Your natural business may be sustainable—but is your job?

Your natural business may be sustainable—but is your job?

How many hours do you work in a week? Workforce Management magazine recently published a special report titled “On The Job Straining.” Referring to our current economy as the “work more economy,” the piece does a very good job talking about the challenges facing workers who have been asked to do above and beyond their assigned duties.

How we got here is simple. Companies cut staff when times were hard. Times are not yet good enough to return to the previous level of staffing. The work that must be done, however, has not decreased at the same pace as the staffing levels, if at all.

This is a pretty widespread situation. Fifty-five percent of people in a recent survey indicated that their daily responsibilities had increased as a result of the economy with a whopping 27 percent saying that their duties had doubled! Just more than 80 percent of human resource professionals indicated that they have increased the workloads of their employees. 

I would certainly expect that these people do feel fortunate that they are ones that kept their jobs, but over time, this is taking a toll. Their performance is suffering: 79 percent of employees are losing significant portions of their day due to stress, with nearly 35 percent losing over an hour a day. As you can well imagine (and expect) this stress doesn’t stay at the workplace. Fifty-one percent of employees are reporting a negative effect on their well-being as a result of the extra work and the accompanying stress.

This begs a valid question: How long can this continue?

For the past decade, I have regularly taught courses in organizational behavior. In all of the texts that I use, the concept of “sustainability” has been introduced and is now seen as mainstream. In this context, sustainability doesn’t mean what you might expect. We aren’t referring to being “green” or eco-friendly. It does not refer to on-the-job recycling programs or walking to work.

Sustainability, in an organizational sense, refers to if an organization (structure, work flow, policies, volume of work, etc.) is sustainable; if it can be maintained over time without breaking down. The idea is building a system of work so that the people in it can do their jobs without burning out.

These statistics show the trend is away from job sustainability.

Tips to manage your workload

As a natural business owner or manager, pay attention to your staff and make sure that you aren’t expecting too much of them. Better to have them at 90 or 95 percent of capacity over the next several years than to continually push them at 100 percent and lose them.

See Top 5 ways to improve employee morale and customer service

Also, there is one key person that you need to pay close attention to: you! In a small business when staffing cutbacks are made, where does the extra workload land? Probably in your lap. While things roll downhill in big business, in small business many things roll uphill. Big business has the CEO—Chief Executive Officer. Small business has the Chief Everything Officer! Be sure that you have time for yourself, your family and your hobbies.

If you don't make sure that your job is sustainable, who will? Tell me how you manage your workload in the comments.

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