Why workers are overwhelmed, and what companies can do to help

More information, at a faster pace, at any time of the day can help businesses make better decisions in real time. But that cavalcade of connectivity can be detrimental to employees, causing them to be overwhelmed, less productive and less engaged.

That’s the opinion of executives in a recent Deloitte survey. Sixty-five per cent of respondents consider the “overwhelmed employee” an urgent or important trend. Forty-four per cent say it’s a trend they’re not prepared to handle.

“With everyone hyper-connected, the reality may be that employees have few opportunities to get away from their devices and spend time thinking and solving problems,” Deloitte’s report said. “And the problem is getting worse. The sun never sets on a global company, so someone is always working, awaiting a response to an email or phone call.”

Fifty-seven per cent of respondents in the global survey of more than 2,500 business and HR leaders say their organisations are “weak” in helping leaders manage difficult schedules and helping workers manage the flow of information. In countries such as the UK, South Africa, Canada and the US, a large gap exists between employers’ urgency vs. readiness in handling the overwhelmed worker.

Deloitte’s report lists seven ways companies can save employees time and reduce on-the-job stress:

Lead through example. Companies should acknowledge the problem and help employees deal with being overwhelmed.

Get input. Assess employees’ workloads and ask specific questions about what frustrates them most.

Simplify HR and talent programmes. Reduce the steps and time needed to complete a task such as the employee portion of the annual review.

Simplify information and HR systems. Create a “learning architecture,” or an integrated place to find information.

Publicise and celebrate flexible work policies. Clear policies make it possible for people to disengage from less important tasks. Let employees understand it’s OK to miss a meeting or work at home.

Make meetings productive. Post guiding principles to encourage effective meetings, such as scheduling meetings for 20 or 50 minutes, instead of 30 or 60 minutes. Or try a “stand up” meeting.

Delegate decision-making. Is it clear who can make decisions in the group? Can team members make decisions without involving many others? If your direct reports have to ask permission for everything, they’re not empowered.

Related CGMA Magazine content:

Why You’re Never Safe From More Work – Even After Hours”: Just because it’s midnight doesn’t mean your boss expects you to stop working. More than a third of employees report getting work-related emails after work hours.

More and More, Employees Spend Off-the-Clock Time Working”: Going on holiday isn’t as refreshing as it used to be. Surveys in the UK and US show that managers and employees alike are treating time off differently than they used to.

Neil Amato ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.