In these tough economic times, employers are working their staffs to the bone. With 9 percent unemployment in many states (more like 14 percent if you count those who simply gave up looking for work), companies know you’ll do anything to keep your job. And that means 12-hour workdays, endless to-do lists, weekend work, and no rest for anyone with a cell phone or BlackBerry.
In offices across the country, the stats are pretty depressing. One study by a corporate staffing firm reported that 24 percent of employees work six or more hours every week without pay. Another study conducted by the Pew Research Center revealed that bosses expected 22 percent of their workers to respond to work email when they’re not at work. Nearly 50 percent check their work email on weekends, and a third check it even while they’re on vacation.
While overworked employees often suffer from insomnia, anxiety and depression, consistently working people overtime isn’t exactly good for the company. One study by a nonprofit research group revealed that over 20 percent of employees who said they were overworked admitted they made more mistakes at work. Overworked employees can quickly become less motivated and lose that valuable esprit de corps that can make a company shine.
So what can you do if you feel you’re being exploited and worked to death? Executive coaches offer the following tips:
Earn the right to complain. If you’re the cause of your own overwork--be it procrastinating, socializing, or disorganization--don’t complain about being overworked. Concentrate on being more efficient, learning better multitasking techniques and doing less socializing on the phone, in the break room or on the Internet.
Dovetail your complaints with productivity talks. Integrate your conversation about being overworked with setting your priorities, goals, performance and workload. Keep your boss up to date on projects and work the tasks that keep piling up on your plate. Conceal your complaints in workload scheduling. Keep it on a positive note and show an eagerness to get things done on time. If your boss knows what’s on your plate and how hard you’re working to meet deadlines, he or she will be more reluctant to keep piling on more.
Don’t be a “victim.” Don’t complain just to complain. And don’t compare your workload to that of a coworker’s, or to others in another department. Also, this is not the time to ask for more money. Or for time off. Finally, don’t volunteer for new work. Wait till your workload lightens, then be the hero who volunteers.
The point is to overcome your fear of being chastised by your employer and speak up if you’re being consistently overworked. Doing so will benefit both you and the company.