Overwork, without a doubt, has the biggest negative impact on us all. However, 'burnout' caused from overwork is not a workplace stressor, that is a life-stressor. There have been many articles written on how to streamline our workload to become more efficient and these are great but all that seems to happen is that we end up doing more work in our day!
If we are going to spend hours and hours at work, I am more interested in what happens across our day that aggravates us or adds to our bucket of stress. Skill Boosters, a leading training provider on the workplace in the United Kingdom, have identified the top five triggers for stress in the workplace;
Insufficient Breaks - We need at least a five to ten minute break every hour, particularly if we sit at a desk and/or use a computer for most of the day. Eating lunch at our desk is another habit that we should break.
Working When Sick - Some of us feel guilty if we don't turn up for work every day, regardless of whether we are ill. By doing this we simply extend our recovery time and our work is often poor as a result of being unwell. Additionally, our colleagues won't thank us for spreading our germs.
Difficult People - We all have them at work, people who are just pains in the butt because of their behaviour. Most are surly, sullen, negative people who can't help but tell everyone what they think and have an inability to see the negative impact of their behaviour. They are usually aged from 55 to 65 years and have a high level of narcissism. They attract the highest level of complaints against them, from both outside and inside the organisation. These people need to be clearly shown the problems that they are causing and highly-managed to try and change their negative behaviour.
Lack of Control - Micro-management, working in a void, not knowing what is happening, and having no control over what occurs in the workplace will fester an unhappy (and possibly hostile) workplace. Change management and culture change is bottom up, not top down. Have confidence that you employed the best person for the job therefore show that confidence by allowing staff to control their work.
Poor Environment - Too much noise and insufficient natural light are the main environmental factors impacting on our wellbeing today. Open plan offices can be distracting and there are studies that show a decrease in productivity by as much as 20% when open plan offices are introduced. We all need natural light as part of our circadian rhythm to manage sleep patterns. If your workplace doesn't provide natural light and there are no plans to open up walls to let the light into the office, you should go outside during your breaks.
If we are spending more time at work then work needs to be as least stressful as possible. Ultimately, I believe, you have to ask yourself if working longer and harder is really worth it for your health and wellness. I am not an advocate of taking work home but being at home and working rather than working late in the office is possibly the less of two evils.
As you know, there have been very few people laying on their deathbed wishing that they had spent more time at work.