Career & Leadership Coach, Korn Ferry Advance
5 Ways to Handle Being Overworked
Hiring is cooling. Layoffs are always lurking. Corporate leaders are pushing a mantra of doing more with less. All of which means one thing for workers: more work.
Across industries, the demands on workers continue to grow while the support offered to them stays the same. Three years after the pandemic, burnout levels remain elevated among workers in industries like financial services, insurance, construction, professional services, telecommunications, and others.
There’s a fine line between taking on more work and being overworked, says Valerie Olson, career and leadership coach with Korn Ferry Advance. The problem is, most workers—and, more importantly, their managers—don’t know when they’ve crossed the line. “Asking for help when you feel overwhelmed and overworked is a challenge, because most organizations reward those who go above and beyond,” says Olson. Below, some ideas.
Track your work.
Take subjectivity out of the equation by keeping detailed records of your hours worked, projects assigned, upcoming deadlines, client meetings, sales calls, and any other aspects of your job over the course of several weeks, advises Olson. Tracking your work like this helps demonstrate a pattern of consistency in your workload, she says. “Offer solutions and get input about how you can reprioritize, delegate, downsize, get extra help, or adjust deadlines to resolve the issue,” she suggests.
Get organized with Eisenhower.
Tiffinee Swanson, a career and leadership coach at Korn Ferry Advance, advises clients who feel overwhelmed to use the Eisenhower matrix. This system helps with productivity and decision-making by organizing tasks based on their urgency and importance. What’s most urgent and important gets top priority, what’s important but not urgent gets scheduled, and so on. “It encourages you to ask tough questions about what is truly urgent and important as opposed to classifying all work that way,” says Swanson.
AI is here. Use it.
There’s no shortage of studies showing that workers who have learned how to use generative AI are more productive and efficient than their peers. Apps for note-taking, messaging, accounting, and other functions can automate tasks to improve efficiency and reduce workload without sacrificing quality.
Get input from others.
Talk to your boss, of course, but talk to others as well. “Compare your situation to peers within your department—or others outside it who are doing similar work—to see how they are managing their time and tasks,” suggests Olson. The idea here isn’t to see if you are doing more than everyone else, but rather to find out if there are behaviors or methods you can adopt. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help, either,” adds Frances Weir, a Korn Ferry Advance career coach. Identify and share where the biggest stressors are coming from, and be clear on the kind of help you need, she says.
Consider other factors at play.
Are you really feeling overworked, or are other issues causing you to feel that way? Are you energized or drained by your work? Experts caution that feeling overworked may just be a symptom of poor cultural fit—or a sign that it is time to move on. “How you feel about the work you are doing will tell most of the tale,” says Olson.
For more expert career advice, connect with a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance.