Overwork may best be defined as too many duties and responsibilities for one worker, with too few hours in the day to complete all required tasks. It can lead to feeling overwhelmed, like you’ve lost control of your life.

The severe and persistent underfunding of social services in Ontario is a primary cause of overwork. Underfunding has resulted in restructuring, mergers and amalgamations, program closures, staff layoffs, an increased pace of work, and the marketization of social services through the increased use of direct funding, all of which contribute to overwork and burnout. Fewer workers are employed to provide the same level of service at a time when the demand for social services is growing. Specific causes of overwork include the following:

  • Increased paperwork expectations
  • Conflicting employer demands
  • Insufficient training, guidance and support
  • Too many additional responsibilities
  • Worker isolation and lack of contact with co-workers
  • No backfilling of workers on leaves of absence
  • No backfilling of workers on vacation days and holidays
  • Low client to worker ratios
  • Lack of full-time workers

Overwork has a direct negative impact on the quality of services provided. Workers often feel responsible or guilty for being unable to provide better quality supports especially in a climate of reduced funding where programs closures and staffing cuts are common.