Overworked, but Happy

By Suzanne Lucas @realevilhrlady

Are you overworked, yet happy at work? If so, you’re not alone. Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples, released a new survey today that shows that Americans are both overworked and happy. Confused?

Fifty-three percent of Americans feel overwhelmed at work, but 86 percent are still happy and motivated. Why are those numbers not compatible? It seems that working hard can help towards happiness. Too much free time can make you bored and unmotivated. Have you ever had a job where you had too little to do? It’s incredibly tedious to have to sit at a desk with nothing to do, pretending to be busy. When you’re overworked, you have a lot going on all the time, and you’re constantly engaged.

But don’t take that to mean that overworking your employees can make them happier. Burnout still happens, and too much work can lead to that. Here is what else is going on in the American work force:

Studio shot of young woman working in office covered with adhesive notes

Longer days and constant connection. About 25 percent of employees regularly work into the evening, and 40 percent work on weekends at least once a month. Just under 50 percent eat lunch at their desks.

What does this mean? You’re never away from work. Of course, our current technology allows for that. I carry my work email in my pocket at all time, and so do many of you. I can choose to ignore it, of course, but like most people, I read every email that comes in, whether or not I respond over the weekend.

Thirty-five percent of people feel like they are “always on” because they didn’t have the time to get everything done during the workday. Only 22 percent work into the evening to get on top of things for the next day. But almost everyone agrees that working longer hours is the key to promotion–nearly two-thirds of employees see themselves in a manager role in the next five years. Working hard is the key.

Burnout is driving your employees out. While your employees may be willing to work these long hours and constantly stay in touch, the survey found that burnout is still a huge motivator for finding a new job–40 percent of employees say that burnout leads them to job hunt.

Managers can strongly decrease the amount of employee burnout by adjusting their workloads. Fifty-three percent of respondents said that workload was a big culprit in burnout, followed by personal pressure (41 percent) and time pressure (40 percent). As a manager, you can’t stop people from putting pressure on themselves, but you can control their workload and give reasonable deadlines.

All this pressure doesn’t even benefit the company, as 66 percent say that burning out erodes their productivity. So, everyone may be working hard, but it’s hardly working for the company’s success.

Too much information. About half of respondents said they receive too many emails, with one-third of those saying that this email overload hurts productivity. Twenty percent of employees spend more than two hours a day in meetings. These two things alone can lead to feelings of burnout and being overworked. How can you get things done when you’re constantly bombarded by information–either electronically or in meetings?

Fixing the problem. The Staples survey says that employees believe a “distraction-free environment” would increase productivity by 20 to 30 percent. What’s the biggest distraction? Loud co-workers. This seems like another argument for telecommuting, at least part time. When you’re all alone at home, you can get things done that are impossible in the cubicle farm of the office.

Employees also think that flexibility (35 percent), more breaks (33 percent), and improved technology (28 percent) could help reduce burnout.

If you also want to increase happiness, and not just decrease burnout, the surveyed employees suggest better perks (34 percent) and better office design (12 percent).

Burnout happens, but managers can reduce it by paying attention to what their employees want and need.

One thought on “Overworked, but Happy

  1. Pingback: Beware of the Exceptional Employee « Welcome to Learn Book

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