What’s the latest you’ve ever stayed at work? Did you stick around past quitting time because you were on a roll, or because you felt you had no other choice? If you’re like the majority of Americans, chances are it was the latter. We live in one of the few parts of the world where it’s normal for an employee to regularly skip lunch or work weekends to meet a deadline. And with job scarcity on the rise, it isn’t hard for employers to find people who are willing to work unforgivable hours without adequate compensation. We’re constantly bombarded by motivational clichés that make us think this is okay; quotes like “quitters never win” and “hard work pays off”… but does it?

The burnout epidemic

According to a Staples Advantage study, 53% of American workers are “burnt out and overworked.” Some of the causes include email overload, insufficient time for breaks, and little workplace flexibility. At best, feeling overwhelmed at work is unpleasant, but in the long run it can be downright dangerous. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that being overworked can (and often does) lead to serious psychological, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal conditions.

What to do if you’re feeling overwhelmed

Regardless of whether or not your job makes you want to tear your hair out, you should practice the following tips to avoid burning out.

Pack healthy, homemade meals. Resist the temptation to grab fast food for lunch! While it makes for a nice snack every now and then, fast food is usually void of the nutrition your brain and body need to thrive throughout the day.

Get your blood flowing. Believe it or not, there are lots of ways to exercise from your desk. From simple stretches to full-fledged workouts, there’s no excuse to stay sedentary at work.

Switch up your tasks. You use different parts of your brain for different functions, so if you spend all day doing one thing you might’ve only used one side of your brain. Balance it out by switching to new tasks throughout the day, even just for a few minutes.

Get help. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed or if you’re unsure you can meet a deadline. Teamwork makes the dream work.

Automate and delegate. There is a ton of free products out there that can automate much of your workday. For example, if you’re feeling inundated by email you can use smart mailbox filters to sort incoming mail into appropriate folders. For tasks that can’t be automated, consider delegating them to someone who has more free time or can complete them more efficiently.

Change your surroundings. Flextime is becoming more popular as cloud technology improves and employers realize the benefits of giving their workers more autonomy. If you can effectively do your job from anywhere, ask if you can work from a nearby library or coffee shop, or even from your home. It can be quite refreshing!

Sometimes, just say no. There are times when you’re going to be asked to bite off more than you can chew. In these cases it’s completely acceptable to politely decline, but be sure to suggest a workable alternative. You can request a deadline extension or ask if you can complete the task with another coworker to lessen the load without hampering productivity.

Talk to HR. Finally, always discuss any problems you’re having with your human resources department. They are there for support and will work with you to figure out how to reduce your stress.

Help out your employees

Want to learn how your organization can promote work-life balance for your employees? Visit our solutions page to find out how LifeSpeak can help.