Is Overtime Futile?



We often view overtime as an opportunity to catch up on our work or get ahead of an approaching deadline. We regard it as a tool to do more with our work day, but does overtime actually contribute to productivity?

A recent study from IGDA articulates, “Productivity drops immediately upon starting overtime and continues to drop until, at approximately eight 60-hour weeks, the total work done is the same as what would have been done in eight 40-hour weeks.”

Stanford University research also shows that production decreases significantly after a 50-hour work week, even more sharply after a 55-hour week, and production from a person clocking in 70 hours differs minimally from someone working 56 hours.

These findings reveal that we are damaging rather than maximizing our productivity when putting in too much overtime. Even worse for business owners, this represents a significant cost with little return and can lead to absenteeism and employee turnover.

If your work is repetitive these findings may ring true, but what about professionals in the housing ecosystem that have a diversified schedule, working in office, on the phone and travelling to in-person meetings? Alternating the nature of your tasks can maintain productivity and prevent your output from being affected.

The situation is different for every professional. An entry-level worker may not be as invested in the company as a senior executive, and their overtime performance may differ. Your productivity is also likely to suffer less if you are passionate about your job. Business in which overtime is a constant must focus on maintaining company morale and spirit. If your workers feel valued and believe their hard work is recognized and appreciated, they will perform better.

However accurate or not for your business, these statistics are especially significant when we consider the DOL overtime rule increasing the salary threshold for employees eligible for overtime pay. If this rule passes, it puts small business owners especially at risk, as they would be forced to juggle overtime pay for non-salaried workers and the present cost of decreased overtime productivity. It’s a one-two punch many small businesses will find difficult to surpass.

Do you feel productivity decrease significantly after 50 hours? Do you see this trend in your employees?

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