Are You Overworked? – Signs You Are Burning Out at Your Job

There’s something to be said about the lack of disconnect from the working world. The blending, like a powder mixture poured into a steaming cup of water, that occurs between professional lives and the lives of professionals. We, as professionals with goals of 9-to-5s, have an impossible time turning off our effort and energy, creating a dissolve into our real world. We, as workaholics, become overworked, spending the majority of our ‘off time’ thinking about what needs to happen in the office.

A recent survey by the Inc and Go found that 71% of the 1,000 respondents worked overtime at least once a week. Around 23% worked overtime at least once a week, while 29% overworked 2-3 times a week. About 19% of respondents worked overtime on almost all days of the week.

On top of that, about 95% of professionals said they felt external pressure to overwork. The 3 primary sources of pressure were work superiors (65%), friends and family (46%), and culture and media (43%). Therefore, employees are being pressured to put in an extreme amount of work, and according to the aforementioned statistic, they are obliging to the pressure, working an abundant amount of overtime.

And Then There’s Inflation…

And with the uptick in overtime and the stress of needing to work comes a higher chance of becoming overworked. We live in expensive times, and through the basis of our capitalist society, we connect working hard to the solution of comfortability during the possible recession. Therefore, working hard and long will not go away anytime soon. It’s ingrained in our society and nature as humans. But becoming overworked and burned out can be dangerous to our health, so it’s crucial to avoid it.

How do you know you are overworked? How do you know you need to take precautions and steps to lower burnout before it affects your health?

What Truly Is Being Overworked

We often connect overworked with the abuse of time. If overworked, you are likely to be spending more than the normal required 40 hours at the office. If you aren’t even working the expected 40 hours, you certainly cannot be overworked. Right?

Unfortunately, the basis of burnout isn’t directly connected to time itself. If stretched too thin, you cannot simply lower your working hours to reverse it. That’s a simplistic and naive viewpoint of work as a whole. Being overworked is when your mental and physical health are outright affected by the intensity or longevity of your work life. You cannot disconnect your work mentality from your off-time, causing the quick depletion of your social, mental, and, sometimes, physical battery.

If you simply feel like you can’t work anymore, you are probably burnt out. If you feel like you have spent too much mental energy stressing about your workday, you are burnt out.

Think of it like a muscle. You can pull or overwork a muscle regardless of how long you work out. One overly-ambitious lift can lead to damaging the muscle. It’s not all about how many reps or how long you lift. Your working battery is the same.

Common Causes of Burnout

As noted, becoming overworked isn’t a 1-to-1 ratio with how much time you spend at the office. In fact, some people can work overtime and not become overworked.

It all depends on your energy levels, love for work, and how much effort you put in when you are at work (or at home thinking about work). Henceforth, naming the common causes of burnout is tough.

On average, burnout is often caused by the proceeding things, but every situation is unique. Humans have complex emotions and motives, so it’s impossible to name all the causes directly.

Anywho… The most common causes of burnout are:

  • Too much work overall.
  • The idea of not having control of your work-life balance.
  • Working too long or taking work home.
  • Lack of emotional or social outlets.
  • No rewards for hard work.
  • Not enjoying or tolerating the work you do.
  • Bad culture or community at work.

The signs of burnout in others include:

  • Avoidance of meetings or communication with managers.
  • Arriving late or leaving early.
  • Overall lack of productivity.
  • Less contribution to team projects.
  • Noticeable lack of passion and enthusiasm.
  • Bad or down attitude towards coworkers and supervisors.
  • Increasingly late submissions or completions on projects.

Common Effects

The 2019 Workforce Attitudes Towards Behavior Health report by Forbes found that 81% of surveyed employees said stress impacts their work negatively, manifesting in a range of symptoms from fatigue and anxiety to physical ailments and missed work. The study also found that 48% of those surveyed have cried at work, and 50% have missed at least one day of work.

Burnout can quickly reduce physical and mental health. It can cause sadness, depression, and a lack of motivation. These effects can bleed into your time out of work, too.

It can cause physical exhaustion, headaches, high blood pressure, and ongoing heart issues. Pretty much any negative effect that long-term stress can have on the body.

Obviously, it’s important to notice that you are overworked to help prevent the negative effects.

We Must Push Past the Past

There’s something to be said about the normalcy of being overworked in our society. We work to live and live to work, burning down the divide between 9-to-5 and 5-to-9. We are so pressured to live the life that has been laid out by the businessmen before us, we don’t see the detriment of treating labor as if it’s the only (and most important) aspect of our existence.

To this, we point to the recent trend of frugality. We broke the entire idea down in a previous article, but we will paraphrase it here:

Despite the term being popular for decades, it was recently coined by Bloomberg regarding work-life balance.

Fundamentally, workers are spending less money so they can work fewer hours.

