Coping With Excessive Work Demands

Ph.D., CPsychol., AFBPsS, Health Professional
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Do you ever get the feeling that no matter how much you give, or how hard you work or try, it's never quite enough? Sadly this is the experience for too many people. We live in a time when more is expected for the same or even fewer rewards. The rationale (okay excuse) from employers is that it's the only way they can compete, but do we have to sign up to such demands?

I should say there are a few enlightened companies. They tell people to take their break entitlement and they prefer that you go home when its time and not take work home with you. Why? It's because they are savvy enough to realize if you push people too hard they become demoralized and eventually ill. Retention of good staff means you treat them as valuable assets. However,  this post isn't about such positive practices, this is about how best to cope with the excessive demands being placed on you.

Perhaps half the battle is accepting that this is the way the company chooses to operate. It's a wearing and frustrating thing to continually feel put upon and hoping something will change, so the trick is to have your own working philosophy that will help you stay well. For example:

If you work in a performance-measured environment use this as your core strategy. You can't be everything to everyone but you can try to ensure you meet the objectives outlined in your performance review. This will reflect your contractural obligations so there shouldn't be a conflict.

Expect that from time to time there may be peak workloads. It occurs in a lot of occupations and is simply part of the job. We're designed to operate efficiently and effectively in short stressful bursts, but you must try not to allow this to become the norm or you'll burn out.

Delegate what you can, pace yourself and take your break entitlements. Keep in mind that an ’entitlement’ means just that. You may need to negotiate a little for cover, but don't get sucked into a system where losing your breaks becomes the norm. Move away from the work environment and take your break elsewhere.

Keep your working environment clutter free. It's more efficient and less frustrating if you know where to lay your hands on exactly what you need.

Keep fit and use the time intended for your leisure for that purpose.

Don't waste time on trying to change what you can't. We all have a sphere of influence and there are nearly always limitations. For example, the fact that a colleague has lower standards, isn't as quick, or reliable as you can be hugely frustrating, but unless you're the boss with the necessary powers to make changes, accept there may be little you can do about those things overlooked by those who can, but who choose not to.

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