A heavy workload is one of the primary causes of stress among employees. In a 2017 survey, 60 percent of workers said that work-related pressure has increased over the past five years. More than one-third of respondents cited excessive workloads and tight deadlines as their biggest concerns. Another 22 percent were struggling to balance work and personal life. As a manager, it's essential to realize the negative impact of excessive workloads on your employees and take the steps needed to reduce stress on the job.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Excessive workloads can negatively affect employees' health, productivity and morale. As a manager, it's your responsibility to plan things ahead and distribute the workload evenly in order to reduce the burden on your staff.
Workload and Employee Performance
Job insecurity, financial problems and the competitive job market may force employees to take on heavy workloads and make compromises. Furthermore, working long hours is associated with loyalty and commitment in many organizations. It's not uncommon to see employers who require their staff to work until late at night or cancel their plans at the last minute. This leads to stress and burnout in the long run.
A stressed workforce can have detrimental effects on your organization as a whole. Your employees may lose their motivation, engage in conflicts and have a difficult time completing their tasks. Poor mental focus, sleep deprivation, fatigue and psychosomatic disorders are all common side effects of work-related stress. Studies conducted over the years indicate a direct link between workload and exhaustion. Job burnout contributes to diminished performance, high blood pressure and digestive disorders.
The effect of workload on employee performance should not be underestimated. According to the American Institute of Stress, 46 percent of workers cite unmanageable workloads as a major stressor. Approximately 26 percent of employees are often or very often burned out on the job. A heavy workload causes stress and anxiety, which in turn may lead to accidents, injuries, conflicts, health issues and poor overall performance.
A Heavy Workload Affects Morale
In a 2018 survey by Flexjobs, 73 percent of respondents said that work-life balance is more important than salary when assessing job opportunities. About 28 percent would prefer to receive lower wages in exchange for the option to work remotely. Nearly half of employees believe that a flexible job would improve their quality of life. A staggering 61 percent of workers quit their jobs or considered doing so because they didn't have a flexible work arrangement.
Your employees care about their jobs, but they also have personal needs. Just like you, they wish to spend time with their families, take a day off once in a while and enjoy work flexibility. A heavy workload can affect their morale and hurt the organization. This problem is common in small companies and enterprises that downsized to cut costs and expected people to take on more work.
Low employee morale can negatively impact performance, productivity and revenue. If your employees are stressed and overworked, they may not be able to perform optimally. Consider providing your team with flexible work options and more control over how their work is done. For example, if someone lives miles away from the office and has a long commute, you may allow him to work from home once or twice a week.
High Workloads Impact Employee Health
Anxiety, depression and mental stress are all common workload problems. Employees who work long hours are more likely to develop heart disease, hypertension, joint pain, weight loss and tiredness. A heavy workload also affects their mood and behavior, causing poor mental focus, decreased motivation and difficulty concentrating on the tasks at hand.
Working under pressure and dealing with tight deadlines can make your employees sick. These factors have been shown to double the risk of depression and anxiety in young people. In the long run, they may fuel destructive behaviors, such as drug or alcohol abuse. Excessive workloads increase stress, which in turn can lead to migraines, restlessness, irritability, mood swings and cardiovascular events.
Conflicts and Poor Communication
Imagine the following scenario. You have a ton of work to do, the clock is ticking and your boss is pressuring you to complete the project. When you arrive at work, a colleague comes to your office and asks you to help him fill out some forms. Perhaps it's a five-minute job that you could do with your eyes closed.
Instead of helping your colleague, you tell him to go away and stop wasting your time. This kind of situation can result in conflicts and can affect your relationships with others. You're blaming your peers for the stress you're going through without even realizing it.
An unbalanced or heavy workload can lead to frustration, disagreements and poor communication among employees. This in turn affects their productivity and increases the likelihood of mistakes happening in the workplace. It has a negative impact on teamwork, decision making, overall performance and employee relationships. Furthermore, high workloads can negatively impact employees' lives outside of the office.
Excessive Workload Contributes to Errors
Studies conducted on nurses and health care providers show that a heavy workload increases the potential for medical errors. Doctors who don't get enough sleep because of stress and long working hours are more likely to prescribe the wrong medications. These factors also affect their ability to counsel patients and make accurate diagnoses.
The same happens in business. Excessive workloads cause fatigue, tiredness and stress, leading to a higher risk of errors and accidents on the job. According to the Harvard Business Review, stress is responsible for up to 80 percent of workplace accidents.
A heavy workload also affects employee engagement. This increases the risk of accidents on the job by nearly 50 percent and the likelihood of errors by 60 percent. Disengaged employees care less about the quality of their work and are more likely to make costly mistakes. If they work under pressure, the risks are even higher.
How to Manage Employee Workload
Managing employees' workload can result in lower turnover rates, improved performance and higher revenue for your business. Sure, there are times when you need to get things done as efficiently and as quickly as possible, and that's perfectly fine. Just make sure it doesn’t become a habit.
Try to cut meaningless work and streamline time-consuming tasks. For example, if your marketing team is spending hours crafting and sharing social media posts, consider outsourcing this task. It's a good way to free up their time so they can focus on more important things, such as customer acquisition and market research. Depending on your industry, you can purchase more advanced equipment to automate certain tasks and reduce the burden on your staff.
More Ideas for Managing Employee Workload
Schedule the workload in advance based on your business cycles. A product launch or sales event, for instance, requires meticulous planning and long working hours. As a manager, you should plan things ahead instead of waiting until the last minute. This will allow your employees to work at a more relaxed pace, achieve better results and anticipate potential issues before it's too late.
Also, encourage team building, workshops and other social activities. These events help your employees bond and reduce their stress levels. If one of your staff members shows signs of fatigue and stress, team him up with another employee. Encourage them to collaborate and distribute their workload evenly.
- PR Newswire: The Heat Is On: Six In 10 Employees Report Increased Work Stress
- ScienceDirect: Burnout and Workload Among Health Care Workers: The Moderating Role of Job Control
- Flexjobs: 2018 Annual Survey Finds Workers Are More Productive at Home
- MedCrave: Negative Impacts of Heavy Workload: A Comparative Study Among Sanitary Workers
- Health Navigator: Stress at Work
- NCBI: Work-Home Interference, Perceived Total Workload, and the Risk of Future Sickness Absence Due to Stress-Related Mental Diagnoses Among Women and Men
- Wiley Online Library: Resilience as a Moderator of the Indirect Effects of Conflict and Workload on Job Outcomes Among Nurses
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Work-Home Interference, Perceived Total Workload, and the Risk of Future Sickness Absence Due to Stress-Related Mental Diagnoses Among Women and Men: a Prospective Twin Study
- SAGE Journals: Stress, Fatigue, and Workload in Intensive Care Nursing: A Scoping Literature Review
- Harvard Business Review: Proof That Positive Work Cultures Are More Productive
Andra Picincu is a digital marketing consultant with over 10 years of experience. She works closely with small businesses and large organizations alike to help them grow and increase brand awareness. She holds a BA in Marketing and International Business and a BA in Psychology. Over the past decade, she has turned her passion for marketing and writing into a successful business with an international audience. Current and former clients include The HOTH, Bisnode Sverige, Nutracelle, CLICK - The Coffee Lover's Protein Drink, InstaCuppa, Marketgoo, GoHarvey, Internet Brands, and more. In her daily life, Ms. Picincu provides digital marketing consulting and copywriting services. Her goal is to help businesses understand and reach their target audience in new, creative ways.