What Is Hidden Overwork And Why You Should Try To Avoid It

Hidden overwork, or the action of doing extra work for feeling like you have to get ahead both on the clock and off, is detrimental to one's well-being and should be avoided.

By Trista Sobeck | Published

Oh look, another work-life balance buzzword. “hidden overwork” has been hitting social media and online pubs this week. Look at it as the opposite of its sister “quiet quitting.” Where quiet quitting is doing a silent goodbye and nothing new, overwork is loudly (read, desperately) trying to get ahead. 

Sometimes, hidden overwork doesn’t happen on purpose. Sometimes it’s done intentionally. Whatever the motivation, experts warn not to do it. According to the BBC, workers have been participating in work after work hours for some time. It’s nothing new. 

But, yet again, we have COVID-19 to thank for blurring the lines between personal and work hours. Because many knowledge workers have been working from home for so long, it’s hard to know where work stops and personal life begins. Hidden overwork sometimes just happens. 

But Why Do We Want To Work All The Time?

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Sometimes, it’s just hard to turn off. Sometimes it’s hard to put that project down that you’ve been working on for hours, giving your blood, sweat, and tears, because you are determined to nail that project. And sometimes, you just never think you’re enough so you give more than you need to because you always feel you have something to prove.

And that, unfortunately, is more common in women. It’s known as imposter syndrome. But, sadly, hidden overwork, is only hurting everyone. 

But, we must remember that gender disparity is very real. Women–especially in male-dominated fields–receive different treatment–than their male counterparts. And, women in the United States typically have a lower salary than males who have the same job. 

It’s no wonder that women are already pre-programmed to take part in hidden overwork. They want to get ahead. They need to get ahead just to put them on a level playing field with the “boys club.” But, that is more than likely impossible.

Hidden overwork is a bit different than working all the time or not turning off after work hours. It’s going above and beyond the ask or adding more to the project at hand. It’s as innocuous as jotting down the name of a helpful book on your career someone lets you know about when you’re at a social event.

Or, it’s as monumental as working on “black box” projects that aren’t on the books or even requested by leadership. Sometimes, workers will create projects just to make them stand out from the crowd or even to get an imagined raise; imagined because maybe that raise isn’t even in the budget! 

According to experts, most supervisors or bosses, don’t even realize that hidden overwork is happening. And sometimes, hidden overwork isn’t all bad. It’s the intrinsic motivation that could be the negative component of it. 

Not The Way To Success

If you’re working on something because you’re passionate about it, but don’t expect anything extra to come out of it, that hidden overwork, isn’t so bad. It’s when you spend so much time trying to get ahead, trying to shine so you can stand out, that it can be a big negative.

So, before you go doing extra for your job, it’s important to figure out your motives. Is it because you’re passionate and just love the work, or is it because you’re in a bit of a midlife crisis and are doubting yourself? Hidden overwork is not the ideal way to combat that.

In a world, where we are trying everything to make our lives more comfortable, including trying out a four-day work week, we should just realize that the best way to balance is to do what we can during the work hours and then fully immerse ourselves into our personal lives the rest of the time.