Overworking: the problem of working too much (and how to fix it)

It is very likely that all workers have experienced overworking (overload of work, in Spanish) at some point in life. It is that in many companies employees work beyond their established work hours.

Why is overworking the opposite of the ideal work scenario? Because it is directly related to work stress, which has an impact on people’s health: “Working more hours also means having fewer hours of recreation and rest, fundamental activities for the body to respond adequately to the environment,” explained the human management manager of Advice, Ximena Carbone.

However, it is a more than common practice in Uruguay, promoted both by the companies and by the employees themselves, according to the managing partner of RSM, Gabriela Montaldo. It is that in the Uruguayan collective imagination, those people who work more hours are the most committed to the company.

In the shoes of the employees

There are several reasons that can lead a person to work more hours than those established by the labor regime. And among them, three stand out.

In the first place, there are workers who pour a large part of their personal satisfaction into the task they perform, which is why they dedicate more hours than they should to their professional responsibilities. “Work overload can be a work style that the person adopts that is difficult to get out of, something like a vicious loop,” Carbone said.

Second, there are employees who feel that they have an indispensable role in the company, which often leads to workaholism. These people do not usually take the necessary breaks to avoid work overload. For this group, it is often difficult to disconnect due to a lack of good work organization, specific objectives or the absence of a list of priority tasks.

Thirdly –and in specific cases–, there are people who increase their working hours due to economic necessity. They can opt for both overtime and extra work. Regarding this particular group, Advice’s human management manager said that it is not strictly overworking when there is an economic need, but an impossibility of finishing the working day when it corresponds.

Including people who have an overload of work for the reasons mentioned above, there are studies that show that overworking is more present in men than in women in any age group. Although it is worth noting that this way of working tends to appear in middle age, but its health consequences are seen years later.

Work overload impacts the person’s lifestyle. According to the director of Randstad Uruguay, Juan Pablo Lara: “Work disconnection becomes difficult for talent when there is no recognition of the importance of the balance between professional and private life.” This balance is one of the key attributes that employees look for in jobs, whether they are developing or seeking.

The bad practice of overworking

According to the experts consulted Coffee & Business, It is important to discriminate between two types of work overload. There are specific moments in which people face work overload, and according to experts this is within what is expected in a professional career.

Now, if a person works overtime every day, it is already considered a pathology because —as time goes by— he begins to have health complications. This is a consequence of not complementing work with hours of leisure and rest.

In the shoes of companies

There are companies in which full life work (full life, in Spanish) is intended. These are the ones that encourage overworking by their employees, which leads to dissatisfaction for workers as they begin to feel overwhelmed by the number of tasks, according to BDO human capital partner Cinthia Eliazer.

Lara explained that the work proposal that demands constant overload naturally expels many talents who simply prefer a place where they can maintain a balance between personal and work. “A lot of times – from the company’s point of view – it’s mistakenly seen as not keeping up,” said the Randstad director.

On the contrary, there are companies that are working at the level of their internal culture to promote a balance between personal and work space, with the aim of developing the well-being of employees in the workplace.

In order to offer this harmony to the workers, the companies organize themselves and offer an adequate work plan, ordered and guided by their mentors. In this sense, Eliazer said that well-managed telework should facilitate this balance, thus improving the quality of life of the worker.

“The ideal is to be productive and effective within working hours. We are not naturally prepared to perform long hours and our minds need moments of dispersion to be more creative”, stated Lara.

The importance of rest

Work overload is a phenomenon that must be addressed by companies and talent alike. And the importance that should be given to the subject is related to possible work stress and its consequences on the health of workers, as well as its impact on the work environment.

Carbone stated that those people who only meet their objectives by exceeding their working hours, should undergo a review of their tasks, skills and abilities to ensure that they can achieve a consistent performance in a time established within the norm.

And companies must be attentive to the behavior of their employees, to collaborate with the reduction of work overload.

The impact of technology

Technology is a means of work that, in recent times, has become transcendental. This is because it helps employees avoid processes that were previously tedious and time-consuming. “Efficiency is gained and frees up time on repetitive tasks that must be applied to provide more added value to the work,” explained Eliazer from BDO.

But the fact of being hyperconnected leads to workers constantly receiving notifications and accessing work-related information even if they don’t want to. And, therefore, the disconnection is difficult.

“The ability to unlink the cell phone from work outside of working hours is important to create recreation spaces that, far from reducing our productivity, increase it,” said Advice’s human management manager, Ximena Carbone.

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