Is Working Overtime an Opportunity or a Form of Abuse?
About a couple of months ago, managers would rather gouge their eyes out than let their employees work from their homes. However, we can all agree that the world has changed between then and now. Probably one of the few positive things that came out of the COVID-19 pandemic is the remote workforce phenomenon. The uncertain future may have most of us resorting back to our nail-biting habits. However, the thought of working in pajamas all day and avoiding pesky Karen from accounting had us doing our mini victory dance.
Unfortunately, all the fun was quickly overshadowed when the work-from-home novices discovered that the remote setup was more intense than traditional office work. People found new challenges that they were not hardwired to deal with. Because their personal space has become their ‘workspace,’ it is now extremely difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance. This is also the reason why working overtime is tricky—both from the management side and the employee side of any business.
With millions of workers creating a virtual office in their homes, managers and employees alike must ask this question:
Is working overtime a good thing amidst the pandemic?
While overtime work has many benefits for both the employee and employer, it is important to know when to draw the line between opportunity and exploitation. In this post, we’re going to explore the factors that make after-hours work beneficial and what pushes it to become abusive.
What You’ll Love About Overtime Work
As long as employment laws are followed, working overtime can bring various benefits for both the employer and employee. Here are some of the factors that make it advantageous for anyone:
Most of us cannot go out anyway because bars are closed and the threat of the virus is still out there. So, there’s no need to feel bad about those wasted Tinder matches. With nothing better to do, you might as well do some overtime work. Of course, a bigger paycheck can be the extra push you need to choose your workspace over your Netflix account. For instance, in California, non-exempt employees get to earn 1.5 times their regular wage if they’ve been working overtime, being compensated for every hour exceeding the 40-hour workweek.
You might ask, “Is overtime work an opportunity?” For some, it is not. There are certain types of employees that are exempted from California’s overtime pay law. Some of the workers that do not get overtime pay include taxi drivers, executives, outdoor salespeople, administrative professionals, national service program employees, and actors, among many others.
Higher Chances of Promotion
Most employers appreciate workers who do not mind going the extra mile to get projects done. This way, one can easily be branded as a hard-working employee and an efficient team player. By working overtime, you can put yourself in your supervisor’s good graces. Of course, you’ll come to mind when there are opportunities for a raise or promotion. Even if you’re not mandated to stay after office hours, working overtime will show how flexible you are. Consequently, if you’re working overtime, you can increase your chances of promotion.
On the business side, having more employees who are willing to put in extra work can bring financial benefits. By having all hands on deck even after hours, the company can avoid costly recruitment: worker shortages will be addressed without having to add more people to the team. Of course, this could also mean providing bigger compensation to existing employees. Indeed, there are mutual benefits to the employee and the employer.
The longer the hours employees put in, the more results they generate. Consequently, the company can produce more services or goods and deliver them to customers at a quicker rate. Of course, employees also get to ride on the success and growth of a business. By helping the company thrive, workers can enjoy benefits such as incentives, job stability, bonuses, and raises. If a business is profitable, employees also have more opportunities for earning money.
When Is Overtime Considered Abusive?
Let’s not forget that overtime work also has some risks, especially when it is not implemented reasonably. There are plenty of reasons why working overtime is not a good idea. Here are some of the factors that make it abusive:
When It’s Affecting Your Physical Health
Handling a bit of after-hours work may not seem much. However, a study from Columbia University revealed that adding more hours of sedentary work can put a strain on a person’s heart. The study even equated it to the dangers of smoking. Now, if overtime work cannot be avoided, don’t stay glued to your computer. Remember to take breaks and go for a quick walk. Always get your blood pumping, especially when you have to work more hours.
Even so, keep in mind that working overtime—especially when it comes to physical labor—can be extremely dangerous to a person’s health. Overworked muscles and excessive fatigue can lead to injuries and accidents. It isn’t worth earning the extra bucks when you’ll only end up spending more on expensive hospital bills. You’ll have to go through the long journey to recovery before you can even go back to full employment.
When It’s Affecting Your Mental Health
A lot of employees are forced to put in extra hours because of the overwhelming and urgent tasks that their bosses assign to them. According to CompPsych’s 2016 StressPulse SM survey, 39% of workers consider workload as the primary source of their stress. Studies have shown that intense stress and working overtime can lead to various problematic habits and health issues. These include drinking too much alcohol, overeating, insomnia, and depression.
When It’s Harming Your Personal Life
You’re already spending a significant portion of your life working. So, putting in more hours means taking even more time away from your personal life. Working overtime for an hour or two per day may not seem much, but it’s eating up the time you spend on socializing, hobbies, and sleeping. What’s more, it may even damage your relationships outside work. In a study conducted by Cornell University, 30% of the respondents who put in more than 60 hours of work per week reported ‘severe work-family conflicts’, and such issues can lead to higher divorce rates.
