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Feeling overworked? Spot the symptoms and take charge

April 19, 2022 - 14 min read


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What does it mean to be overworked?

What causes overwork?

7 symptoms of overworking

5 consequences of overworking

4 tips to face being overworked

Your next step: How to talk to your boss about it

We all want to do great work. 

That feeling of accomplishment pushes us forward to achieving our goals and dreaming big. But sometimes, it becomes too much. Hustling to meet our goals and overworking ourselves blur together. The work culture we thought we thrived in starts to turn on us. 

Our personal life disappears, and our work-life balance is severely unequal. 

But are there no warning signs? 

In reality, the symptoms of being overworked show in our work and in our personal lives. When overall wellness falters because of our work schedules, it’s time to learn how to take action. You can get that work-life balance back on track and learn not to follow the same patterns in the future. 


What does it mean to be overworked?

Being overworked doesn’t just happen in super fast-paced work environments. It can happen anywhere. 

An overworked employee feels their work hours are too long. It usually isn't just for a day or two. Someone who is overworked feels they’ve been working hard for a longer period than they can handle. They work beyond their capacity and past the usual workday hours.

Employees often feel like they can’t take a break because they have so much to do. When they finally go home or log off, they bring their work stress with them. 

Team members may feel overworked because of the team dynamics, the company culture, or factors that seem outside of their control. Other times, people can bring on feelings of being overworked onto themselves, assuming that the only way to achieve their goals is to work longer hours with little downtime.

They might think pushing so hard only hurts them. This is also often untrue.

A great example of this is entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs often think they need to hustle and work as much as their body allows so their business can succeed — and thus often end up burning out

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What causes overwork?

Overworking yourself has various causes that we may not even notice. Perhaps you think it’s just part of your job to do these tasks, but they contribute to your symptoms of being overworked.

Here are four causes to review:

1. Doing work for your actual work

We all have follow-up tasks needed to accomplish our projects. But when all we do is chase after tasks that take away from our actual work, it contributes to overworking.

Checking in on updates, looking for documents, or maintenance on equipment distracts us. We then spend less time on our actual to-do list because of our other minor tasks, and this makes us feel like there isn’t enough time in the day to finish everything.

2. Always being on the clock

You know you’re working too much when your weekends and time off disappear. Feeling like we have to work at all times and always being available will lead to burnout.

Do you jump at every email notification you get? How often do you say yes to extra projects that could wait until Monday? The way we interact with our work when we’re technically off the clock contributes to feeling overworked.


3. Difficulties working collaboratively

Teamwork should make work more efficient. But team members who are difficult to work with due to poor collaborative and communication skills often make you work harder.

You have to either do more than one person’s share of the work to ensure you finish everything or, if they haven’t given you the correct information, you have to spend longer on specific tasks.

4. Having unclear goals and responsibilities

Understanding your role and its expectations will help guide your workflow. When you don’t have a clear idea of what’s on your to-do list, it creates confusion, making you work harder, not smarter

Teams with poor leadership don’t give you a clear idea of what to prioritize; deadlines are unclear, nobody knows who should be taking the initiative, and you overwork yourself to find clarity.

​​Find someone who will show you how to chart a clearer path forward. With BetterUp, a coach can provide the perspective to find clarity with your professional and personal goals and ambitions.

7 symptoms of overworking


We can’t ignore some of the symptoms when we overwork ourselves and experience burnout. They creep into our personal lives, and we might not even recognize that they’re the result of too much work.

Overworking can make you sick the way that burnout can cause health problems — and there are several physical symptoms of overworking.

Here are seven common symptoms of overwork:

  1. Sleep disorders like insomnia or overall poor sleep patterns
  2. Feeling distracted with every task
  3. A weakened immune system
  4. Lack of energy for simple tasks
  5. A disregard for the importance of sleep
  6. Mood swings with negative self-talk
  7. Difficulties balancing a social and work-life

5 consequences of overworking

Experiencing burnout after overworking can leave us feeling hollow. If you’re feeling any of these consequences, psychological or physical, take the time to think about your work environment:


4 tips to face being overworked

Falling into the habit of overworking ourselves seems easy to get into and hard to get out of. But we can change our lives and use our agency to set boundaries. Our employers can’t fire us for refusing to do more than our job description entails.

At BetterUp, we call this Inner Work®. Inner Work® is the process of looking inward to better ourselves — and in return, it betters those around us. The science behind Inner Work® tells us that by putting ourselves first, we can actually transform the outer world around us. 

It may not happen overnight, but putting continuous effort into creating a happier and healthier lifestyle will only benefit your future. Here are some tips to combat being overworked:

  • Learn how to say no to specific tasks. Listen to yourself if you can sense that you’re reaching your breaking point. Most jobs can wait until tomorrow if it means bettering your health.
  • Delegate tasks to others and initiate more teamwork. You don’t have to rid yourself of tasks completely, but offloading tasks can help you stay focused on more important things. Sometimes someone else has the capacity. They might want the opportunity. When you redistribute the workload it creates a learning opportunity for other team members to sharpen their skills.
  • Take time off when you need it. Don’t settle for just your weekends if you need a bit longer to recharge. Practice some self-care, connect with friends, and rest your body with your vacation days.
  • Pursue hobbies that are different from your work. It helps make your brain think differently and take your mind off your job. If your work is remote, you should try to pursue hobbies that get you outside often.

Your next step: How to talk to your boss about it

You don’t deserve a job that drains your life. Strive for a job that gives you a sense of purpose and makes you feel good about your contributions.

If you’re feeling overworked to the point that you don’t know what else to do, your next step is to talk to your boss. Letting them know how you’re feeling makes a difference. It enlightens them on how their team members are doing and can enact change. 


Here are three final tips to help you talk to your boss about being overworked:

1. Review your roles and responsibilities

Think about your typical workweek. Are you regularly working long hours? How much work do you do compared to others who share the same role? 

Showing them all you do and discussing your recent work performance will help convey that you’re being overworked. Maybe your company needs to hire someone new to take on some of these responsibilities because your entire team is stretched too thin.

2. Be empathetic, but firm

You know that it takes hard work to move your company forward, but that doesn’t mean being overworked should be normalized. 

Explain that you understand how specific tasks demand a lot of effort and time, but it burns you out. It’s possible to be dedicated to your work while needing time away from it.

3. Think of some solutions

If you already have some solutions in mind, then that’s great. Explain your solutions to your boss after you’ve thoroughly thought them through. Options like extending deadlines, setting boundaries for your working hours, and modifying your priority list will all help. 

Muting Slack after the workday ends and turning off notifications for your email over the weekend will make a world of difference and keep you from working overtime. 

Not everyone is comfortable communicating their thoughts and feelings, but that’s okay. Once you identify that you’re overworked, symptoms can be addressed. With BetterUp, a coach will be there to support you as you strengthen your communication skills and develop more self-awareness and confidence in every situation.

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Published April 19, 2022

Erin Eatough, PhD

Sr. Insights Manager

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