When you’re in an environment where everyone is overworked, it can be tough to realize what’s happening at first — you might be so overwhelmed by your own exhaustion or too stressed by the volume of work to take a step back and take note. Yet some statistics suggest that up to 82% of employees suffer from burnout, with huge implications for a company’s productivity and sustainability.
This can be a tougher problem to solve than you might think. Sometimes, an overworked team can be a problem you can overcome with a rest period — but if you have a chronically overworked workforce or processes that are failing, a quick breather will only provide a temporary band-aid. Here's what you should be doing for a more long-term solution.
Why do employees get overworked?
No two organizations are the same, yet there are a few common factors that spring up time and time again to explain the problem of overworked employees. These are:
Systems that have been outgrown
People in the wrong roles
Let’s look at them one by one — along with some potential solutions.
Outgrown systems Most companies start small. This means their processes may operate as a kind of “minimal viable product” to begin with: The bare minimum needed to remain agile and achieve growth. In some cases, a business might not even have dedicated departments at the beginning, opting for a single person to take control or merging multiple departments together.
This is only natural — but when a company scales up and its revenue grows, its processes should also be shifting.
If sales have increased fivefold but there’s still only one person to process all those orders, that person will end up overworked. When this happens, it may be time to think of introducing different software to automate their job or hiring someone else to help out.
This comes down to looking at the daily tasks your overworked employees are doing and figuring out how to make them easier and less time-consuming. It’s all about systems, which leads nicely to our next point.
When employees outgrow current processes, it’s a major issue, but systems can also be inappropriate for other reasons.
Simpler is usually better and more efficient, yet many businesses have overly complicated processes. Why make someone manually enter data about business transactions if you could automate the whole thing by connecting accounting software with all your accounts, for instance?
It can be tough to spot bottlenecks when you’re immersed in your processes on a day-to-day basis, but process mapping can help you piece this together and identify where exactly you’re going wrong — and help you find a more suitable system. You could also consider working with a consultant to identify weaknesses.
Similarly, many companies end up with unnecessary steps and bureaucracy in their processes.
Maybe your organizational structure is too centralized and requires employees to receive “approval” for every little decision they make. This can cause burnout from lower-level employees and managers alike, as they spend too much time seeking approval (or doing the approving) rather than performing their core job role.
Wrong people for roles
Your employees might be hard-working and admirable people, but if they’re in the wrong roles, they’ll probably end up feeling miserable and unproductive. Have a long, hard look at who your team is and their greatest strengths. Do their roles capitalize on that?
Of course, you should try to involve them in the process. Arrange a one-on-one meeting with everyone, and ask them if they feel their role capitalizes on their strengths and skills, and if there’s anything else they’d like to try.
But it’s not always the people doing the roles who are at fault. No matter how great a team you have and how fantastic they are at their jobs, they need good relationships with their managers.
Maybe you have a micromanager on your hands who’s stopping your team from reaching their full potential, or perhaps you have a manager that’s not involved enough and leaves the brunt of all the work to employees, leaving them stressed and overworked.
This isn’t about pointing fingers but spotting which processes need to change.
The devil’s in the processes
You might have noticed that all the factors above ultimately come down to the same thing: Processes that aren’t working as they should, whether this is down to management styles or ineffective technology.
About the author:
Cornerstone Paradigm Consulting, LLC is an industry-agnostic global business operations consulting firm, that goes beyond the symptoms to get to the root cause of your business issues.