As an example, Bloomberg spoke to Marie Crespin, a 31-year-old HR worker in Nantes, France. She now makes 1,600 euros ($1,608) a month, while she used to make 2,300 euros. To combat this, Crespin has spent significantly less money on take-out and clothes. Now, she works 20 hours instead of 40.

“Work shouldn’t be the most important thing in your life,” Crespin told Bloomberg reporter, Alice Kantor. “Having the freedom to do what you want with your time is today’s true luxury.”

July survey by FlexJobs found that 44% of workers surveyed would take a pay cut to improve their work-life balance.

Simply put: people are willing to make less and spend less to enjoy more time outside of work. Materialism has fallen by the wayside, while quality time with themselves and their family has risen. Humans desiring more time with life and significant others is a natural and understandable response to a two-year-long life-threatening excursion.

They Get the Idea!

Being overworked is a legitimate issue plaguing our workforce, and it’s based entirely on an established need that we invented long ago. The idea of working hard and trading labor for pay will always stand as a cornerstone of our blue-collar society. Though some have become skeptical of the true intentions of businesses, they still know and believe that they must work an honest day to receive honest pay. An entire week of work being the norm is so embedded in our culture and history, it’s almost impossible to see our people going against it.

We cannot pinpoint exactly when the need for work began, as it’s something embedded in our DNA to survive. Animals, mammals, and every living thing in between need to put in the effort to make it through existence. We understand. But the need for labor in production is a different animal on its own. It starts with our need for industrialization and profit, something not embedded in the nature of the species.

Henceforth, we understand that workers are tired of being tired and are doing what they need to do to reclaim their free time.

This Work Relationship Isn’t 50/50

In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act into law as part of the New Deal. Overall, it was an act to help the country move away from the Great Depression. The act called for the 44-hour workweek. Any hours worked after that amount would require overtime pay. Two years later, the amount was reduced to 40 hours.

Almost 90 years later, the cultural and legal standpoint still holds true. The 40-hour workweek (often consisting of 5 8-hour days) has become an economic and cultural cornerstone. Imagining a world without it would be… drastic.

Let’s not forget the main point of the initial structure, though. The changes came during a time of upheaval and outrage. Citizens were tired of being overworked and underpaid. Therefore, a change was needed to keep everyone happy. Leaders found a time period that worked to keep production at a high and revolt at a low. It was never based on employee happiness, but on the amount of time a worker can be forced to work and still remain mentally intact.

Though we have been blinded by tradition, the normal work week was never created to benefit us, but to keep us silent and content. It was the perfect amount of time to crossover mental and physical health with profitable outcomes. To think it was created to benefit you is a mistake that helps keep the idea and law in control.

Overwork Won’t Change

With all this being said, it’s fairytale stuff at best.

Sure, some professionals are striking back at being overworked by lowering their living standards, but it still requires sacrifice. The aforementioned ideas and taboos of normal labor and work requirements simple are not going anywhere. Therefore, becoming overworked will continue to be a problem for the common American worker.

Consequently, we can talk about the glaring issues with our relationship to work all we want, but the point here is to not start an argument or upheaval. The point is to note that becoming overworked (and the normalcy of it) is more of an issue than the effects of burnout itself.

It shouldn’t be so common, But what can we truly do?

Signs You Are Overworked

All of the earlier mentioned theories aside, it’s time to discuss the point of the article (it took this long to get here). The dangers of being overworked are clear, but the warning signs are hard to notice. In fact, you may not realize you are overworked and overstressed until the negative effects begin.

Be aware of the overall signs and keep honest with yourself. You can feel any of the following things and convince yourself everything is okay. Ultimately, you need to listen to your body and mind. It’s that simple.

It’s also important to note that these things can be caused by a multitude of factors. As we said, humans are complex. You may notice all of these signs, but the cause is an outside stressor. Maybe you have a productivity dip due to problems outside of work. Remember that burnout and overall stress are very similar and indistinguishable at times.

Here are the most common signs you may be overworked:

Check Your Hours

Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way first.

Though we’ve spent a lot of time stating that being overworked isn’t only due to working long hours, it certainly can be. If you are working more than the normalized 40 hours, you are more likely to become overworked. It’s as simple as that.

According to a 2021 ADP Research Institute study, unpaid overtime climbed to an average of 9.2 hours per week in 2021 from 7.3 hours a week in 2020. Overtime isn’t going anywhere, so neither is being overworked.

While working long hours isn’t an emotional sign like the rest of the signs below, it’s the beginning to the end. If you are working more hours than you can handle (even if you think you can handle it), the next signs may be on their way.

It’s okay to take time off. It’s okay to take a mental health day or use your PTO. You are not legally obligated (most of the time) to overwork your schedule. Let your boss know that you are working too much or need to go home at the scheduled time. If they don’t understand, that’s another issue entirely.

