According to a the Families and Work Institute, more than half of American workers report feeling overworked, and one in three workers says he or she feels overworked "often" or "very often." You're probably not surprised. But if your people feel overworked, does it matter? And what can you do about it? The answers are "yes" and "more than you may think." Some insights and ideas:
Who feels overworked? It's not always the people who work the most. For example, women more often feel overworked than do men, even though men typically work more hours. But those women also said they were interrupted on the job frequently and had too many tasks to do at once. The nature of the work—and the stress it creates—makes a big difference.
What is the impact? The people who felt overworked reported making more mistakes at work. They also feel angrier toward their employers and more resentful of less overworked colleagues. In their personal lives, they lose sleep, feel less successful in their relationships, describe their overall health as being poorer and tend to neglect their personal needs.
Most importantly, the overworked look for other jobs. Nearly half of the people who felt most overworked reported they would be looking elsewhere in the coming year, versus less than onethird of other respondents.
What can you do? One thing all managers should consider is offering more flexibility to their employees. However, flexibility does not mean 24-hour access to workers with nontraditional schedules. Employees who used more technological aids—cell phones, pagers, e-mail—to stay in touch with work, or whose employers contacted them on the weekends, were more likely to feel overworked.
Also, working to minimize distractions and wasted time will help. On top of that, feeling overworked may be a symptom of dissatisfaction with what the institute calls "low-quality" job opportunities. Offering training or allowing employees more decision-making power may not actually change their workload. But such investments can still translate into the difference between hard work and overwork.
Praise is the best motivator — so why not start as soon as the day begins? Call people in first thing in the morning to thank them for their efforts. Or leave complimentary notes on their desks at the end of the day for them to find when they come back to work. Focus your praise on specific, recent accomplishments.