What's the difference between OVERWORK and OVERTIME?

I teach a lot of businesspeople. They often tell me that they have to overwork. What they mean is do (work) overtime.

We all have to do overtime sometimes. We might need to stay at the office for an extra hour or two, or perhaps we have to work on our day off. Overtime just means working outside your normal work hours.

Overwork means that you work too much. It means that you regularly work until late at night, and that you hardly ever take the day off. Overwork can lead to stress and more serious health problems. The Japanese word, karoshi, is pretty famous outside Japan and is often translated as “death from overwork“.

Here are some useful phrases using overtime and overwork:

  • “I’d like to come for a drink, but I have to do a bit of overtime tonight.”
  • “I’ve been doing a lot of overtime lately.”
  • “If you want to impress the boss, you will have to put in some overtime.”
  • “I heard he overworked himself, and now he’s had a heart attack.”
  • “Don’t overwork the staff, or they'll quit.”

Bonus point: Many times we say people in important jobs (like police, doctors or firefighters) are overworked and underpaid.