My company has a culture of overworking- how can I fix it?

Employees in the UK consistently report being overworked – but what if it’s ingrained in your company’s culture...
HR Grapevine
HR Grapevine | Executive Grapevine International Ltd
My company has a culture of overworking- how can I fix it?
A culture of overwork can damage innovation, productivity, and collaboration

Exhausted. Burned out. At breaking point.

So long as there have been surveys of the UK’s workforce, the responses have consistently shown that many of our employees are overworked. A 2023 study commissioned by Visier, for example, reveals that more than half of the UK (53%) are overworked, feeling they are “reaching their maximum capacity, being spread too thin, or stressing over the threat of additional work.”

But with employees feeling they are taking on more work whilst businesses make staffing cuts in a bid to reduce costs - a 2024 Workhuman survey finds 72% of employees are taking on more work for this very reason – the issue appears to be getting worse. As responsibilities mount whilst support decreases, burnout becomes inevitable.

Whilst many employers espouse values such as care, inclusion, and support, they have inadvertently or even intentionally built a culture of overworking that manifests throughout the employee experience in different ways.

It could be the implied-but-never-spoken “first one in, last one out” rule that leaves junior employees stuck at their desks, waiting for their manager to go home. It may be the sprawling mass of messaging threads on your communication platform that ring and ping non-stop. It might be the decision not to replace employees who quit, dressing up the extra workload being dumped on another employee as a chance to ‘step up with some extra responsibilities.’

Addressing it isn’t easy. But for the sake of the health and wellbeing of your workforce, it’s time to fix up and set about dismantling the broken, burnout-inducing parts of your company’s culture of overworking.

What can cause a culture of overworking?

The truth is the problem is much bigger than just employers. The culture of overworking prevails in UK society dressed up in other guises. Podcasts about the pursuit of relentless self-improvement are a dime a dozen and media figures hellbent on eliminating ‘laziness’ are frequently given the platform to dish out their latest diatribe on performance and productivity – who remembers when Kim Kardashian told workers to “get your f---ing ass up and work”?

These messages filter through and, alongside business pressures to cut costs and improve profit margins, become ingrained in employees from the moment they enter the corporate world, shiny naivety still in hand (or not, as Gen Z appears to be proving.)

If leadership expectations are that people are always available and respond within minutes to emails, and leaders role model this behaviour themselves, then the unwritten rules are there

Abigail Wilmore | Chief People Officer at Tom Ford

The line between hard work and overwork is increasingly blurred at the leadership and management levels of companies. Performance structures reward those who are seen to graft and grind rather than rewarding good performance.

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