In 2020, the world changed in various unexpected ways, forcing people into lockdowns and interrupting the normalcy we once knew. Besides living with a fear of COVID-19 infections, people also had to adapt to the new realm, virtual collaboration, and work. Although not a novelty, work from home was the emergency response to in-person contacts becoming dangerous. Most companies introduced telework, even though not all of them had remote work policies and regulations. As a result, the shift to this form of work was abrupt in many cases, leaving employees confused and with more tasks than they can handle.
Despite all the benefits, telework also makes it easy to blur the line between working hours and leisure time. Moreover, employees often find themselves feeling pressured to be available at all times and prove their productivity and commitment. Indeed, workers were already dealing with more stress and anxiety than ever before 2020. But the pandemic exacerbated these issues, adding additional strain on the workforce.
The Pandemic Exacerbated Burnout in Already Overworked Society
COVID-19 increased the pain of having to achieve great results at work and stay focused. It’s no surprise that 29 percent of the workforce is depressed due to the coronavirus. Overall, the pandemic impacted the health of 55 percent of the global workforce. That results in the sad reality, where 85 percent of employees experience high levels of burnout, and 41 percent report a decline in work-life balance. As a result, 34 percent have lower trust in leadership.
In an ideal world, a workplace would be where employees do what they’re passionate about, practice their knowledge, and improve their skills. Instead, work is the source of anxiety for many people. For instance, 80 percent feel stress on their jobs, and 25 percent see their work as the number one stressor in their lives. That also causes health problems, such as work-related neck pain, difficulties in sleeping, and stressed-out eyes. A 2021 research even found that people working more than 54 hours a week are at risk of dying from work overload. But three-quarters of a million people die from work-related diseases and long working hours. That means that more persons die from overwork than from malaria.
An overwhelming number of employees reports that companies are pushing them to their limits, requiring availability beyond work hours. Because of that, teleworkers put in an average of six hours of unpaid overtime a week, while on-site workers put in 3.6. That proves that increases in working hours are the inevitable follow-up of recessions as people feel forced to work more to compensate for the job losses. Considering that many societies glorify the hustle culture, work overload and burnout are deep-seated in the workplaces of the 21st century.
Overworked employees have more tasks and responsibilities than they can handle or their job role allows. They either feel intrinsic pressure to go the extra mile due to a competitive workplace atmosphere, or their managers impose these expectations on them. If you recognize yourself in the definition above, here’s what you can do to restore the work-life balance.
4 Tips on How to Deal with Work Overload
1. Prioritize What’s the Most Urgent
No matter if you’re an on-site worker or teleworker, when planning your daily tasks and activities, first complete those that are the most important. Consider deadlines, amount of work, and urgency to identify which assignments need the most attention. If you don’t decide alone about priorities, discuss it with your boss or team. Let them know how much time you need to do your part and agree on the timeline and workflow.
When creating a to-do list, always include first tasks that take more time and you need to deliver soon. It’s also recommendable to only write the minimum you can do in a day instead of loading your plan with unnecessary assignments that make you feel under pressure. That way, you’ll liberate yourself from additional stress. But if you find time for these extra tasks without overwhelming yourself, finish them after completing the urgent ones. Remember to revise your list of assignments every day and plan. Ensure you always know what and when you’ll do the next day to avoid feeling lost.
2. Manage Your Time Efficiently
Time can be your worst enemy if you don’t learn how to keep it under control. Indeed, it’s challenging to follow a plan unconditionally and always know how many hours or days you’ll need for a particular task. However, use your previous experience to calculate how much time, more or less, more demanding assignments take. Avoid waiting for the last moment to start, no matter how tempting procrastination can be. Try to begin each task one or two days before you need it, giving you enough time in case something unexpected happens.
It’s essential to maintain your work-life balance and leave enough time for leisure activities and your loved ones. Ensure you don’t sacrifice your personal life to stay longer at work and set boundaries. If you’re a teleworker, decide when your work start and when it finishes or talk about it with your manager. You’re not obligated to go beyond your working hours unless you genuinely want.
3. Be Confident About Saying No
When employees accept all assignments without ever expressing it might be too much, employers likely won’t suspect they are struggling. It’s why it’s crucial to be confident about admitting when the number of tasks is overwhelming. If possible, be selective and choose those that align the most with your skills and job role. Avoid automatically taking all the assignments if your schedule is full or they’re not compatible with your qualifications. After your manager or clients get used to you saying yes to every task, they will believe you can do it or take advantage of your fear to say no.
4. Remove Distractions
Procrastination and distractions are among the main enemies of efficient work. Employees tend to delay their tasks when they have too many, but that also happens due to external factors interrupting the focus. Keep your workspace uncluttered and remove anything that disturbs your attention. Avoid opening unnecessary tabs in your browser, scrolling through your social media, or checking the phone every minute. Set the time for breaks and use them to unwind and regain your energy. After you go back to work, dive into the matter and eliminate anything that distracts you from completing it. However, sometimes handling work overload on your own isn’t enough. If the pressure from above is too intense, you should reach out and let your boss know you’re struggling.