California Workers Fear Getting Overworked—And They’re Right To

Californians feel overloaded at work. But that’s just the beginning of their fears.

california biggest workplace fears

When is the Golden State not so golden?

Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, as it turns out. Or, for many workers, from 8 to 6 or even 8 to 8.

That’s what we found when we surveyed Californians to find their biggest workplace fears. Our study revealed that California workers have more work-related fears than the nation at large—but they fear overwork more than anything else.

And with six California cities appearing in the top 20 of the hardest-working states in the nation, these workers might have good reason.1

Keep reading as we unpack Californian’s workplace worries to see just how legitimate and common they are (or aren’t).

California dreaming (on such a long workday)

Of the eight fears mentioned in our survey, overwork scared Californians the most. Frankly, the fear seems well-founded.

After all, California is home to Silicon Valley and its notoriously overworked tech industry, with workers at companies like Tesla and Electronic Arts alleging brutal working hours.2,3 And even outside the Silicon Valley, you’ll find employees complaining of overwork at companies like Los Angeles County’s Space X.4

But overwork plagues more than just people in tech jobs. California DMV workers, for example, complain of huge amounts of overtime,5 and truck drivers in California report 120-hour workweeks.6

In the end, the industry might not even matter. Overloaded employees work in all sorts of roles—from entry-level jobs to CEOs—at all sorts of companies. Because when your boss asks you to work overtime, they probably don’t take your industry’s average hours worked into account.

Besides, industry is far from the only factor that makes people worry about work overload. Our study revealed some information about the kinds of people that worry most about overwork:

  1. Individuals with children at home worry more about overwork than their childless counterparts.
  2. Millennials fear getting overworked far more than other age groups.

Which isn’t to say that childless Baby Boomers don’t worry about work overload at all; they just worry at a lower rate than other groups.

Here’s the kicker in all this: all that time at work might not even matter. Employees across industries report that much of their work time gets wasted each week—almost 50% in some cases—even in industries that get chronically overworked, like law and real estate.7 And the evidence shows that extra hours at the office don’t lead to increased productivity.8 In other words, all that Silicon Valley overtime is probably for nothing.

California fears, they’re undeniable

While work overload scares Californians the most, they have other fears nagging at them, too. Job loss and low pay scare almost as many workers as overwork does.

The top three fears

While work overload scares the most people (43% of respondents), job loss and lack of compensation were close runners-up, worrying 42% and 41% of Californians, respectively.

Even less-common fears from our study worry a large percentage of California workers. Fears like bullying from coworkers or limited parental leave frighten fewer Californians than work overload does, but our study shows that almost one-third of Californians still worry about these concerns.

California’s workplace fears
FearPercentage of concerned California workersPercentage of concerned national workers
Work overload43%37%
Losing my job42%38%
Lack of compensation/ reward41%41%
Being physically assaulted by coworkers33%24%
Limited maternity/ paternity leave31%23%
Being bullied by coworkers30%26%
Being sexually harassed or assaulted by coworkers26%24%

In fact, for all eight fears we looked at, Californians hold these fears at a much higher rate than the nation at large.

Before you dismiss California workers as a bunch of scaredy cats, we should tell you that 73% of Californians have experienced one or more of these fears in the past year. Suddenly, those fears sound pretty justified.

Plenty of room at the Hotel California

The California workplace might be scary, but the state still has a lot going for it: from national parks to innovative businesses to low property taxes, there’s much to like about the state.

So if you’re a Californian dealing with work overload, don’t think you have to flee the state. But you probably should push back against your boss, because work overload can have real effects on the rest of your life—like raising your blood pressure, increasing interpersonal conflict, and causing accidents.9

Scary stuff, right? For your own sake, don’t wait; face your (workplace) fears. Because the Golden State should stay golden—even during the workweek.   

Hey California, did our study get your workplace fears right? Tell us in the comments below!

Our methodology

We conducted our study in partnership with Lux. All information was gathered via phone and email surveys. We spoke with 100 people from each state for a total of 5,000 participants.


  1. Wallet Hub, “2018’s Hardest-Working Cities in America
  2. The Guardian, “Tesla Factory Workers Reveal Pain, Injury, and Stress: Everything Feels Like the Future but Us
  3. CNET, “Electronic Arts Faces Overtime Lawsuit
  4. International Business Times, “SpaceX Lawsuit Alleges Elon Musk’s Rocket Company Forced Hourly Employees to Work ‘Off the Clock’”
  5. The Mercury News, “DMV Workers Literally Sick from Stress; Overtime Up 232 Percent This Year
  6. Truckinginfo, “USA Today Finds Drivers Being Overworked at Ports
  7. The Sleep Judge, “America’s Ideal Work Schedule
  8. Entrepreneur, “Working More Doesn’t Mean You’re Being More Productive
  9., “Negative Effects of a Heavy Workload