Is 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 implementing mandatory 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 for every working hour that exceeds 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, 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 longer work hours—especially with 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 at work 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. One or two hours of overtime 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, 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 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.
Creating a Healthy Work Culture
We all know that having a culture of staying late 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.