Working hard is important. Indeed, as everyone who works in Payroll knows, working too hard is sometimes necessary, particularly around the busiest times of the year.
Payroll deadlines can cause stress levels to rise and if a problem occurs and payments are incorrect, then the midnight oil starts to burn. Payroll is a critical function, getting it out, correctly and on time can make or break a business. The ramifications of a delayed or incorrect salary payment run can be significant because overpaying, underpaying or not paying employees at all will result in knock-on effects that can rock a business to its core. Disgruntled employees can become lose faith in their employers and seek employment elsewhere. Overpayments can be a nightmare to recover. Directors may hold the payroll department responsible. The stress can be unbearable!
At JGA Recruitment we specialise in payroll recruitment so I speak to payroll professionals every day, and many in my view are overworked, overstressed, undervalued and underpaid. So before you reach your breaking point, what are the signs we should be looking out for? Are you working too hard?
There is a serious side to this too. Work can be depressing, and those who work long hours are twice as likely to experience mental health problems such as depression. A study by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health at University College in London discovered a clear link between overtime working and depression. Another study found a 67 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease among stressed workers too.
In some cases, people just do not know how to switch off. In others working too hard may only occur at critical times such as the end of the monthly payroll run. However, some people simply work too hard, all of the time. Worse still is the fact that many of you will not even be aware you are doing it. If you are reading this now, this could apply to you! So what signs should we be looking out for?
Here are seven tell-tale signs that you work in payroll and you are working too hard.
Working more than 50 hours a week — a number of studies have shown that working past a certain amount of hours can make a person unproductive. In fact, studies show that working either 55 hours a week or 70 hours a week results in the same level of output and productivity. If you are working long hours, you may be making an impression of being a committed Payroll team player by being at the office a lot, but you won’t be producing much more than the person next to you that comes in and leaves for regular working hours. Rather than working too hard, you would be better off doing your set hours, but focusing on doing an excellent job within that time and being highly productive. Ultimately the long hours are counter-productive as you could burn out and end up having to take time off sick — and that won’t impress anybody.
Trouble switching off — if you have trouble switching off when you’re away from work, and can’t keep your hands off your phone for checking for work emails; you’re working too hard in your Payroll role. There are very few tasks in Payroll that can’t wait until first thing the next morning, compared to say, emailing someone at 10pm at night. Again, to avoid burn out, you would be better off not checking work email, or making work calls out of hours, as this will allow you to properly switch off and relax. That way, when you are at work again, you will be fresher and ready for everything the day throws at you.
Making mistakes — when you work too hard, you are more likely to make mistakes. This is linked to working too many hours since after a while you become tired and burnt out and cannot think straight. If you start making more mistakes in your work than in the past, keep check of your hours for the next week or two, and compare this to the hours you were doing in the past. It is very likely you’ll find that you’ve been working too hard.
Not exercising — when you are working too hard it is all too easy to cut back on essential health aspects of life such as exercising. You think to yourself, “I won’t run tonight, I’ll just finish this off, and I’ll go tomorrow instead.” This is a slippery slope, mainly since exercising helps clear your mind and make you more productive in general. Famous, successful executives such as Richard Branson swear by exercising as part of a healthy routine that supports work, and the Harvard Business Review even goes so far as to suggest that exercising is part of your job. The Harvard Business Review states that mental agility is related to physical routine and that there are many cognitive advantages of exercise. If you avoid training so you can work more, you are not only working too hard, you are also engaging in behaviour that will make you less productive, so this is a problem to watch out for.
Not socialising — similarly to not exercising, if you are cutting down on time spent socialising so you can spend more time in your Payroll job, you are working too hard. Socialising does not necessarily bring about the same benefits that exercising does, but it does help you to take your mind off work for a while and focus on other things. This does have productivity benefits when you go back to work.
Feeling frustrated and fed up — when you feel entirely frustrated and fed up with everything this could be a sign that you’ve been working too hard. Long hours can make a person irritable, and unproductivity can also have the same effect. Your irritability could well be caused by working too hard, so watch out for this one.
Feeling Depressed or Anxious — As the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health study has shown, there is a clear link between working too hard and an increase in mental health problems. Mental Health Awareness week in October highlighted the rise in mental health problems in the UK with 65% of people saying they have experienced a mental health problem. Acknowledging you have a mental health problem can be difficult but if you are feeling depressed or anxious then it could be a sign that you are working too hard or that you are setting work expectations for yourself too high. Perhaps it is time to reconsider your work-life balance. A healthy mind and good wellbeing will typically result in better quality work too.
While working “too hard” may seem like a good thing on the surface of it, dig just a little deeper, and it can be seen that this can lead to burn out, mental health problems and ultimately a lack of employee engagement. If you’re making mistakes and feeling frustrated and fed up, you are not going to present the image to your boss of a person who is ready for new opportunities or promotion either. Instead of working too hard, why not work hard while you’re in the office but make sure you get that all-important downtime you need to be productive. Kick back and watch some TV once in a while, or get out and do some sport. That way, when you are at work, you’ll be better able to engage in what you’re doing, and you’ll make a much better impression too.
Love payroll, love what you do, work smart, work hard — just be careful not to overdo it.