More and more people experience a (too) heavy workload. Read here what the consequences are of a structurally heavy workload. Do the 2DAYSMOOD Quickscan to discover if workload is an issue for you, your team or organization.

“How are you?”
“Well, I’m fine… busy. How about you?”
“Same here!”

Sounds familiar? Probably you hear this answer often from friends, family or colleagues, when you ask how things are going. In my experience, ‘busy’ has a negative connotation. Simply because there is a difference between ‘being on a roll’ or ‘being busy’. If you are busy, there is a shortage of time, and a lack of time is stressful. The deficiency is often work-related, meaning that your workload is too heavy. And this is a growing problem in our modern lives.

How does workload arise?

Workload occurs when you cannot meet the work requirements in time (Arboportaal.nl, 2019). The following may have an effect on being able to complete your work:

  • Too little scheduled time for the amount of work;
  • Too heavy responsibilities;
  • Education, skill level or work experience is not in line with the expected end result;
  • Not the right resources and equipment available;
  • Technical defects.

Workload may also occur due to non-work-related issues. Think of a private situation that requires a lot of attention, such as being a parent or taking care of a senior. Or think of having FOMO – fear or missing out -, which makes you fill up your private life with social obligations and parties, while (unconsciously) you actually may need a weekend of rest and me-time.

The difference between workload, work stress and burnout?

“Stress is inevitable,” says Thijs Launspach, psychologist and writer of the book Fokking Druk (Translation: Freaking Busy), in an interview with NU.nl. “It simply is a part of life.” Launspach explains that our bodies produce adrenaline and cortisol – essential to respond quickly and adequately to threats and dangerous situations. “But nowadays our bodies are constantly in that stress attitude. […] We live and work very differently than a decade ago. The boundary between our private and work life is blurring. Because of our use of smartphones for example, we can always be reached by telephone and e-mail. Besides, we have far too high expectations of ourselves.” According to Launspach, too much stress and production of cortisol basically cause an injury: as a result of work pressure, the body remains in that vigilant position. And if it lasts too long, a burnout occurs.

You could therefore see workload, work stress and burnout as resultants from each other. Excessive workload can be a major cause of work stress, which in turn can lead to a burnout.

‘As a result, we go home with a sense of guilt, and we continue working at night.’

Are you just busy or getting things done?

Although stress is inevitable, having such a (too) busy life is a choice, he says. And thus it is something we can change. Not that busyness is easy to reduce, but it is possible – with a lot of patience, some good tips and exercises, and a little persistence.

Bruce Daisley, writer of book The Joy of Work and vice-president of Twitter Europe, also sees the possibilities to reduce workload (and thus also the risk of work stress and burnout). In an interview with NRC he says that it is a problem that employees of many organizations are often being distracted at work – distracted by meetings, office gardens and countless e-mails. “Getting busy is not the same as getting a lot done.” […] “These days we always have the feeling that we can’t finish anything. As a result, we go home with a sense of guilt, and we continue working at night.”

Daisley hopes that people become aware of their own potential and rights. “An employee once asked me: ‘If I find it difficult to finish my work here, can I go home at four in the afternoon to continue working there?’ I was just ashamed afterwards. I thought, ‘We turn our brilliant, capable employees into children who always have to ask for permission.”

Quickscan: is the workload in your organization or team too heavy?

A too heavy workload on a structural basis, is one of the frequently mentioned causes of work stress. Because work stress results in sick leave or long-term absence, for example due to burnout, it is wise to always be aware of the amount of workload in your organization or team. Needless to say, this is also relevant to monitor when you are an HR director or team manager.

That is why we created a handy quickscan that helps you to determine the workload within your team or organization. Ask yourself or your colleagues the following questions:

Never   Rarely   Sometimes   Often   Always  
 1   I have a lot of work to do
 2    I have to work too rushed
 3   I do not get my work done in time
 4   I am reaching my limits
 5   I have difficulty concentrating
 6   I feel tired when I wake up
 7   After work I have little energy for hobbies
 8   When I get home, I want to be left alone

Creating this quickscan we were inspired by several other tests such as the more elaborate one from FNV (in Dutch)

Did you answer a lot of questions answered with “always” or “often”? Then it’s time to reduce the workload. Discuss with your colleagues where the heavy workload comes from. Is there too much pressure on one person? Then the work may not be distributed fairly, or that person may not have the right education, experience or interest in the work. Also, don’t forget that the private situation can also play a major role. Do multiple colleagues, or even the entire team, suffer from a heavy workload? Then the employer has an important task to take this seriously.

Our anonymous weekly 15 second survey is oftentimes used by our customers to monitor stress levels. In the overall organization, in teams or on a personal level. Through this realtime insight you can discover where the workload is too high. With additional short feedback surveys (and face to face conversations on the work floor), you can immediately take action in the right areas. You are taking a step towards a healthy positive working climate!

More articles or information about 2DAYSMOOD?

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