What to Do When Feeling Overworked: Step-by-Step Guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 28 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A healthy workplace provides its employees with a positive work-life balance. Work-life balance helps employees complete their work during their working hours and go home to relax afterwards. Understanding what being an overworked employee feels like and how best to address it can help you achieve a better work-life balance. In this article, we explain what to do when feeling overworked, provide a step-by-step guide to help you identify some key reasons employees feel overworked and explain what to do when feeling overworked.

What to do when feeling overworked?

If you're wondering 'What to do when feeling overworked?' at work means, knowing what being overworked means can help you deal with this. Overworked employees typically find it challenging to maintain a good work-life balance. Feeling overworked might stem from working long hours, experiencing high levels of stress and not taking enough breaks, which can lead to burnout. Extended periods of stress at work can leave you feeling mentally and physically exhausted.

In an ideal work environment, feeling overworked is a rare occurrence. An ideal environment helps you feel productive, motivated, energised and valued as an employee. While employers are responsible for looking after their employees' well-being, it's also essential that you implement self-care measures.

Related: What Is a Work-Life Balance? (Plus Tips for Maintaining One)

How to overcome feeling overworked at work

Here's a helpful step-by-step guide to learn how to overcome feeling overworked on the job:

1. Establish clear boundaries

As an employee, it's important to set boundaries with your workplace. These boundaries might include things like adhering to specific schedules for work, family and personal time. For example, when you stop working for the day, let your team know you won't be checking emails until you start work again the following day. These boundaries enable you to enjoy your free time and set clear guidelines for your colleagues regarding your availability.

It's also important to follow these same boundaries when you take annual leave. Aim to complete all your tasks before going on holiday or delegate any urgent responsibilities while you're away. Set an out-of-office email to notify people that you won't be checking your messages and provide alternative contact details for someone on your team who can assist. This provides you with time to recharge free from concern about any work tasks.

Related: How to Create a Strong Out of Office Message

2. Ask yourself, 'Is this necessary?'

Challenging your assumptions can help you properly prioritise tasks, which can help reduce your workload and stress levels. Ask yourself questions like whether it's essential that you attend a meeting or craft a formal response to an email and recognise whether a task is urgent or if it can wait. This can help you be more efficient at completing truly important tasks.

3. Talk to your manager

If you feel you've taken on too many responsibilities, talk to your manager and let them know how you're feeling. They can help you make a plan that works for you and the organisation. There may be options to reduce your workload, extend your deadlines or introduce greater flexibility to your role.

Related: A Guide to Having a One-to-One Meeting With Your Manager

4. Assess your operating rhythm

Understanding what helps you do your best work and be most productive can help you avoid feeling overworked. For example, some people start the day thinking, and others like to work on tasks. Some people work best in the mornings, and others are more productive in the afternoons. Determine what works best for you and plan your workday accordingly.

Related: 12 Valuable Tips for Building a Better Morning Routine

5. Tackle tasks one at a time

Completing your tasks one at a time can help boost your productivity. Start by creating a list of your duties in order of priority. Focus only on the most important tasks and complete them one at a time. Focusing on one thing can help you stay organised and relaxed, even if you have a lot on your to-do list. Include tasks that you know won't take too long to complete or aren't too tiresome to help keep you energised throughout your workday.

6. Build in some time for unconscious thought

Allotting some time for unconscious thought can be helpful while facing challenging situations. First, review the information, including facts and data. Then, focus on something else for a while. Consider taking a walk or doing some exercise. An idea or solution may come to you while you're not focusing on trying to solve the problem, or you may return to work refreshed and better able to tackle the challenge.

7. Take your annual leave

If you're feeling overworked, taking your annual leave can give you a chance to recharge. For example, if you work in an industry with a busy season, consider taking your leave after this period. This can be an excellent way to relax after your hard work. Then, you have the chance to return to work feeling motivated and ready to tackle fresh challenges and opportunities.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Personal Leave and Annual Leave

8. Build a strong support network

A solid support network can be helpful if you're feeling overwhelmed or overworked at your job. Establishing a meaningful connection with your colleagues can help you get crucial support from people who understand your perspective and the challenges you face. Your colleagues might also volunteer to assist with some of your tasks. If many people in your organisation feel overworked, you might help identify issues with workflows, processes or even culture that are important for your employer to address and benefit the organisation.

9. Consider relaxation techniques

Using relaxation techniques can help you reduce your stress if you're feeling overworked. Meditation is also a useful tool that can help you feel relaxed. You could set aside ten minutes every day to focus on your breathing and clearing your mind. Exercise is also an excellent way to help relieve stress and boost your experience of positive feelings. Try taking a break from work to go on a walk, visit the gym during your lunch break or do some relaxing stretches.

10. Choose when to say 'Yes' and 'No'

Learning that you can say no to requests to preserve your health and workload balance is vital for establishing a positive work-life balance. Sometimes it's important to say no or to add stipulations before saying yes. For example, you might agree to take on extra tasks if your employer reviews your position or salary to ensure it reflects these additional responsibilities. Saying yes without thinking about the impact it can have on your immediate priorities can unnecessarily increase your pressure, so be strategic when possible.

11. Consider a new job or career path

Sometimes it's important to address whether your feelings are directly related to your current position. For example, you might decide to look for a new employer that places more value on work-life balance, offers greater flexibility, provides additional leave or maintains a less stressful environment. When interviewing for new roles, ask the hiring manager about the organisation's culture and the typical workload for the position. To get a balanced view, it's a good idea to do some online research about the organisation that includes the perspectives of current and previous employees.

Related: 11 Steps for Applying for a Job Online Successfully

Why employees feel overworked

There are many reasons why employees might feel overworked. Employers can watch for low staff retention and engagement, high levels of absenteeism and a decline in work quality to determine if there might be a large-scale problem. The following are some reasons why an employer might notice these trends:

Workplace culture

Workplace culture can have a significant impact on whether employees feel overworked. For example, if most employees work late and start early, it can encourage other employees to do the same. This can be particularly true for new employees who may feel pressure to prove their worth by working the additional hours. As an employer, establishing a culture where employee well-being is a priority and having leaders work regular office hours can make a positive difference.

Related: What Is Flex Time? (With Definitions and Examples)

Greater expectations at busy times

It may be necessary for employees to work extended hours during busy times or to meet tight deadlines. Employers may ask employees to work overtime to ensure completion, or employees may feel extra hours are the only way to achieve deliverables on time. Sometimes employers can reward extra hours with additional pay. While this can seem attractive, remember that you might leave work feeling fatigued regardless of the additional income. While this may not create an immediate issue, it can lead to you feeling overworked over time.

Not switching off from work

Overusing technology can make employees feel like they don't get enough time away from work. For example, many people access their work email addresses with personal devices, so some employers expect employees to reply to emails or messages regardless of the time of day. It's essential for employers to realise the necessity of free time for employees outside working hours. This time away can help them feel relaxed and provide a better work-life balance.

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