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Overworking Symptoms: How to Tell If You’re Working Too Much and What to Do If You Are

Maria Petit

No question working hard is important, but it’s also important to make sure you’re not overworking yourself. Overworking symptoms can be subtle and easy to ignore, but if left unchecked they can lead to serious health problems. 

In this blog post, we’ll discuss the signs of overwork, how to tell your boss you’re overworked, and what to do to prevent employee burnout. Stay tuned!

Overworking symptoms

The Myth of Working Hard

The first thing to understand is that working hard does not necessarily mean you’re productive. In fact, research has shown that there’s a point of diminishing returns when it comes to long hours of work.

The study “The Productivity of Working Hours” by Stanford professor John Pencavel found that when a person works more than 50 hours a week, their productivity per hour drops dramatically. 

After 55 hours, productivity plummets to the point where working any more hours is futile. Furthermore, those who work up to 70 hours per week get the same amount of work done as those who work 55 hours.

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of “Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less” states that  “Busyness is not a means to accomplishment, but an obstacle to it”

Overworking symptoms

Therefore, working more than 40 hours a week doesn’t lead to significantly more completed work, instead, it can actually lead to less productivity and serious health issues.

So if you’re putting in long working hours but not seeing a corresponding increase in output, and you are always tired just like Bruce down below, it may be time to reassess your work-life balance. Keep reading to follow our tips!

What Is It Like To Be Overworked?

Even if you don’t know all the overworking symptoms, you know something doesn’t feel right. You might be starting to experience mental fatigue, you may find yourself not as productive as you thought, and you are likely making a bunch of mistakes! 

If you find yourself struggling to get out of bed in the morning, or you’re having a hard time mustering up the energy to do your work, it may be a case of overworking symptoms.

When we’re tired, our brains struggle to produce dopamine, which is responsible for feelings of pleasure and motivation. So if you’re feeling unmotivated at work, it may be because you’re simply too exhausted.

Dopamine has many functions in the brain, voluntary movement, motivation, sleep, mood, attention, working memory, and learning. Dopamine is commonly associated with the reward system of the brain, providing feelings of enjoyment and reinforcement to motivate a person proactively to perform certain activities.

Are you logging long hours of work to get that little overtime pay? Do you find yourself eating unhealthy food because you simply don’t have time to cook? Are you barely exercising? 

If you answered yes to most of those questions, we have bad news! You are probably overworking, and you are already experiencing physical problems.

Japan’s Overwork Problem

And, you are certainly not the only one. Japan has a serious overworking problem! 

Back in 2015, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe even declared overwork a national health crisis after a series of high-profile deaths from karoshi, or in English: death by overwork. 

According to the Japanese government, karoshi kills at least one person every day. In 2016, three-quarters of Japanese workers said they worked more than 80 hours of overtime per month! Often, work overtime is left unpaid.

Back in 2017, a Japanese media worker “died from overwork” after logging 159 hours in a month. She had a heart attack. 

While Japan’s work environment is notoriously intense, long work hours are certainly not limited to Japan, since other countries are also in the running up for the most overworked ones! Certainly, it’s not something to be proud of.

Overworking symptoms

 Is it really worth it to put our mental and physical health at risk just for a little bit more money?

The Top Overworking Symptoms

Long work hours can lead to several problems, from mental health issues to physical symptoms, which can hinder your personal life in the long term. 

According to the World Health Organization, (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), long working hours led to 745,000 deaths from heart attack and ischemic heart disease in 2016, a 29% increase since 2000. 

Be aware if you are experiencing these overworking symptoms:

High Blood Pressure  

When you are overworked, you tend to have elevated blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease.

Anxiety and Depression

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people who work more than 40 hours per week are more likely to have anxiety and depression.

A Weakened Immune System

When you don’t have time to take care of yourself, your immune system can be weakened, making you more susceptible to colds and other illnesses.

Trouble Sleeping

It’s no surprise that if you’re working long hours, you’re probably not getting enough sleep. And not getting enough sleep can lead to a whole host of problems, especially the ones from this list. 

Overworking symptoms

Weight Gain

We all know the saying “stress eating.” When you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, it’s easy to turn to unhealthy comfort food as a way to cope. Over time, this can lead to weight gain and obesity. 

Stress Hormones

Don’t be surprised if we tell you that you get addicted to stress! Stress hormones leading to high cortisol levels can cause great havoc in your personal life and work performance. 

Our bodies are not designed to withstand such high levels of continuous stress. High cortisol provides a new set point in your body, around which you plan the rest of your life, and it can become addicting. So, basically, all aspects of your life will revolve around being stressed out.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to take a step back and assess your work situation. Are you working too many hours? Do you have enough time to recover between shifts?

Difference Between Overworked Employees and Employee Burnout

This difference is worth considering. Overwork and burnout have similarities but are not the same thing! Overworking means working too hard or too much. Burnout is an even bigger problem. 

Employee burnout is a state of physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion caused by prolonged or excessive stress. It occurs when someone experiences long-term and unresolved job-related stress. 

