Tales From the Overworked

Kristina didn't sign up for this.

The Oklahoma woman is the childcare director at her local YMCA. Lately, however, a staffing shortage at the chapter has forced Kristina to pitch in and help with other work, like advising members on how to use gym equipment.

"It's really tough," said the 28-year-old, who professed to having no interest in exercise. "It's like, 'OK, if you don't do it, who is going to do it?' and that just adds to your stress."

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Hundreds of miles away, Meagan, 27, a funeral home office manager in Ohio, has a more morbid story to tell. Cost-cutting by her employer has meant that Meagan is sometimes tasked with applying makeup to and styling hair on the deceased.

"I hate it!" she wrote in a message to ABCNews.com. "I don't enjoy being around dead people, but I respect them and their family, so I just deal with it."

As recession-wary businesses continue to slash jobs and more Americans struggle with unemployment, those who are fortunate enough to stay employed are grappling with their own problems: fear, frustration and, of course, more work.

"Employees are faced with doing more with less. That's like the mantra when you survive the layoffs," said Jenny Schade, the president of JRS Consulting, a management and marketing consulting firm in Chicago. "The organization is often so focused on getting through the layoffs that they don't determine in advance how the remaining employees are going to do all the work that everybody was doing to begin with."

Schade, a trained therapist who has worked with more than 1,000 employees at companies undergoing layoffs, calls these remaining employees the "working wounded."

"What you have is employees who have a form of survivor's guilt -- they made it through the layoffs, they've seen their colleagues lose their jobs, they feel guilty about this, and they're faced with a huge workload," she said. "It's demoralizing."

"Survivor's guilt" and low morale may be especially prevalent within the auto industry, where thousands of layoffs have left remaining industry workers reeling.

High Expectations, Low Morale

"I find it really hard to complain about an extra workload when so many great employees have been let go," said Laura, an employee at a Michigan auto supply company who, like others interviewed for this story, declined to give her last name for fear of endangering her job.

What makes life especially difficult, Laura said in a message to ABCNews.com, is that her managers' expectations remain high. They want "miracles," she said.

"There just aren't enough hours in the day to get it all done. … The stress of that alone has been rough enough but add to the fact that each day you wonder if you'll be the next to be let go. It's just getting to be too much," she said.

Sometimes the extra work that employees are asked to do falls largely outside their job descriptions. That's the case for Meagan and Kristina.

Kristina, who said she earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education, feels woefully underqualified when advising customers on exercise.

"You almost kind of feel like a fraud when you're telling them all these things they should be doing," she said. "They're like, 'Oh, you work here, you should know.' But really, I don't have all the information."

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