How Overworked Are You?

Do you feel overworked? Are you having a hard time balancing your work time, personal time, and your family time? You are not alone! Almost half of all U.S. employees are “overworked often or very often” according to a Families and Work Institute study. The study also revealed that one out of three U.S. employees is “chronically overworked.”...

So, what happens when we’re overworked? According to this study, overworked employees:

• Have higher levels of stress.
• Are less likely to care for ourselves.
• Have more symptoms of clinical depression.
• Are more likely to report that our health is poorer.
• Are more likely to make mistakes at work.
• Are more likely to feel angry with our employers for expecting us to do so much.
• Are more likely to get upset with coworkers who don’t work as hard as we do.

Another Families and Work Institute study found that 75 percent of employees say they don’t have enough time for their children.

The work-family balance is severely out of balance in favor of work, work, work.

Yet, not every working parent is overworked. Some work for companies that set a number of policies that create a better work-family balance. What are these policies?

• Having a culture of flexibility that works for both employees and employers.
• Creating flex careers so that employees can increase or decrease their workload depending on what’s happening in their lives.
• Giving employees more say in when they work and how they spend their time working.
• Providing caregiving leave.
• Having time off policies that work for both employees and employers.
• Providing reduced-working-time options so that employees can move to part-time or a part-year schedule when needed.
• Having flex times and places so that employees have options for flextime, telecommuting, and compressed workweeks.
• Providing health care and economic security benefits.

Not every company will provide all these policies, but the more of these policies you can find in a workplace, the easier it will be to find a work-family balance. You can even advocate for better policies by arming yourself with the research studies from the Families and Work Institute.

I’ve also found it helpful to ask myself these questions:

• How often do I feel overworked?
• What pressures do I feel to overwork?
• How many of these pressures are coming from my employer? From myself?
• What’s one step I can do to create a better work-family balance?

For me, access to the Internet and email 24 hours a day, seven days a week means that I’m tempted to keep checking my email, to stay on top of the deluge of emails that come my way. Whenever I ask my kids not to spend so much time on the Internet, they’re quick to point out how often I check email.

And they make a good point.

Being a working parent often feels like walking a high wire. You can teeter and fall off when either work or family life gets out of balance. For me, I’ve been focusing more on how often I get back up on the high wire than on how often I fall off. You can be both a productive employee and an engaged parent if you keep your eyes open and work to keep your life in balance.

1. Ellen Galinksy, James T. Bond, Stacy S. Kim, Lois Backon, Erin Brownfield, and Kelly Sakai, Overwork in America: When the Way We Work Becomes Too Much (NY: Families and Work Institute, 2005).

2. Ellen Galinsky, Shanny L. Peer, and Sheila Eby, 2009 Guide to Bold New Ideas for Making Work Work (NY: Families and Work Institute, 2009).

3. Julie Morgenstern, Making Work Work: New Strategies for Surviving and Thriving at the Office (NY: Simon & Schuster/Fireside, 2004).

4. Work and Family, Parentfurther.

5. Image via Finsec on Flick’r.

This is yet another study which documents the serious negative effects of overwork. The scandal is multiplied by its juxtaposition of the obscentiy of unemployment. What disappoints me is that there is no glimpse of any discussion of the ROOT CAUSES of this widespread social phenomenon – to call the beast by its name, Capitalism. Until we do this COLLECTIVELY, purely individual “solution” (organize your time better, do some relaxation exercises…) will only be (at best) palliative…
John Stewart,

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