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What's your breaking point?

June 1, 2001
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Safety and health jobs are naturals for making you feel overworked and overwhelmed. You know this by now, and a study of 1,000 working adults confirms it.

Characteristics of safety and health work — constant interruptions; multi-tasking; lack of respect; being tethered to technology such as cell phones, faxes, pagers, beepers, and email; overtime; being on-call 24/7; and having management responsibilities — were all cited by respondents as adding to feelings of being overworked, overwhelmed by work demands, and not having enough time to step back and reflect on the work they are doing.

You’re not alone if you’re feeling this way. About one in three employees surveyed felt overworked frequently during a three-month period. More than half felt overworked at times. About one-quarter said overwork was not a problem in their lives.

Almost all workers (90 percent) experience one or more of these pressures on the job:

  • My job requires that I work very fast;

  • My job requires that I work very hard; or

  • I never have enough time to get everything done on my job.

    Of course there’s a price to be paid for working in hyper-drive. Overworked employees are less likely to take good care of themselves; and more likely to lose sleep, make mistakes at work, feel angry toward their employers, and resent coworkers who do not work as hard.

    In the workplace, these by-products of pushing employees harder and longer can result in serious injuries, increased workers’ comp and health care costs, poor morale, increased turnover, decreased work quality, and perhaps even workplace violence, according to the study’s researchers at the Families and Work Institute.

    Other findings:

  • Women feel more overworked than men.

  • Baby Boomers (age 36-54) feel more overworked than Gen Xers/Millennials (18-35) and mature workers (55 and older).

  • 27 percent of employees reported that their organizations had eliminated jobs in the past years.

  • On average, employees surveyed work 41.2 hours per week. Employees would prefer to work 34.5 hours per week.

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