Stop the Glorification of Overwork to prevent employee burnout

Stop the Glorification of Overwork to prevent employee burnout

Stop the Glorification of Overwork to prevent employee burnout

Stop the Glorification of Overwork to prevent employee burnout

The glorification of overwork in workplace and society can be stopped to prevent burnouts if employees and leaders work together. Keep reading to know how.

What will you find in this post?

1. What is the “Overwork culture”?

1.1. The origin of the overwork culture

1.2. What influences people to overwork?

2. The Effects of Overwork

3. How leaders can combat overwork

4. Conclusion

What is the “Overwork culture”?

Overwork- the practice of working beyond one’s capacity and getting physically and mentally exhausted in the process - is now more common than ever. It is openly promoted as “productivity” through various mediums like movies, inspirational videos, speeches by successful entrepreneurs, etc., where they try to convince us that only by working harder and longer hours can we succeed or achieve our goals.

This mentality has now spread all over the world where people wear it like a badge of honour. Recent studies show that contrary to past beliefs which considered living a lavish life and working less hours as a symbol of high status, higher status is now depicted by being busy, working more hours, having less sleep and what not. The only difference is that despite understanding the consequences we still overwork ourselves.

The origin of the overwork culture

The roots of the overwork culture can be dated back to the Industrial Revolution where the drive to achieve greater efficiency shaped the way we reward productivity. This then led to the glorification of overwork during the late 1990s and early 2000s, when working long hours in an office to support an expensive lifestyle or even to reach a higher standard of living became a common norm.

But other than achieving a greater standard of living or a higher status in the society, what influences people to overwork?

What influences people to overwork?

  • Technology: New research shows that the technology has increased the availability of people and is diminishing the line between work and life by providing quick and easy access to work, making it even more difficult to ‘switch-off’.
  • Industry or the line of work: Some researchers state that employees engaged in jobs which primarily focus on aiding other people like employees in hospitals or clinics, tend to work longer hours which leads to both physical and mental exhaustion.
  • Culture: Overwork culture can be trailed back to post World War Two era in Japan, where, in order to get the economy back on its feet, the country pushed its people to their limits by rewarding overwork. This resulted in Japanese employees working themselves to death (Karoshi).

The Effects of Overwork

The inevitable consequence of overwork is a burnout, i.e., mental, and physical exhaustion in employees. Due to the burnout, employees suffer from effects like:

  • Fatigue, stress and depression
  • Heart related problems
  • Decrease in overall productivity and quality of work

Furthermore, research conducted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and World Health Organisation (WHO) show that working for longer hours for a significant period can also lead to death. This happens due to the continuous stress put on employees combined with inadequate sleep, hardly any exercise, unhealthy diet, and other coping mechanisms like smoking and drinking.

Not only does burnout affect employees, but it also negatively impacts the company or the organisation. It results in:

  • Decreased productivity
  • Inferior work quality
  • Lower overall morale
  • Diminished brand and company image

What’s worse is that the pandemic has escalated the effects of overwork by bringing work to homes and dismantling the work-life balance of both employees and employers.

How leaders can combat overwork

Some ways in which leaders can combat overwork and prevent employee burnout are:

  • Limiting the number of working hours
  • Promoting a healthy work-life balance
  • Creating a safe space for employees to open up about tasks, expectations and the workload
  • Promoting regular exercise
  • Promoting mental wellbeing by offering mental health programmes to employees
  • Boosting employee morale by offering benefits and rewards
  • Using tools to increase productivity
  • Automating tasks

Even though it is crucial for leaders to apply the other approaches in an organisation, employee burnout can be reduced significantly by automating tasks as it:

  • Reduces the number of repetitive tasks and helps the employees focus on tasks with higher value
  • Reduces the burden on employees
  • Helps employees in maintaining their work-life balance
  • Enhances HR operations by reducing errors
  • Improves organisational workflow


The glorification of overwork is a major issue and it should not be taken lightly. It leads to burnout which not only leaves employees in a bad mental and physical state but also affects the overall image of a company or organisation.

The weight of disrupting the glorification of overwork falls on both the employees and their leaders. Leaders need to understand the gravity of this issue and the long-term effects it has on the employees and the company. They need to act accordingly to create healthy workspaces so that overwork and burnout can be prevented.

Meanwhile, employees should be doing their best to avoid overwork and burnout by taking suitable measures and communicating openly with their employers.

The glorification of overwork in workplace and society can be stopped to prevent burnouts if employees and leaders work together.

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