Risks to your physical, mental & emotional health

Excessive workload is a major issue, and it’s getting worse.

It causes real harm to mental, emotional and physical health: fatigue in particular is a significant cause of accidents and incidents in workplaces and much of it can be traced back to excessive workload.

Employers rarely deal with excessive workload unless prompted by action from workers. Some employers mistakenly believe it is an issue for workers to sort out themselves: that if only you managed your time better—spent less time talking, or worked more quickly—the issues would magically resolve themselves. This is a blatant attempt to shift responsibility for excessive workload from the employer to workers.

Organisational changes or workplace restructures can result in heavy workloads, long working days, unpaid overtime, staffing cuts and high demands. It all stems back to management allocating insufficient time and/or staffing to properly complete work.

Such changes can be the result of a desire to achieve“efficiency targets” (getting more work from you for the same or less cost). Ultimately the mentality leads to the bottom line coming before your wellbeing and overall health.

Workers who fail to report excessive workload are enabling management to never address the issue. Failure to report even encourages management to keep trying to achieve more “efficiency targets”, believing that if no-one is complaining, there must be more “fat to trim”.

You can find yourself in a Catch 22: You want to report excessive workload but are so busy you keep putting off completion of the paperwork required to formally lodge a complaint.

But it is important to make the time to complete an incident report each and every time you identify an unsafe condition, and to encourage workmates to do the same.

Completing an incident report places responsibility and accountability back onto the employer, where it belongs, and gives them nowhere to hide. An incident report can also be the start of a paper trail to identify and demonstrate the existence of ongoing problems unresolved by managers.

How you can recognise excessive workload:

  • Inadequate time to complete work
  • Performing tasks beyond your position’s statement of duties
  • Insufficient number of staff to complete work
  • Lack of necessary resources to carry out the work
  • Unsustainable pace of work
  • Rostering with inadequate time for rest to avoid fatigue
  • Overloaded with responsibilities
  • A feeling clients’ care is compromised by the amount of work
  • Excessive hours
  • Lack of staff support
  • Insufficient breaks

What you can do about excessive workload:

  • ‍Address it as a risk to health and safety by raising it at WHS committee meetings
  • Submit incident reports to increase the employer’s awareness. Documenting is a very important step and the best way to make sure something’s done about the issue. Remember to document close misses (when an accident or injury nearly happens) as well as actual incidents
  • Use the in-house complaint procedure to voice workload concern. Ask colleagues to do the same thing, or management won’t understand it is a widespread problem
  • Organise a meeting through your HACSU delegate
  • Have regular contact with your HSR or WHS committee representative – or become one! HACSU can help you in this process
  • Take breaks when they are due and encourage everyone to do the same: don’t work through them or cut them short. Otherwise you endanger your workplace health and safety and create an atmosphere where legitimate breaks are viewed as an optional extra, and those who take them are viewed as “lazy” or “not team players”
  • Ask for a risk assessment of your working conditions
  • Fully understand what is expected of you by reading your job description and knowing your workplace policies and procedures
  • Discover what training is available for your role to assist with your workplace safety
  • Don’t give up! Never underestimate the power of committed people. It’s the only thing that has ever created change

Worried about your workload? HACSUassist offers support and guidance for HACSU members and all calls are confidential. Just call 1300 880 032.