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1 in 3 are overworked, survey finds

NEW YORK — One in three American workers are chronically overworked, with job-related stress varying significantly by age, employment situation and demands at home, according to a new survey.

The survey by the Families and Work Institute largely echoes one done by the group in 2001, which also found that a third of employees are highly overworked. But that static result obscures changes in the workplace, where some workers are more stressed even as others — particularly younger workers — are finding ways to balance the demands.

"In some sense, things are getting worse. People are working longer hours and their jobs are becoming more demanding," said Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, a nonprofit research group. "On the other hand, employers have become more flexible, and that tends to lessen being overworked, and also, people's priorities have changed."

More than half of the 1,003 workers surveyed said they are often handling too many tasks at the same time or are frequently interrupted during the workday or both.

Employees at companies that had gone through layoffs were more likely to be overworked — 42 percent compared to the 27 percent of those at companies where payrolls remained steady. More than a third of workers said they are not taking their full allotment of vacation time.

About 37 percent of baby boomers, those between 40 and 59 years old, report being chronically overworked. But just 28 percent of Generation Y workers (ages 18 to 25) and 29 percent of Generation X workers (ages 26 to 39) fall into that category.

The numbers reflect the fact that, unlike many boomers, younger workers often divide their focus between jobs and life outside work, Galinsky said.

Workers with children are, generally, no more likely to be severely overworked than those without. But employees with teenagers do appear under more pressure, with 40 percent reporting high stress levels. In addition, 37 percent of workers who care for their own parents or older relatives are chronically overworked, compared to 28 percent of those without such responsibilities.

Job-related stress also varied by income and job responsibility, with larger numbers of managers and people earning more than $50,000 a year overworked. At companies that give employees flexibility in balancing home and job responsibilities, just 26 percent report being chronically overworked. But at companies without such flexibility, 56 percent are overworked.

The survey, done by telephone in October and November, has a margin of error of +/- 2.2 percent.