Career Design Lab

Cope with overload

Knowledge work is becoming increasingly complex and demanding, oftern resulting in an overload. Research-based tools can help you tackle the demands more analytically and systematically.
A person balancing

Job demands and resources

One way to cope with the increasing overload is to consider the balance between the demands of a job and the resources you have available to respond to them. A framework called the job demands-resources model helps to address this balance.

The basic premise of the demands-resources model is that a continued imbalance created by experiencing higher demands than resources leads to exhaustion and the risk of burn-out. To address this imbalance, the model helps you influence the overload from two directions - by lowering the demands and/or increasing the resources.

The demands can be reduced by saying no to some requests, asking for more resources or adjusting the job description. there are both external and internal resources to deal with the overload. The internal resources consist of solutions that increase the feeling of control and self-efficacy. As the demands are often harder to address, personal resources become key to sustainable work. In fact, it is often not the amount of work in itself that drives the stress reaction, but rather the feeling of constantly being overwhelmed and not able to cope.


1. Sources of overload

Analyze the sources of overload you are facing. Consider the following sources:

  • Role overload (too many tasks and responsibilities)
  • Information overload (interruptions, multiple communication channels, emails, messages etc.)
  • Collaboration overload (number of meetings and interactions vs. time for focused work)
  • Work-life conflict (high overall demands or negative effects of work on personal life & responsibilities)

2. Resources available

Consider the resources you have available such as social (emotional support) and psychological (feeling of control) factors or people who could help.

3. Strategies and actions

What actions can you take to reduce demands and build resources in your job/studies (or life as a whole)?

Two people looking over a fence

Future of Work MOOC (external link)

This course looks at how the roles of the individual, organisations and society have changed and how it affects how we work today and in the future.

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