March 7, 2022

Impact of Overworking on Productivity and What to Do About It

Employers may feel that it is a good thing when employees are willing to put in long hours, work on weekends, and respond to emails after going home. Many employers even expect it out of their employees, and similarly, many employees nowadays expect to be required to put in more than the traditional 40-hours of work a week. 

While it can be argued that 40-hour workweeks are no longer the norm and over time has been normalized in recent years – that does not mean it is good for your business. At some point, ‘overtime’ becomes ‘overwork’ that pushes employees beyond their capacity and can hurt a business more than it helps.

How Overworking Affects Productivity

When employees are overworked it can end up affecting productivity in several ways. The exact threshold for ‘overwork’ may vary, but studies have shown that when employees are working over 54 hours a week then there is cause for concern.

Here are some of the main ways that overworking can impact productivity:

  • Causes diminishing returns
    Several studies have shown that working longer hours actually has diminishing returns in terms of overall productivity. Someone working 60 hours a week may not get any more work done than someone working 45 hours a week simply because they are tired and worn out which results in them working more slowly and making more mistakes.
  • Affects physical and mental health
    When employees are overworked their physical and mental health will deteriorate. It can cause sleep disruption, depression, brain fog, high blood pressure, as well as various other issues.

    Needless to say, all these issues will make your employees’ productivity plummet. More importantly, in the long term overworking can even cause employees to burn out or end up with serious health issues – which will cause lots of disruptions.

  • Sets unrealistic expectations
    If your employees are being forced to consistently overwork it can set up unrealistic expectations – especially for managers who use it as a basis to set deadlines. That in turn will gradually make the problem worse as managers set goals that are impossible for employees to meet.

    As you can see, overworking is a potentially huge productivity killer. Not only will it lead to less work being done, but it may even result in many employees resigning due to the fact that they have no job satisfaction and burnout.

How to Prevent Overworking

Now that you’re aware of the impact that overworking can have, it makes sense to avoid it. But how can you prevent overworking, while still keeping productivity levels high?

Needless to say, eliminating overtime would do the trick – but that’s not very realistic. After all, every business is bound to require employees to work overtime at some point or other. Instead, what you need is a far more holistic approach that can keep productivity levels high while at the same time not pushing your employees past their limits.

Some of the ways that you can prevent overworking in your company include:

  • Gather data on how your employees are working
    Tracking the hours that your employees are working and what they’re doing will give you important insights into their working patterns. That in turn can help you identify when employees are working too much.

    By using the WorkExaminer monitoring system you can track exactly how much overtime your employees are working. It can also monitor their computer activity, active or idle hours, or calculate a productivity score.

  • Set realistic deadlines
    The data from WorkExaminer can be used to set more realistic deadlines that employees are able to meet without being forced to work overtime. It can measure the average time that it takes employees to perform tasks so you can use that information as a basis when setting deadlines for tasks of that type.
  • Look for changes in performance levels
    If employees’ performance levels drop suddenly, it may be a sign that they are overworking (or of other problems). By proactively looking for such changes, you can take action before things get more serious.

    The reports generated by WorkExaminer can be a good place to start. In them, you can see data for individual employees and their computer activity then correlate it against the work they’re doing to accurately measure their performance.

  • Encourage a healthy work-life balance
    One of the main side-effects of overworking is an unhealthy work-life balance. As such if you want to prevent overworking, it is a good idea to start encouraging your employees to have a healthy work-life balance and take regular breaks as well as days off.

    With WorkExaminer you can easily identify signs that employees are not taking regular breaks or days off. Additionally, if you want you can let your employees work flexible hours or even work from home while using its data to see how it will affect the average productivity of a remote team.

  • Meet with employees one-on-one
    If you have concerns that an employee is overworking, you should schedule a one-on-one meeting with them. In that meeting, you can encourage them to talk about why they feel they’re having to work overtime on a regular basis as well as what steps can be taken to help them out.

    By taking these steps, you can address the issue of overworking at its root and based on actual data. The insights WorkExaminer can provide into the behavior and workload of your employees is crucial in that regard and will help steer your decisions.


All said and done, overworking is a serious problem and one that you cannot afford to ignore. On the bright side, the good news is that it isn’t impossible to tackle it as long as you’re proactive about it.

Be sure to keep in mind that it is better (and more cost-effective) for your employees to work fewer overtime hours yet be more productive than it is for them to work long hours but end up having their productivity decline over time.

About the author 

Elle Gellrich

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