Employees are the heartbeat of any successful company. When employees no longer feel engaged at work, processes will suffer. Unfortunately, not every employer knows when employees are being overworked, and the results can be catastrophic.

The Dangers of Overworking Employees

There isn’t a concrete definition for what it means to be overworked, but the typical workweek for an American employee is generally considered to be 40 hours. Despite this, half of all American employees indicate that they work more than 40 hours per week. (The average is 47 hours per week.) Roughly 25 percent of salaried employees say they average 60 hours per week.

Some people can work 47 hours per week and feel fine. There are even those who can put in a 60-hour week and not bat an eye. And this is why it’s often difficult for employers to know when employees are overworked. It’s more than a number – it’s the toll it takes on the individual.

Some of the dangers of overworking employees include:

• Lower morale. When employees are overworked, they start to feel stressed. This can lead to anxiety, which undermines morale and demotivates employees to serve the best interests of the company.

• Lower quality of work. Energy and concentration are finite resources. When they become depleted, the quality of work begins to slip. This may not be noticeable at first, but it eventually causes major concerns and issues – even going so far as to hurt customer satisfaction and sales.

• Loss in productivity. Ironically, overworking often has a negative impact on productivity. So not only are you getting lower quality work, but you’re also getting less output.

• Poor employee health and wellness. Finally, research reveals connections between excessive work and poor health and wellness. Specifically, it tends to feed habits like less sleep, poor diet, and a sedentary lifestyle.

Clearly there’s tremendous risk in overworking employees. Not only does it impact your business and bottom line, but it also puts employees’ health and wellness at risk.

If you worry that you may be overworking your team, now’s the time to solve the underlying problems at play.

Practical Ways to Avoid Overworking Employees

In order to prevent overworking your employees, you need to take a proactive approach. Here are a few ideas:

• Revamp HR Policies

It may be time to take your old HR policies and reshape them. Just as marketing, advertising, technology, and logistics change, so should your approach to HR and management. What worked 15 or 20 years ago is unlikely to produce the same results in today’s business landscape.

For example, instead of allowing employees to roll over vacation and sick days from year to year, make them use all of it each year (or at least a large portion of it).

“When your team is overworked, they begin to feel like they can’t leave the office. They may think that work won’t get done when they’re away or that they will be replaced,” recruiting and staffing agency Vincent Benjamin explains. “But vacation time away from the office is essential to employee health. It helps to recharge the personal batteries so they come back to the office feeling more productive.”

The same could be said of working from home. While there are exceptions, you should have dead periods where employees aren’t allowed to work from home. This prevents them from feeling like they’re always on the clock.

• Build Out Data-Driven Dashboards

While there’s definitely an intuitive aspect of knowing when your employees are overworked, it’s also helpful to have some objective numbers that reveal when something isn’t right.

Many companies find that an HR dashboard with relevant KPIs is a great way to track things like excessive overtime and high absenteeism (which often slip through the cracks).

• Gather Employee Feedback

You need an effective employee feedback loop in place to truly understand how your employees are doing on an individual basis. If you don’t currently seek out feedback, now’s the time to instigate some sort of option for employees to communicate how they’re doing in different areas.

• Get Your Priorities Straight

From a management perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in the notion that getting more hours out of your employees will result in greater productivity and profitability. However, there’s actually plenty of research to suggest that the latter is true.

In order to thrive, you need to put your employees in the right positions so they can maximize their energy and better serve the company. Sometimes this means working them less and developing schedules that work with them, as opposed to against them.