Overtime is work done beyond the regular work hours per week.  Any work over forty hours per week for an hourly worker is considered overtime. Businesses with seasonal peaks, with quotas and deadlines, or with the possibility of rush orders, will at some point probably not be able to meet staffing needs with the regular hours worked by employees.  It is at these crisis points that overtime becomes an invaluable tool for the employer.


Most business experts, however, counsel owners and managers to use overtime sparingly if possible.  The ideal use of overtime is when employees are willing to work longer hours for increased pay, and the employer needs qualified, trained individuals who will not need excessive supervision while tackling an increased workload.  An employer should not, however, rely on employees working many more hours per week to routinely make up for work not accomplished during the regular work week. If this is the case – if overtime becomes essential to the performance of a business, even during regular operating scenarios – there may be other factors, such as poor compensation, morale, or inadequate staffing levels, to be considered.


One serious consideration often cited in the routine use of overtime is the effect it can have on employees’ regular production.  Increased work hours during one period may lead to increased absenteeism during others, due to family commitments that were put off during “crunch” periods or to illness exacerbated by stress. A research study found that employees who work at least 11 and up to 20 hours over overtime weekly showed a much greater incidence of severe conflicts in the work-family realm. These conflicts manifested themselves in higher levels of stress, alcohol and drugs use, and absenteeism. In addition, some analysts believe that employee productivity during regular business hours often undergoes a major downturn after periods of extensive overtime.


All overtime should be authorized by a manger or supervisor, preferably in writing. Consideration should be given to tracking the work accomplished during overtime hours; this ensures that employees are continuing to be productive at the increased pay rate, even with the stress of longer hours and increased sales or other pressures. Tracking what work is done on overtime will also aid the owner or manager of a business to better plan for staffing needs in the future.


Employee reactions to overtime

Many employees welcome the opportunity to augment their regular salaries with overtime pay.  Some businesses can effectively use overtime as a kind of voluntary bonus: if the employees are willing to put in the added hours, they will be rewarded with increased pay. Because of the strong positive feelings many employees have about the opportunity to earn overtime pay, employers should carefully weigh the pros and cons of hiring temporary help; regular employees will recognize the loss of overtime, and morale may suffer, particularly if overtime has become an integral part of the business cycle.


But the prevailing feeling among many business owners and executives is that employees are placing ever greater value on leisure/family time, and that they are willing to make some sacrifices in the realm of compensation in order to enjoy personal interests. In addition, analysts point out those families that have both parents in the workforce may not value overtime as much as employees of the past. Employers should remain sensitive to employees’ needs and responsibilities outside of the workplace, and should recognize that employees may not always be willing to volunteer for overtime.

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