Is there a time management crossroad?

I, like many people, have been part of a workforce where time management has been focused on both by the employees and the company, but is there a crossroad that we can potentially face where we can choose whether we need time management tools or whether we just need to find a different job? It is not always possible to do this, but it does beg the question of whether the potential stress of being overworked can lead to there being a crossroad where a person can choose to change their life, or choose to deal with it in some way. Or neither, and just put up with it. All three options have their pros and cons, and depending on a person’s life situation, this itself could dictate which one they end up choosing, or settling with.

The job

Every job is different, with each one bringing their own roles, responsibilities, challenges, and potential stress, and it can depend on what industry you work in to determine which aspect can cause the most stress. One example of this would be working in a retail shop, where the customers are your main focus. The customers may be the biggest source of any issues you have within your job. Another example is working in an office where the main people you interact with are colleagues, and therefore your colleagues may be the reasons behind any stress you experience. There is also a difference in experiences due to a person’s job role, and I don’t think it is just people in senior positions that can be under pressure, experience high levels of stress, and have a large amount of work to carry out. A person can be overworked at any level, and it can depend on how the person deals with such a heavy workload, to how they cope with any subsequent pressure they may feel. A person may not have experienced such practices in previous employment and therefore struggle to adapt, or a person’s role may change where they now have to carry out different tasks, and they may find them difficult to manage. The possibilities for such issues are endless, but I would say that most employees experience some level of such problems at some point.

The problem

In the UK, excluding exceptions, people can work a maximum of 48 hours a week. With a one-hour lunch break, this would mean that people would need to be at work for around eleven hours a day to be breaking the law. That may seem like a large amount of hours to be working, but in some industries it is more normal than not to be working so much. Industries that have strict deadlines on projects, for example, can warrant employees to work as much as the job needs them to. In general, UK employees should receive at least 28 days of paid annual leave each year, which can include bank holidays. Of course, this is only if people take them. Some people may choose not to, and actually prefer to be working, but overall, the picture isn’t a good one in the UK.

A recent report found that the intensity of effort workplaces require is at a new high, with nearly 50% of workers expected to work very hard, and the number of jobs that require this has almost doubled in the last 25 years. You may think that every job should require workers to work ‘very hard’, but in reality a lot employees can have flexibility with their role, which is fair because being 100% focused for every moment of those working hours is almost impossible, and is especially not a good thing to do for people’s stress levels.

In 2016/17, the Health and Safety Executive reported that over half a million workers were suffering from anxiety, depression, or work-related stress, while 12.5 million working days were lost because of these. Stress in the short-term can actually be a good thing, but long-term stress can lead to blood vessels being damaged, raised blood pressure, and cholesterol. There are many ways in which stress can be seen in a person and their life, but the physical symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Pain or muscle tension
  • Problems sleeping
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Eating a lot or not enough

Looking at these statistics and information regarding stress, I believe something needs to be done to tackle this huge issue, and quickly. Although I’m sure it will never be straightforward because you can’t always change a person’s situation if they don’t want it to be changed in the first place.

The solution?

As I have already said, some people like having lots of work to do and work better under such pressure, but there are varying levels of this, and the statistics for the overall current situation does not make for good reading. It is very easy to say this, but at the end of the day, a job is only a job. Yes, some people’s careers are their lives; some people focus all of their energy on their career and forget about every other aspect. Some people, on the other hand, see their job as just a way of earning money and therefore a way to live; a means to an end. But what about the people who just find themselves under increasingly heavy workloads? A workload they can’t control and therefore they have to either learn to live with the pressure of having so much work to do, or learn to manage and prioritise what work they carry out and when they do it.

Depending on where a person works, some companies have stress-management training or have ways of managing workloads, but the easy way of dealing with it is for it not to be there in the first place. However, this is rarely an appropriate way of combating such a situation. Therefore, an alternative way is for a person to find another job. This has the potential of being effective because it may be that the current place of work has certain ways of carrying out tasks or general ways of working. If so, then changing job could have a positive impact on a person’s current work predicament.  However, looking for a new job could bring about just as much stress than what a person is trying to get away from; both when searching for a new job and when they are actually in a new job. This is the risk anyone takes when they leave one job and start another – is the grass always greener on the other side?

The saying ‘a change is as good as a rest’ may be relevant to this predicament because a person who may want to change their job could change their role completely. Each person’s work situation is unique to them, and only they know if they want to change their current position. Sometimes the positives can out way the negatives, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that there is a major problem in the UK with workplace stress, and the problems that come with that.

By the term crossroad, I mean that you can look in one direction and see the same amount of work piling up, and possibly just a better way of dealing with it, or look in the other direction and there is a change. A potentially unknown, scary change, but a change nonetheless. I think there is always the potential for a crossroad to exist if people want it to. Personally, I think that if you are in the position where you are able to change your circumstances, that time management crossroad is very real, and you can either put up with what’s currently happening or you can change the situation altogether. Whether it is the solution or not is up to the individual because every person is unique and so is their situation. No one should tell someone what to do in their life, but I would absolutely say that if a job is negatively impacting upon a person, then it definitely time to think about how to change what is going on. My advice would be to look at the time management crossroad and pick a way to go, but make sure it is the right way for you.

  1. Keeping MBPsS MSc PgDip GDip BA (Hons)