Most employees have faced overtime at some point in their lives. According to a study by ADP Research Institute, unpaid overtime increased from an average of 7.3 hours a week in 2020 to 9.2 hours in 2021. Overtime culture negatively affects workers, such as worsened mental health and work-life balance.  Here we look at some effective strategies for managing overtime in the workplace.  Strategies designed to ease the burden on employees.

A recent survey by Inc and Go of over 1,000 employees aimed to understand their work culture, specifically whether overworking was the norm. The study tried to reveal the frequency and impact of working overtime.

71% of employees work overtime at least once a week

The study showed that more than two-thirds of the respondents worked overtime once a week or more often. 29% worked overtime twice or three times a week. Just under a quarter worked overtime at least once a week, and around 19% worked overtime almost every day of the week.

56% of respondents reported experiencing intensity and heavy pressure to work overtime, while 53% habitually worked early or late. 46% cited the prevalence of work on weekends and holidays, and 48% said that working long hours was normal. Supervisors’ and employers’ expectations were the main reason for overworking, with 43% of respondents attributing company culture to it. Just under 40% said deadlines were another important reason, and the same number of people said they needed to work overtime to keep up with the workload. The vast majority of respondents – 95% – reported external pressure to work overtime. The main sources of pressure were employers, family, and friends, and pressure from the media, with 65%, 46%, and 43% of people citing them, respectively. Men were more likely to feel pressured by culture and society to overwork, and coworkers and superiors influenced women more.

The study also delved into the disadvantages of overtime. Overall, about 77% reported that working overtime had a negative impact on their work-life balance. 49% of respondents said they experienced more stress, 42% and 40% cited emotional and physical fatigue, and 39% said they didn’t get enough sleep due to habitually working overtime.

Effective strategies to manage overtime

Time Tracking Systems

Time-tracking systems and an hourly payroll calculator can record and calculate any hours worked overtime. These tools will allow your company to monitor overtime trends, identify potential issues, and ensure compliance with labour regulations. Have clear and well-communicated policies regarding overtime. Ensure that all employees understand when overtime is allowed, how it is approved, and what the compensation or time-off procedures are.

Monitor Workloads

Regularly monitor workloads and project timelines to anticipate when overtime might be necessary. This proactive approach can help you plan for additional resources or adjust deadlines to avoid excessive overtime. Common reasons overtime becomes necessary include unforeseen workload increases, seasonal demands, and understaffing. A sudden increase in workload due to moved deadlines, unexpected projects, or emergencies will require additional effort from employees. Some industries experience cyclical demand or seasonal fluctuations that require additional workforce efforts. Overtime may be necessary to manage these fluctuations effectively. In the event of limited opportunities to hire additional staff or temporary workers to meet increased demand, overtime may be necessary to utilize existing staff effectively.

Prioritize Tasks

Encourage employees to prioritize tasks efficiently to minimize the need for overtime. Help them identify and focus on high-priority tasks to ensure that critical work is completed within regular working hours. Ensure that your workforce has the necessary resources, tools, and support to complete their work efficiently. Inadequate resources can lead to inefficiencies and increase the likelihood of overtime.

Review Work Processes

Regularly review work processes and identify areas where efficiencies can be improved to reduce the need for overtime. Encourage employees to suggest process improvements that can streamline workflows and minimize overtime. Encourage employees to take breaks and time off to promote a healthy work-life balance. Recognize and reward employees who consistently manage their time effectively and avoid excessive overtime.

Consider Telecommuting

Consider offering telecommuting, flexible hours, compressed workweeks, or other flexible work arrangements. These options can help employees better manage their schedules and reduce the need for overtime. Encourage open interaction between managers and employees regarding workload concerns, deadlines, and the impact of overtime. This will help create a supportive culture where employees feel comfortable raising issues and discussing potential solutions.

Review Overtime Costs

Regularly review overtime costs and assess their impact on the budget. Identify opportunities to minimize costs through better workforce planning, resource allocation, and process improvements.