Overtime: How Working More Produces Less and Kills Business
For many entrepreneurs, working overtime is a badge of honour. People believe that working long hours and staying late at work show how determined, hard-working and serious they are about their business. Right?
Wrong. According to the recent study, working over 40 hours a week just makes you unproductive and very, very tired.
The problem is that many managers still believe the more hours employees work, the bigger output should be. But this thinking is short-sighted and toxic. Employees are humans (not robots!) susceptible to fatigue and burnout. And if they are asked to work extra hours, the extra output will be low and at a high cost.
Working More Produces Less
Of course, you can make employees work 55+ hours a week if you need to meet a critical deadline. But it’s suitable only for short-term gains. In a long-term perspective, if employees continue to work overtime, their productivity drops dramatically.
An employee working 60 hours a week for a month and more will produce less overall than the same employee working 40 hours a week for the same period of time.
As you can see, the output drops so much that it would have been more productive to work standard 40 hours per week.
Why Does This Happen?
On an average 8-hour workday, employees start fresh and usually feel fatigue after about 6 hours of work. So they leave at the end of the day when are tired but not exhausted.
They go home and have time with their friends and family, sleep for solid eight hours and on the next day, and go to work fully refreshed – physically and mentally.
In contrast, when employees have to work overtime (e.g., a 60-hour week – 10/12 hours per day), they start fresh but by the end of 10 hours, they feel really worn out. Because of their long shift, they have less time (or no time) for their friends and family and often have to sleep less.
When next day starts, they feel extremely fatigued and it only gets worse over time: each week turns out less productive than the previous one.
How Can Your Company Fix the Problem of Overtime?
- Define what “productive” means for your company: Discuss and decide in what way the output will be measured in your company.
- Take time and plan projects effectively: Make sure you’ve involved people who can make reliable time estimates.
- Reward the behaviour you’d like to see in your employees: Each team member should be given a fair share of goals to complete. And if someone finishes tasks that are not due until next week, they can leave and not show up until the next review meeting. But only if they’ve made everything with quality! Don’t push your team. Motivate (“finish earlier and you can be free until the next week”) instead of discouraging them (“finish earlier and I’ll load you with more work). It will help encourage the behaviour you want to see in employees.