Why is everyone so busy, and what can managers do about it?

Written by David Waller Tuesday 31 October 2023
The average working day has extended by 48 minutes since the Covid-19 pandemic, and being this busy impacts our productivity, efficiency and health. Here’s why managers are the key to managing stress in the workplace
Image of a man holding up a "HELP" sign at his desk

Ping. Ping. Finish email. Ping. Add another item to the to-do list. Ping. Open up Zoom meeting. Ping. Ping. Pause meeting to deal with child’s crayon emergency. Return to meeting. Delay incoming query from Peter in IT while on fire-fighting call to site manager. Bookmark this article for later. Ping… 

Sound familiar? The modern workplace is a swamp of multitasking. Agility may be all the rage, but that soon becomes a distant dream for anyone bogged down in competing demands and distractions. This ‘busy-ness’ can be a serious problem.

When new items are constantly added to an already bulging to-do list, people can quickly become overloaded, overwhelmed and over it. Being this busy can have a detrimental effect on people’s personal efficiency, productivity and performance, and that of their team. 

And, it can have a serious impact on our health.

The diagnosis? A strong case of post pandemic syndrome

Japan has had such a problem with overwork since the early 1970s, that the country has adopted a word to categorise the deaths it causes: karoshi. Karoshi most often comes from heart failure, stroke or suicide. 

There was a time when Japan, with its famously particular work culture, would have appeared as an outlier. Those days are now gone. A study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Labour Organisation found that 745,000 people around the world died in 2016 from stroke and heart disease as a direct result of having worked at least 55 hours a week.

And things haven’t gotten any better since. 

Want to learn more about post pandemic busy-ness and how to help your team cope?


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