If we look at the statistics in the recent study of ADP, 66% of UK employees are overworking by an average of 6.3 hours per week. While some employees could see this as a small percentage compared to the current workload that they have, it is essential to understand what the term ‘overworking’ means and its effects on our lives.   

The definition of overworking may differ; it is usually associated with the expression of working too hard, too much or too long. This also could indicate an overload of work that is too difficult to handle or that takes too much of an individual’s time that should be dedicated to other personal commitments, such as life.

Researchers Forstenlechner and Lettice (2008) studied the top five law firms in the world to understand young lawyers and their work commitment to their organisations. It was found that economic factors, high client demands, a highly competitive environment led to an increase in pressure for billable hours, lack of prospects, and poor working conditions. The unofficial report indicates 2400 billable hours per year as a client work target, which exclude work such as preparations and internal meetings. With new technology such as smartphones and other devices, employees are never truly off from their work duties. Thus, large law firms and other prominent organisations have been seen as tough places to work.

How does this affect us?

In the view of the Harvard Business Review, overworking has a significant impact on sleep deprivation. By working long hours, we experience difficulties in switching off from work duties and the feeling of tiredness which can cause potential mistakes. This could generate extra stress and potential burnout due to unhappiness and a poor work-life balance. Unhappy employees are more likely to look for another job and this highlights the importance of creating an excellent working culture within organisations. With today’s political struggles, turnover is expensive no matter the position that the employee holds. Replacing highly-qualified staff can cost organisations double their salary. Providing a balanced environment creates satisfaction and loyalty in employees. 

What about personal life?

For some, working long hours can put pressure on their personal or family life. An individual’s high involvement and obligations can result in their absence from family activities and be a source of potential conflicts. Inflexible work schedules, weekend shifts put pressure on the work and family balance. Those who experience excessive work are more likely to report work-life conflicts which can result in low life satisfaction, health problems, nervous tensions or heavy alcohol use. From the emotional perspective, overworking can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, anger, burnout which can be experienced as lack of energy, feeling drained, unable to cope or lead to health problems and other physical symptoms.

On top of everything, overworking may not guarantee your place within the organisation; you can work hard but still experience difficulties in keeping your position, which is quite a common experience in large organisations. By taking more time to rest, you can reflect on the importance of what does bring the fulfilment in your life and focus on how to become more successful. With the courage of saying NO to long working hours, you are inviting your personal and family life which benefits in a healthy balance and happy life. 

Process Coach – Aneta Buckthought