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How to recognize if you’re being overworked

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Modern times make us deal with modern problems, one of which is overworking. Whether it’s due to deadline stress or overachieving, we still have to find a way to deal with overwork if we want to avoid burnout and health-threatening effects.

To help you steer clear of overwork, in the following post, we’ll go over the main points regarding overwork, such as:

  • The definition of overwork,
  • Main causes of overwork,
  • The signs of being overworked,
  • Tips on how to stop overworking,
  • The impact of overwork on your everyday life, and
  • Practical tips for letting your boss know you’re overworked.

What is overwork? What does it mean to be overworked?

In general terms, overwork is defined as — “a state in which workers allocate long hours to work, leading to detrimental impacts on their mental health.”

It’s in human nature to progress and find ways to become successful, which is why we tend to overwork as a society. However, there’s a thin line between normal commitment to a goal — standard work — and working full-steam to the point of exhaustion — overwork.

The last decade has seen a rise in the number of working hours per week, which jumped from 40 hours to 55+ hours, which is now the new “overworking” standard.

Furthermore, according to a study about long working hours, the WHO found a correlation between 745, 000 cases of illnesses and deaths being directly related to overworking.

In light of this, many have found correlations between overwork and burnout, which bear similarities but are not the same.

The difference between overwork and burnout

In essence, overwork represents the act of working beyond one’s expectations or simply straining too much. On the other hand, burnout is the physical or mental collapse caused by overwork.

To put things into perspective, the detrimental consequences of overworking are so widely recognized that the Japanese have even coined a term for “death by overwork” — karoshi. Japan and many other Asian countries have seen a number of cases of employees working themselves to death due to overwork, dating back to 1969 when the first official case was reported.

This is why the Japanese Department of Labor has made great strides towards educating and controlling overwork due to its effects — “the karoshi line concept.” By introducing courses on karoshi and defining the level past which the risk is too high, the Department has managed the control the number of “overwork cases” in the country.

What causes overwork?

When it comes to causes, the WHO and Mayo Clinic Florida reports on overworking have recognized the following as the main culprits:

  • Perfectionism,
  • Unreal expectations,
  • “Grind” culture, and
  • Work addiction.

The modern grind culture and work addiction go hand in hand and, in most cases, cause overwork due to exhaustion. You could experience similar symptoms due to perfectionism and unreal expectations, but you should definitely speak to your boss to find out how to deal with them.

What are the signs of being overworked?

Overwork causes real physical and mental symptoms, which is why you can often recognize them and act. 

In general, the most common symptoms of overwork are:

  • Fatigue,
  • Lack of sleep,
  • Feeling distracted,
  • Weakened immune system,
  • Bad mood,
  • Weight fluctuations, and
  • Poor work-life balance. 

You might mistake fatigue, lack of sleep, and feelings of distractions with simple modern-times anxiety, but these are not to be taken lightly.

If the aforementioned are due to overwork, it’s time to take matters into your own hands and:

  • Unwind, 
  • Isolate yourself from work,
  • Go on walks, and
  • Take care of yourself.

A weakened immune system, weight fluctuations, and bad mood can maybe suggest that you’re dealing with a physical disease, but a doctor would be able to diagnose you and determine whether the symptoms suggest a correlation to overwork. 

How to stop overworking?

Everyone has their own way of dealing with stress and work exhaustion, but we’re here to help with some practical tips that should alleviate some of the symptoms.

If you’re feeling overworked, the steps to improving your health and work habits are the following:

  • Make a precise work schedule,
  • Take a nap,
  • Exercise,
  • Invest in your “me time,”
  • Socialize, and
  • Track your work hours.

As you probably know, overwork can happen spontaneously. But how?

Well, working on an assignment can sometimes feel like 10 hours because you’ve literally been working for that long. Not tracking your work hours and not paying attention to the clock can lead to accidental overwork, which is why a time tracker, such as Clockify, could do wonders for your health.

How does overwork affect your everyday life?

Even though you might feel as if working that extra 2-3 hours a day can help you finish the project in time, that might not always be the case.

A Stanford study on the relationship between hours worked and productivity has released findings that a 60-hour work week negatively affects our productivity, more so than the standard 40-hour work week by a huge margin.

Therefore, working yourself to exhaustion does not only affect productivity but professional output as well. Lack of sleep and fatigue leads to human error, which again reduces the quality of your work and leads to negative results.

How do you let your boss know you’re overworked?

Letting your boss, manager, or supervisor know that you’re overworked can seem scary, especially if you think your job is on the line, but it’s always better to be honest about it than lie and suffer the consequences.

In most cases, your boss has already been through it and will understand your feelings. So, the best way to talk these issues over with your boss is by doing the following:

  • Try to be empathetic — state that both of you share the same goals and work toward the same end.
  • Share your list of priorities — if you have a lot on your plate and short deadlines, letting your boss know how much you work will surely help.
  • Propose a pragmatic solution — make a joint list of priorities and try to delegate the less important tasks to your colleagues.

Before doing any of this, think about your job and how it affects your day-to-day life. If you still think that you’re not up to the assignment, maybe it’s best to take a deep look at your workload and figure out if the job in question is right for you.

Further reading

This is just a summary of an article previously published on the Clockify blog.

To learn more about overworking and dealing with it, we recommend reading the full article: