Overworked and overwhelmed employees need help

An inquest heard how a young teacher in the United Kingdom committed suicide after being so overworked she was only sleeping three hours a night as she felt she was faced with too high expectations. (https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2204900/young-teacher-killed-herself-after-being-given-so-much-work-she-could-only-sleep-for-three-hours-night/)

In Japan, the term “Karoshi” means death from overwork. A Japanese government survey found a fifth of the workforce is at risk of Karoshi as hundreds of deaths related to overwork (strokes, heart attacks, suicide) are reported every year.

It’s mind boggling to believe these tragic stories are happening in 2016. I believe those who manage their workload increase the likelihood of achieving outcomes in desired timeframes. But what happens to workers who don’t have these skills or are overwhelmed by work?

Feeling overworked doesn’t just happen overnight, it tends to creep in over time. Early stages can see missed deadlines or achievement of targets which leads to a loss of credibility. The person might then work harder or longer hours to “right the ship.” The problem arises when this grows to unsustainable levels which flows onto the vicious circle of poor job performance, loss of financial rewards, loss of sleep, anxiety and low morale.

At this time of year, many think all they need to do is have a holiday over Christmas, recharge and everything will be alright. However, that’s usually “fools gold” because unless the person has made a conscious decision to change their environment (expectations, hours, how they work etc) they’ll soon be right back in the overworked territory. The reason for this is most overworked employees don’t have the clarity to truly understand their workload or have the techniques to successfully manage it and therefore default to saying yes to taking on more work.

If someone you know (it could be yourself, a friend, a colleague, a loved one) is in this situation then the first thing to do is to acknowledge it and talk about it. It’s not something that can be ignored. I know of managers who are more than willing to help their teams, but they need to be aware of the situation first.

Unfortunately, pride gets in the way of many from requesting for help when they’re not coping. Who can you help to improve their working situation in 2017?