In short, employee burnout is a long maintained state of overworking

Overworking symptoms

On the other hand, being overworked is simply working more hours, big difference eh?!  An overworked employee is someone who works more hours than what’s considered the norm, or healthy for that matter.

Common Reasons For Overworking Symptoms

There are several reasons you may be experiencing overworking symptoms. Your job may be demanding, or you may feel like you need to prove yourself at your job. You may also have trouble saying “no” to work requests, or you might work in an environment where long hours are the norm. 

If you’re struggling with overwork, it’s important to identify the root cause of the problem so you can find a solution. Here are some common reasons for being overworked: 

  • Having a high-pressure job: If your job is high-pressure, it can be difficult to keep up with the demands. This can lead to burnout. 
  • Feeling like you need to prove yourself: If you’re new to your job, you might feel the need to prove you are capable and worthy of your new job position.
  • Trying to do it all: If you’re trying to do everything yourself, you’re likely to end up feeling overwhelmed and overworked. 
  • Saying yes to every request: If you have trouble saying no, you may end up taking on more than you can handle. 
  • Long hours work culture: If your workplace has a culture of working long hours, it can be difficult to set boundaries. 
  • Perfectionism: Being a perfectionist can also lead to overwork. If you’re constantly striving to be perfect, you’re likely to end up putting in excessive hours. 
  • Being afraid of asking for help:  It can be daunting to ask for help. You may feel like no one else could possibly be able to shoulder your responsibilities, or that accepting help would be a sign of weakness. But, we all need support at times and seeking out assistance when we need it is a sign of strength and resilience. 

If any of these sound familiar, you may be at risk of overwork. It’s important to take steps to recover before it leads to serious health problems. Below are a few things you can do to get started: 

What To Do If You’re Overworked

If you think you may be overworked, the first step is to talk about it!

  • Talk to your boss: It can be difficult to talk to your boss about being overworked, but it’s important to have that conversation. Be honest about how you’re feeling and what you need to be productive. 
  • Set boundaries: One of the best ways to avoid burnout is to set clear boundaries between work and personal time. This might mean setting a strict cut-off time for work each day or only checking emails during certain hours. 

Learn to say no to absurd work schedules!

  • Take breaks: It’s important to take regular breaks throughout the day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Get up and stretch, take a walk, or just step away from your work to clear your head. 
  • Seek help: If you’re struggling to manage your workload, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s hiring an assistant or delegating tasks to others on your team, offloading some of the work can make a big difference. 
  • Get enough sleep: Most adults need between seven and eight hours of sleep per night. Consider going to bed and waking up at the same time each day to help regulate your body’s natural sleep rhythm. 
  • Eat healthy foods: Eating nutritious foods helps your body cope with stress and provides the energy you need to power through your workday.

How To Tell Your Boss You’re Overworked?

Yes, we know that the very first advice we gave you to avoid overwork is a tough one! Telling your boss that you’re overworked can be a difficult conversation. After all, no one wants to admit that they can’t handle their workload.

There are a few different ways to approach the conversation with your boss. You could start by saying something like: 

“I’m starting to feel like I’m not able to give my best at work because I’m working too many hours. I’d like to talk about how we can adjust my workload.” 

Or “I’m finding it hard to keep up with my workload and I’m starting to feel overwhelmed. Can we please talk about how we can redistribute some of my workloads?”

Always make sure to be polite and respectful when talking with your superiors!

Stop Working Hard, Start Working Smart

Working smart means being efficient, productive, and staying focused. It’s about being smarter, not a martyr. When you work smart, you save energy, boost productivity and increase your self-esteem.

There are several ways you can start working smart: 

  • Set realistic goals and expectations: While you should always set adequate deadlines for your daily tasks, try completing pending tasks in smaller windows of time. This strategy will almost always boost the speed with which you can complete them.
  • Make a plan and stick to it: Set aside time during the night to write what you need to do the next day. This way you will wake up knowing your tasks beforehand.
  • Delegate tasks: Don’t try to do it all by yourself, especially if you are a manager. Trust in your team to complete the work.
  • Take breaks: There is no Oscar for the employee who worked the most during the day, thus make sure to have short rests across the workday.
  • Stay organized with a short to-do list: Keep your to-do list brief and focused on three to five essential and demanding chores for the day, the most significant tasks that will make you feel incredibly productive once accomplished.
  • Prioritize your time: In the same way, you can plan ahead your to-do list, and make sure to prioritize tasks. Which one is urgent? Which one can wait a bit longer? Don’t waste time on meaningless tasks!

If you’re finding it difficult to keep up with your workload, try implementing some of these strategies. You may be surprised at how much difference they make.

Be A Smart Employee!

Final Considerations

If you’re frequently feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or burnt out at work, it’s important to take action before it leads you to serious health problems. 

Talk to your boss, set boundaries, take breaks, and seek help when you need it. Working smart instead of hard is also key to avoiding overworking symptoms. Implementing some of these strategies can make a big difference in your overall productivity and your work-life balance.

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