s obvious – take a look at yourself in the mirror. You’re probably going to see the exhausted person with bags under the eyes and a sad face overall, however, sometimes with a wide but fake grin. During the months of working overtime, you mastered whistling past the graveyard.
Remote work and overworking
Many of us work these days remotely. WFH often assumes flexible working hours. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with this system if we still maintain an 8-hour routine; however, it raises some uncertainty when the boundaries are not clearly set in the agreement or workplace rules. In this case, it’s not easy to define what “overtime” means; we can only treat it by common sense, based on the standard 40-hour workweek.
Unfortunately, unfair employers take advantage of this situation and assign employees to tasks that require more time to finish. They often explain it like “but they’re sitting at home, they can take a break whenever they want, so what’s the problem?”. The truth is the overtime is not fairly paid (sometimes it’s not even paid at all – sounds terrible, but it still happens!), and they often overwork themselves for free.
Luckily, more and more companies decide to allows their employees to monitor working hours with time tracking software. Such tools help remote workers prove they perform well, stay focused on work-related activities and avoid distractions caused by the home environment. They also control employees’ overtime, showing it straight in the timesheets or in the attendance module, like in TimeCamp. It certainly helps not to fall into workaholism.
Freelancing vs. overworking
Beginning freelancers often struggle with acquiring customers. However, when they get a chance to prove their talent and abilities, they start getting more commissions. Sounds wonderful? Maybe, but as always, there are two sides to the same coin.
Freelancers are their own bosses, so no one controls their working hours and the tasks they’re assigned to. They manage every project they handle from the beginning to the very end and can’t delegate or ask someone for extra help. When the work is done, they’re responsible for the success or failure all by themselves.
To achieve all the goals, they have to put much more effort into their actions. Usually, it ends up devoting their sleep routine to work, wasting precious rest hours for finishing the tasks in time (and delivering high-quality results). The bad news is that working on their own, they often struggle with medical insurance, so receiving professional help is also hampered.
Symptoms of overworking
Many obvious symptoms can tell us we’re overworked. However, we often sweep it under the rug and pretend the problem doesn’t exist. What should make us worried?
- Physical exhaustion – before we find out there’s something wrong with our mental health, the body alarms us with headaches, muscle pain, heart and stomach problems. Experiencing them should send us some clue we may be overworked,
- being more vulnerable to distractions – fatigue makes us less focused on what we’re really doing,
- failure to meet the deadlines – being exhausted and constantly distracted, as well as inappropriate priorities leads straight to struggling with finishing tasks in time,
- being more exposed to stress – problems with meeting deadlines create lots of stressful situations, an exhausted person who also experiences mood swings has problems dealing with it properly,
- making more mistakes – the inability to focus properly makes us less aware of what we’re doing,
- getting irritated easily – overwhelming problems create mood problems, and we often take out on the coworkers or family,
- problems with communication with both teammates and family – caused by stress and lack of time,
- memory problems – being exposed to stress leaves its mark on the brain and impairs cognitive functions,
- changes in sleep patterns and schedule – having a lot going on leaves too little time for healthy, nourishing night’s sleep,
- feeling less motivated – constant failure makes us less involved in our actions,
- inappropriate work/life balance – inappropriate boundaries between time devoted to work and rest,
- thinking about work even when relaxing – constant overthinking and wondering if we did our best, even after working hours.
How to prevent overworking?
Work is significant to ensure decent living conditions; however, making it the center of our lives seems quite dangerous. Think about it – how would you suppose to deal with all assignments if your body and mind suffer from bad working habits? Here are some simple yet effective tips that may help you prevent the negative effects caused by overwork.
Take care of your time
Working hard, we often forget about the time passing by. If we don’t regain control over how many hours a week we work, it will become harder to refuse the new responsibilities. Many cases show clearly that seeing the numbers reveals the truth behind being overwork.
If you find the way your employer gives you unexpected extra work disturbing, don’t hesitate and talk to them. It can be hard and cost a lot of energy, but also significant for your company’s time tracking policy. Luckily, time trackers make logging working hours much easier.
Set a healthy sleeping schedule
Sleep is necessary for both body and mind to regenerate properly. As I mentioned before, when a person is sleep-deprived, they struggle with various daily activities, not to mention the work-related ones. Unfortunately, we often sacrifice this precious time for rest to finish the tasks and meet the deadlines, delivering the highest quality work results.
The point is to stay aware of how sleep deprivation affects our minds and makes us less focused. Such behavior, in combination with lack of exercise and an interrupted eating schedule, harms overall productivity. We work more instead of working effectively.
Give up when necessary
The modern world requires us to be successful and achieve the goals in a constant matter. To accomplish it, we often grit the teeth and try to deliver the best results in the least time. Such an attitude hurts our physical and mental health and the relationships with family and friends. We forget what the priorities are.
That’s why it’s important to realize that sometimes trying at all costs is worth nothing, especially your close ones’ support.
Don’t forget about indoor and outdoor activity
An exercise or two during the workday can have a beneficial effect. Of course, you don’t need to run 10 km to feel it; just a simple stretching or a short yoga session between various phone calls and other activities would be perfect for calming the tired body and mind. After that, you’ll have more energy to be able to deal with other responsibilities.
Take a break
You’ve heard million times before how taking breaks are important for feeling better during the workday. Sure, I recommend spending some quality out-of-the-computer time before starting a new task to refresh the mind and become more focused. However, the breaks also apply to the holiday, which is a perfect time for recharge the batteries entirely.
When the feeling of overwork is coming, let’s put the work away and plan the next vacation. No matter if you’ve already applied for it or you’re a freelancer who has to find enough time between the commissions to get some longer rest. Imagine where you’d like to go, your favorite destination, and the purpose of going there. Just a pure relaxation? Or maybe you’re a foodie looking for fresh, new tastes? Giving yourself a moment to forget about work will benefit you with extra energy for the rest of the day.
Remember that overworking yourself shouldn’t be the way to prove something to both your boss and coworkers. If prolonged, such a situation leads straight to exhaustion and affects productivity negatively. That’s why it’s important to set boundaries between work life and time for rest.
The real cost can be higher than you can imagine.