Lack of Sleep or Unusual Sleeping Schedule

Can you not shut off your brain at night, causing you to lose out on the necessary sleep to get work done? Then, due to being overtired, you get behind on work, causing you to not be able to shut off your brain at night. So on and so forth.

Being overtired or overstressed can cause you to have sleep issues, even possibly resulting in full-blown insomnia. These issues are awful for your energy and productivity, causing the rest of the problems on this list to intensify. But, we aren’t here to discuss the importance of sleep. You already know that.

On the other hand, is working too late causing you to stay up past your bedtime, lowering your sleep levels? Has your overtime messed with your overall schedule?

All of these things are not good. If your sleep is becoming interrupted or stopped due to work, thoughts about work, or energy spikes due to too much work, you are becoming burnt out.

Can’t Disconnect

Much like staying up due to surges of work thoughts, being unable to clear your mind can affect more of the day than just bedtime. If you are constantly thinking about work, you may be doing or focusing on too much.

We understand how important your upcoming project is, but if you can’t turn your brain off enough to enjoy a meal with your family, you may be becoming overworked.

Furthermore, if you simply cannot stop working, you are cruising toward a burn-out bruising (this especially goes for those that work in hybrid or remote settings). It’s entirely possible that you work at home and simply can’t stop. You tell yourself just one more sentence, one more part of the project. Next thing you know, you have wasted away the hours of your free time, causing you to sleep and return directly to work.

If you are overworking, you will become overworked.
It sounds obvious, and it is.

If you cannot turn off work and disconnect (whether physically or mentally), you are on a quick path to becoming burnt out.

Productivity Dip

If you are noticing a significant drop in productivity, you’re probably working a bit too much.

When energized, you know the amount of work that is average for your ability. As a professional, you know how much work you get done when you are in the right mind frame. If that amount drops off a cliff, something is amiss. You may need a vacation or time off.

It’s a simple concept in theory. When you do too much of something, you will get jaded by the act, causing you to not want to do it anymore. Even if fun, you may eventually lose interest and energy, reducing effort. This is double for labor, something not all of us find enjoyable. Write too many papers and you may never want to write a paper again.

Furthermore, your lack of energy and effort may be caused by a subconscious need for time off. You may not outright notice you are being overworked, but your mind is trying to tell you it doesn’t want to do the act anymore.

If you just aren’t doing your best work, something may be up.

Easily Overwhelmed

As we have noted with blue faces, being overworked is very similar to being overstressed. Therefore, a lot of the effects crossover, creating a Venn diagram of misery. Being irritable, easily overwhelmed, or having intense mood swings are all common signs of being too stressed or too stressed about work.

Referring back to the Inc and Go survey, 49% of respondents cited increased stress when overworked. Furthermore, 42% cited emotional fatigue. Increased stress causes weird fluctuations in emotions and anxiety. This spike in stress may cause you to feel overwhelmed by how much you have going on. And, on one hand, maybe you do have too much going on. Maybe it’s not that you are overworked, making you feel like you have too much on your plate, but you are overworked because you have too much on your plate.

Emotional distress is a significant sign pointing toward the need for less work or a relaxing vacation.

Overall Health Is Dropping

Once again, doing too much with your body and mind can significantly reduce your immune system, raise heart problems, and increase fatigue. If you are working long hours, not sleeping, becoming too stressed, or staring at screens all day, you are increasing your risk for a plethora (and we mean a plethora) of health problems.

If you notice that your overall physical health is dropping, your work and stress levels may be entirely too high. If you have new ailments popping up (especially physical ones caused by too much physical labor) or are missing too many days due to sickness, your body may be screaming for some legitimate time off.

In the long run, stress and burnout can be extremely harmful to your health.
This is the main reason to attempt to avoid it (along with the increase in free time, duh).

Trouble With Outside Relationships

Our last sign of being overworked involves the issues you have with others. The effects your lifestyle holds over the ones you love.

If you are focusing too much of your time and energy on work, you may lose the relationships you have with others. You may neglect your loved ones, leaving them feeling as if you are too wrapped up in your office life. You may miss out on important events, not get enough personal time with them, or lose the entirety of contact. Not only will this hurt them, but it will hurt you in the long run.

You may not have time to go out and make new friends or build new relationships. You may become too stressed and emotional, lashing out at the ones that are already surrounding you. Furthermore, you may become too hard to handle at work, losing the camaraderie and team aspect with your fellow peers.

Point being: if you have noticed your outside relationships being damaged due to working too much or being too stressed from work, you are overworked. Do not let work impact or ruin your life outside of it. That, by default, is the worst possible scenario of working too much.

 “Mental health awareness doesn’t mean fighting stress, anxiety, depression and other everyday mental health issues, rather it means consciously modulating the habits that intensify those issues. Once you are in control of your habits, instead of checking your habits, you would automatically be in a much better shape, both mentally and physically. ”