How to avoid overworking during remote work?
February 9, 2021
Millions of people around the world have made a sudden transition to remote work. Employees are concerned about their work and its effects, learning at the same time to work in the “new standard”, and employers to maintain the efficiency of their employees. However, what they should really worry about is overwork and, as a result, professional burnout. What can they do to help each other?
Table of Contents:
Overworking – what is it?
Overwork occurs when an employee is overwhelmed with work and becomes less productive at work. When someone is self-employed, they may be tempted to work all the time. As a result, work becomes a harmful addiction and can lead to long-term burnout.
Its symptom may be a state in which the employee no longer has the time or even energy to think about what is happening in other spheres of his life. Too much work is counterproductive in terms of effectiveness; it also harms mental and physical health – which we need to protect now more than ever.
How overworking affects health?
The quality of work affects both relationships, happiness and the overall quality of life. Too heavy or poorly organised work can hurt mental and physical health. Overwork symptoms begin innocently:
- lack of concentration,
- bad mood,
- anger or anxiety.
There are also back or spine pains caused by prolonged sitting and visual impairment resulting from staring at the screen for many hours. Ultimately, it becomes harmful to your health in many ways and can lead to more severe diseases such as migraine and allergies.
It has a disastrous effect on the biological clock, the nervous system and circulation, hypertension, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, memory impairment and even infertility. Lack of systematic regeneration can cause long-term stress and even lead to depression.
The lack of regular breaks often goes hand in hand with:
- not eating healthily and systematically;
- no strength for physical exercise;
- neglecting personal life;
- having little time for the family.
Regular physical activities – the key to balance
Whether you are moving outdoors, in the water, on a treadmill or yoga mat, it strengthens your body, frees your mind, recovers a vital part of your life, and has fun doing it.
Benefits of physical activities:
- the body works more complex – is oxygenated, has better digestion and a good metabolism;
- body and endurance are strengthened;
- it is easier for us to maintain weight and not gain weight;
- susceptibility to stress is reduced;
- it is easier to put things in perspective;
- creative thinking is stimulated;
- complicated matters become easier to solve.
Why overwork reduces productivity?
When a man is overworked, pleasant things such as walking, going to the gym, dancing or running can quickly lose their charm and place in the schedule. A caffeine-fueled energy surge is no substitute for a daily meal. Drinking alcohol after a hard day can provide temporary relief, but regularly, it increases your chances of serious illness.
There are also direct physical effects from long working hours. If you work in a sitting position, you probably spend most of the day sitting in this position. Constant use of a computer can put a strain on your eyes and headphones – on your hearing. Only changing bad habits can bring the desired results.
Overwork is detrimental not only to the employee but also to the company, leading to lower productivity. Many studies confirm this correlation – productivity is higher when we work 40 hours a week than when we work 50 to 60 hours or more a week.
Remote work – why is it easier to overwork?
Remote work has brought new opportunities to the labour market and has become a boon for many. However, it is also an uncomfortable necessity for many in unique circumstances.
Not everyone is good at working remotely. Many employees work remotely for the first time in their lives and learn to maintain healthy work-life boundaries. Often these boundaries blur.
Employers have lost control over what their employees do during working hours. To signal their loyalty, dedication and productivity, an employee may feel they have to work all the time. As a result, the employer cannot physically see how much effort someone puts into work.
There is also the other side of the coin. Employees often inadvertently make it difficult for their supervisors or co-workers to keep boundaries, such as sending business messages outside of working hours and forcing them to respond, even if the matter is not urgent enough.
Overworking during the pandemic
There is another exciting aspect: the employer’s belief that remote workers are wasting time at home. However, it has been found that the opposite is actually true. One recent study reveals that most people are working longer during a pandemic – US workers work an average of three hours more per day, and two in France, the UK and Canada. The reasons for overworking during a pandemic are:
- continuous digital availability, which can make you feel like you are never leaving the “operating mode”;
- work overload;
- spending extra hours or creating and participating in more virtual meetings in an attempt to prove commitment, productivity and usefulness;
- sense of the real danger of remote work for the employee’s career;
- using a kind of virtual presentism to stay in sight and mind of your employers;
- feeling guilty for not spending more hours;
- feeling under pressure to strengthen your workplace in the face of potential unemployment.
So, how to avoid overworking?
It is not easy being the master of the time, schedule and work environment. Without discipline and delineated boundaries, you can quickly go fast – work long hours, skip breaks and blur the lines between work and private life. It is crucial to devote time to work – which is very important indeed – in a meaningful way and contributing to one’s development.
Unfortunately, when working from home, employees may feel compelled to create the appearance of productivity, which can lead to working on tasks that are not a priority. Moreover, it’s easy to lose track of time or not realise how many extra hours we spend working per week. And it’s worth remembering that the average white-collar worker is productive, on average, three hours a day. These hours should be free from breaks or multitasking and spent on priority work.
Many studies suggest that delineating the boundaries between people’s professional and personal life is crucial for their mental health. It gives a better feeling at work and commitment to it. Therefore, remember to:
- set time limits;
- take breaks at work;
- take care of both the mind and body.
4 key steps to stop overworking:
1. Enter the agreed times and procedures
- stick to a regular schedule and keep work close at hand after hours;
- create a specific routine to start and finish work (morning activities like showering, changing pyjamas, eating meals, then running, walking the dog, stretching or meditating);
- try to keep the same times as you log in to the office, so you don’t get overwhelmed by your workload.
2. Learn to say” no”
- learn to say “no” not only to people but also to things;
- try to prioritise work that is important to you.
3. Notify when you are overwhelmed
- report to your employer if you regularly work at full capacity or regularly work overtime;
- have a mechanism to summarise your progress and indicate blockages or delays to superiors;
- document everything you do.
4. Track and document your working time
Time tracking applications can be an idea for keeping time boundaries. Automatically recording time spent at work can make it easier for an employee to keep the job within their abilities and not take on more. It also serves to integrate with the team, helping colleagues and managers to see when someone is overloaded and needs support.
Establishing clear time limits also rests on the employer, allowing the employee organise, coordinate, and manage work pace. The TimesheetKiller application can be such help. It is an artificial intelligence-based time tracking program that will make the employee forget about troublesome duties and will be able to concentrate on their work fully.
Time tracking apps are a way to:
- providing a complete breakdown of productive efforts and useful information on how different long tasks take to improve planning;
- the ability to see what times of the day you are most productive;
- highlight low-value tasks that consume your time excessively;
- enhancing your awareness of how overworked you are so, you can adjust the rest of the week to balance it out;
- experimenting with the schedule (e.g. if you have four overtime hours in the week, you can cut Friday work short and start the weekend earlier).
The pandemic continues, so employers should still shape and improve working conditions remotely. So that both – companies and their employees – leave it as unscathed and unburdened as possible. It is known that long hours spent at work will not improve much and may lower employees’ efficiency and lead to overwork.
According to Project Management Institute director of strategy and development, Dave Garrett, identifying and preventing burnout and “zoom fatigue” is becoming an essential task for employers to avoid overwork.
Mental and physical health should be – especially at this time – at the top of the priority list. Employers must be empathetic and sensitive to the line between personal time and working time. It is not only a private matter of employees but also the foundation of the organisation’s success.