Managing Overwork

Monday, August 19, 2013 - 07:59

By Leon Gettler

Many managers these days feel overworked. They’re now working longer hours because companies have thinned the layers of corporate bureaucracy. This sort of approach is encouraged by markets which increasingly judge firms according to their revenues per employee. At the same time, many managers spend an inordinate amount of time travelling or sitting in meetings. This has to have an impact on the managers, not only on their health but on their quality of management.

Management Issues tells us that a Japanese study has found that employees who work long hours and are habitually overworked are a staggering 15 times more likely than the average worker to develop depression.

Indeed, the Japanese have a word for overwork: karoshi. It’s not a pure medical term, rather, it’s socio-medical term, referring to fatalities or associated work disability due to cardiovascular attacks (such as strokes, myocardial infarction or acute cardiac failure) aggravated by a heavy workload and long working hours.

So what are the best ways for managers to deal with overwork?

Business Management Daily says managers have to be honest about it. The work is there for a reason, at least in the short-term, so they need to find work-arounds so they don’t ignore their families, homes, friends and other interests outside of work.

They might also have to look at more flexible work hours including working from home. Managers should also be role models and get other employees to work out their own work schedules so they can best get the work done and fit it around their lives.
Which leads to the last issue of work life balance. Forget it, it doesn’t exist. Instead, look for a work/life fit. Everyone is different with different needs and activities outside of work. Which schedule and workplace will work best for each employee and each kind of work? It might look different for each person.

The Houston Chronicle says time management is a critical tool for dealing with too much work. Managers should set a realistic schedule for the time they have available during the workday. Extra time should be added to allow for emergencies or a change in priorities.

Managers are also advised to try stress management techniques such as exercise, meditation and music therapy. Getting enough sleep and eating a balanced diet help reduce stress as does taking a few minutes during a lunch break to sit quietly.

And delegation is also a vital skill for any overworked manager. The first thing delegators do is focus on the tasks that require their own specific attention. Then, they identify the tasks they perform that others in the office could also perform. The next step is to pass these tasks off to members of your staff. However, it’s not that simple. Managers have to match tasks with the right person. For example, financial forecasting would obviously not be delegated to an office intern. In working out who gets what, managers would have to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the respective employees.