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Work Overload: An Increasing Problem

Work overload results when the demands of your business exceed the limits of reasonable human endurance. People try to do, too much, in too little time, with too few resources. It’s characterized by a combination of factors including:

  • Working long hours.

  • Heavy workloads which cannot reasonably be completed by a normal person within the hours allotted to the tasks.

  • Few breaks, little time off and few or no holidays.

  • Unrelenting, constant and highly pressured working pace.

  • Unrealistic expectations of what could be achieved with the available time and resources

The results of work overload can be devastating. Particularly for small business owners who in most cases cannot easily choose to walk away from the business and do something else. This element of having no choice can make the effects of work overload feel even worse.

When work overload is persistent rather than seasonal or occasional, then our bodies can’t recover, rest and restore balance. If we know that our busy period will be followed by a quieter one, this makes it possible for us to keep going. That feeling that the work will just keep coming at you constantly with no respite or let up is true overload.

Technology also adds to the pressure. Work messages ping onto your phone all evening when you are trying to relax. Many articles suggest shutting the door of the home office. This only works if the phone is trapped in there being ignored. And how many of us do that?

When work bleeds into our home life the work overload affects our family too. Couples end up spending more time working than they do with their family. Their relationship can become a casualty in this situation.

What can you do to avoid work overload?

Ensure you do not neglect your social life or any artistic or cultural activities which you value. Schedule them into the diary if you can and don’t make excuses not to do them.

Don’t neglect Date Nights with your significant other. It’s important to ensure your relationship remains healthy so you can support each other when you each need it.

Make it a habit to always ensure you get adequate sleep. This has a huge impact on health and wellbeing. Views vary on what the ideal amount of sleep is,but 6-8 hours is good unless you really are one of those rare people who only need four hours.

Just three hours exercise per week spread throughout the week will have a positive effect. Ideally include both aerobic and strength training but if you aren't that athletic, even a simple daily walk will help. If you choose the walking option, try to look around you as you walk rather than plodding along, looking at the ground, pondering work issues. Notice the birds, the sky, the squirrel or the plants in the gardens as you pass.

Feed your health

Restrict caffeine and alcohol since they produce chemical stressors on the body which can make stress worse. Ensure you are taking in enough potassium as this affects the adrenal glands which produce the hormones that govern our fight or flight and stress response. Potassium is found in fruit and vegetables particularly bananas, oranges, raisins, potatoes, mushrooms, cooked broccoli, spinach and soy beans.

In the Workplace

There are some steps you can take to control your workload so that it doesn’t feel so overwhelming. These include:

  • Setting aside blocks of time for work and for appointments, and putting this in the diary so you have a shape to your day and know when you are working and can plan tasks that will fit the time you have available. It can be useful to block out time for relaxation too… it gives a goal and is something to look forward to.

  • Learn how to say no really diplomatically. It is OK to say No. No one ever died from being told No.

  • Leave your phone in another room whilst you are working, turn off the notifications or put it on silent.

  • Prioritise emails and correspondence. Try to avoid the knee jerk response of “ooh, email… must answer now”. Look at it dispassionately. Do you really need to reply to that now? Will it wait?

  • Break large tasks and projects into smaller bits and tackle them one at a time. It’s easier and less overwhelming.

  • Learn to delegate. No one can do everything. Automate or outsource the tasks you hate, are not good at, or those that take forever to complete.

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