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Work-life balance: here's how to avoid regular overtime

Managers are not always aware of the impact they can have on their employees' private lives. Does a project need to be submitted a few days sooner than planned? Or, for example, are you unexpectedly assigned some extra tasks due to a colleague's absence?  Then the chances are pretty high that you will have to work overtime. If this happens occasionally, it is not a problem, but working overtime on a regular basis can have negative consequences. Stephen Fournier, senior consultant at international recruitment agency Robert Walters, offers some tips on how to avoid working overtime too often.  

Consequences for your health 

Working overtime is part of the business world. However, there is a big difference between staying in the office a little longer every now and then and working overtime structurally. Just last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published a report on the harmful effects of overworking. The conclusion was clear: working too much overtime makes for poorer health. It causes a lot of stress, which in turn can lead to burn-out, panic attacks or even heart problems.  

Consequences for organisations 

Besides health problems for the employee, overworking can also be detrimental for the employer. For example, when an employee drops out due to burnout as a result of an excessive workload, the organisation suffers economically. Stephen explains: "Healthy, enthusiastic employees are worth gold to a company. They reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and, through their enthusiasm, also encourage other employees to try harder. When these employees then work too much and then drop out due to illness, it is logical that the organisation will not function as normal as a result, and so there are economic consequences." 

Talk to your supervisor 

Overworking too often has mostly losers. Fortunately, there are some measures you can take to avoid working longer hours too often. For example, do you notice that your supervisor schedules "extra hours" on different days? Then you can't really talk about overtime anymore, because it happens on a regular basis. "Dare to raise the alarm in time if this happens. Talk to your supervisor or the HR manager. Perhaps you will come to a solution together. However, if that does not work, you can also seek outside help. Trade unions or employment lawyers may be able to give you the advice you need." 

Take the time to relax

There are also some less extreme but equally effective solutions for employees who work longer hours of their own accord. "As soon as you get home, make the switch too, and resist the temptation to check some more emails. Because before you know it, you'll be several hours away again," warns Stephen. "Instead, do something relaxing, like watching a film, taking the dog for a walk or cooking."  

Especially on home working days, it can be difficult to stop in time. "It helps to set up a dedicated workspace in the house for working only. So don't linger there too long after working hours," Stephen advises.  

Learn to let go  

It is also important not to pull all the responsibility towards you. Your colleagues are there to help you, and they can undoubtedly perform certain tasks just as well. "Learn to trust their ability, and don't be too perfectionist. Managers too should not take on all tasks. For them, a good work-life balance is at least as important as for their employees. So, learning to delegate is the 'way to go'" says Stephen. 

Know your own limits 

Of course, occasionally working overtime is quite ok. "It is related to 'flexibility', which is very important for many professionals today. After all, some working days last longer than others. Above all, it should not become unhealthy, and the longer-term 'workload' should remain balanced. 

Everyone is different, so where the line between healthy and unhealthy lies varies from person to person.


Some professionals can handle a larger workload than others, and even get extra energy from long, productive days. Work out for yourself where your limit lies. Remember well that those who choose a healthy work-life balance will always end up doing a better job, especially in the long run," Stephen concludes.  

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Have a look at other tips and advice to advance your career. Looking for a new professional challenge? View our latest vacancies.

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Find out more by contacting one of our specialist recruitment consultants

Stephen Fournier

Senior Consultant | Financial Services | Brussels
Phone: 0471 61 16 06

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