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As many organizations and their employees shifted to working from home in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, most maintained high levels of productivity, while also having the flexibility to care for their families and themselves throughout the crisis. However, new research suggests that working remotely makes it difficult to set work-life boundaries. In fact, a survey conducted by the Los Angeles-based staffing firm, Robert Half, reported that “nearly 70 percent of professionals who transitioned to remote work due to the pandemic now say they work on the weekends, and 45 percent of remote employees reported working more than eight hours a day as they did pre-pandemic.” With the ability to log-in wherever and whenever and a greater demand on a smaller workforce, many remote and hybrid employees are finding themselves overworked and headed for burnout. While more hours clocked might seem like a benefit to an organization, overworked employees actually pose a security risk to the organization and to their colleagues. 

Risks of Overworked Employees 

While teams across many industries find themselves overworked, the State of Cybersecurity 2021 report finds that 61 percent of IT teams are understaffed. In general, exhausted people are more likely to make mistakes that have ripple effects felt across their organization. Tired people have slower reaction times, reduced awareness and experience deficits when it comes to information processing and sound decision making.  In addition, for understaffed industries, a larger task list means less time to think strategically, ultimately causing the organization to continually play catch-up. In addition to security risks, overworked employees also present a number of hazards in the workplace:

  • Behavioral changes. Both chronic stress and insomnia can negatively impact one’s mood, causing friction within the workplace. As sleep-deprived employees operate with higher levels of cortisol, workplace morale and sound decision-making can be at risk. 
  • Illness. Stress can weaken our immune system, making it easier to catch seasonal illnesses. When overworked employees come to work, especially now as many organizations continue to adopt a hybrid work schedule, they put other colleagues at risk. 
  • Physical distress. Sitting too long at the computer or desk, wearing headphones all day, or experiencing chronic, long-term stress is detrimental to one’s overall health. Overworked individuals are at an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, depression, and back, vision and hearing issues. While this is harmful on an individual level, it can also add up to a catastrophic loss for an organization when it comes to insurance claims and health benefits. 

Workplace Solutions for Overworked Employees 

While organizations can work to properly staff their teams and monitor staffing hours, the ultimate solution to preventing burnout among teams comes from healthy leadership. By having programs that promote wellness and work-life balance, organizations set their teams up for success and avoid security risks. By providing gyms, childcare, good insurance policies and even wellness courses, organizations actively show their employees they care about their wellbeing. 

In addition, organizations can play an active role in helping employees set work-life boundaries by monitoring their hours. While it may seem granular, assigning hours, intentionally scheduling less in-person or zoom meetings when appropriate and being mindful of extra work activities can help employees learn how to set boundaries for themselves. Allowing employees to truly unplug during vacation time and providing productivity tools, such as task timers, will help prevent burnout and create a team that is more efficient and effective. The pandemic has been hard for organizations across all industries. RiskVersity can help your organization identify opportunities for improvement, starting with overworked teams. To learn more about our offerings, please contact us.

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