When It’s Leaving You Emotionally Exhausted
Most of us want to have a fulfilling and satisfying career. However, even if you love your job, spending most of your waking hours on it can eventually drain your enthusiasm. Over time, you’ll find that you’re running out of creative ideas and you’re always feeling emotionally exhausted. A research published in International Studies of Management & Organization found that long working hours can result in burnout. Of course, emotionally and mentally exhausted employees can be debilitating to the operations of a company. A survey conducted by Kronos and the Future Workplace discovered that about 95% of HR leaders admit that burnout is affecting their workforce. With the increasing frustration and lower morale due to working overtime, the turnover rates also rise.
When You’re Not Paid Justly
Getting extra money is a great motivator for employees. Unfortunately, paid overtime can be a privilege that only a few can enjoy. For instance, when TotallyMoney surveyed 2,000 workers in the UK, they found that 59% of the respondents don’t get compensated for the additional hours they put in. What’s more, these extra hours are not convertible to extra days off. While there are obvious benefits in overtime work, companies can easily abuse it, using it to their advantage.
How to Keep Overtime Work in Check
It can be challenging to manage the issues that come with working overtime, especially for companies employing remote teams. Thankfully, there are various ways to ensure that it remains a fair and rewarding practice. Here are some tips we recommend:
Tracking Work Hours
As we’ve mentioned, organizations can easily take advantage of overtime work. This is also among the reasons why member states of the European Union require employers to track overtime work. By monitoring work hours, employees can ensure that they get fair compensation for the total time they worked. Our tip is to have a tool that will make the process easier. With a time tracker like Traqq, you can monitor overtime hours accurately. What’s more, this tool still monitors time even when the user is not connected to the Internet. So, it is perfect for individuals who want to collect accurate data without exerting too much effort.
The benefits of using Traqq go both ways. While it ensures fair compensation for working overtime, it also encourages accountability. This time tracker takes random screenshots of a user’s desktop. So, even when an employee is logging extra hours, their employer can rest easy knowing that every minute they pay goes to productive work. Moreover, Traqq is quite useful in tracking the productivity of a remote team. It records the activity levels of a user based on their keyboard movements and mouse clicks and scrolls.
Creating a Healthy Work Culture
We all know that having a culture of working overtime in the office may lead to negative outcomes. A lot of employees are forced to work overtime even when they clearly don’t want to. To avoid the negative impact of overtime work, as an employer, you should clearly communicate your company’s policy concerning overtime work. Moreover, the conditions, compensation, and terms should be explicitly stated in an employee’s contract. You can also use Traqq to collect data on your workers’ overtime behavior. This way, you can ensure that no one is abused and that everyone is taking breaks regularly.
Ensure Fair Compensation
Fair compensation has been a long-running issue with overtime work. It’s only natural for employees to assume that they’ll automatically receive some sort of compensation for working extra hours beyond their contract. Well, you will be surprised to learn that overtime law varies significantly from country to country.
For instance, the UK government does not require employers to compensate their staff for working overtime. As long as they pay salaries that meet the minimum wage requirements, they can let their employees work off the clock. Legally speaking, workers cannot expect their employers to give them a higher rate or additional payment for overtime work. However, it’s worth noting that in Germany and some other European countries, employees can accrue time in lieu of overtime.
Now, things can get a bit confusing when we talk about the overtime rule in the US. Certain types of employees have the right to receive a premium rate for extra time exceeding 40 hours per workweek. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, non-exempt workers must be paid an overtime rate that is 1.5 times their regular hourly wage. So, it is important for companies to learn which employees are covered by and which are exempt from overtime rules.
Regardless of an employee’s work location, their contract must detail the terms of overtime pay. Their employer must clearly indicate the conditions for rates and compensation. For instance, if staff members can accrue time off in lieu of overtime work, the contract must lay out the booking process for leaves. Moreover, it must clearly define the provisions for unused vacation days.
When Overtime Work Becomes Illegal
Let’s say you signed an employment contract that states that your responsibilities include mandatory overtime work. Well, there are still scenarios that legally permit you to refuse extra work. For instance, if you’re in the EU, your employer is legally bound by the Working Time Directive. This means that there is a limit to the amount of continuous work that your company requires you to perform. Here are some things your employer must remember:
- The work hours for every week must not exceed 48 hours.
- Each day, an employee must have at least 11 hours of uninterrupted rest.
- If an employee’s shift lasts longer than 6 hours, they must have at least 20 minutes of break.
- Each week, an employee must be given a day off. They must get two days off every fortnight.
Even so, there are certain exceptions depending on the nature of work. For instance, people working in the armed forces, security industry, or emergency services must log time as needed. Certain industries are allowed to postpone rest periods, but employers still cannot compel workers to log in more than 48 hours a week. So, if you’ve reached the 48-hour threshold, you are legally allowed to refuse overtime work.
Overtime work can be a good opportunity for you, depending on how you look at it. In any case, you must review the labor laws in your jurisdiction to ensure that you’re compensated fairly. Moreover, make sure that you are not putting in extra hours at the expense of your physical, mental, and emotional health.