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Feeling Overwhelmed By Work

Part 1: You're Not Alone

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Businesswoman at table with head resting on hand
Thomas Barwick / Stone / Getty Images
Almost one third of employees in the United States feels overworked, or overwhelmed by the amount of work they have to do. So says a study conducted by the Families and Work Institute, a non-profit organization that conducts research about the changing nature of work and family life.

The authors of the study, Feeling Overworked: When Work Becomes Too Much, are Ellen Galinsky, Stacy S. Kim, and James T. Bond. It was supported by PricewaterhouseCoopers. The authors define feeling overworked as "a psychological state that has the potential to affect attitudes, behavior, social relationships, and health both on and off the job."1They surveyed a representative sample of 1,003 adults (18 and over) from across the country. Those in the sample met two criteria. They had to both work for pay and be employed by someone other than themselves in their main (or only job) for any number of hours per week.

Participants were asked the following:

  • How often, in the past three months, they felt overworked: very often, often, sometimes, rarely or never

  • how often, in the past three months, they felt overwhelmed by the work they had to do: very often, often, sometimes, rarely or never

Here were their responses:

  • 28% felt overworked often or very often
  • 28% felt overwhelmed by how much work they had to do often or very often
  • 54% felt overworked at least sometimes
  • 55% felt overwhelmed at least sometimes

The results of this study don't surprise me — and if I can venture a guess, they don't surprise you either. You too may be feeling overworked, if not often, then sometimes. Knowing you aren't alone may offer some comfort. However, it may be more productive to discover the reasons behind the feelings. Knowing why you are feeling overworked may help you figure out how to become less so. In other words, the cause may offer clues to the cure.

1. Galinsky, E., Kim, S., and Bond, J. Feeling Overworked: When Work Becomes Too Much. Families and Work Institute, 2001.

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