Resolution – Limited Overtime

Posted by Matt Berringer on January 13, 2014

By Dr. Ramiro Zuniga

Mannequin dragging his burgeoning dayplanner home from the office.  Dayplanner is stuffed with paperwork.  Clock in the background shows quitting time.  Conceptual image for working from home, dedication, overworked, etc.

Happy 2014!

It’s time for the traditional declaration of resolutions.

I would like to offer a somewhat non-traditional resolution for those of you in supervisory positions: limited overtime. Let me clarify further. Resolve to limit the overtime you require of your employees. I have shared my thoughts on balancing your personal time with your need to work late. In this post, I will discuss my thoughts on the same as it relates to your staff.

It is my opinion that most overtime comes more from habit rather than necessity. Supervisors and employees alike, too often, think that working an hour or two beyond the workday will help them “catch up.” In reality, the work never ceases. I refer to this type of thinking as a mental illusion.

Another mental illusion is that tasks “have” to be completed by the end of the day. In reality, working late to complete a task, although admirable, is rarely necessary. In most cases, everything will work out well enough if an employee completes the task the next day.

I would suggest supervisors evaluate whether the department is organized in a fashion that facilitates the perceived need for overtime. Supervisors should practice visiting with staff during the day to check on progress. I am not suggesting that one hovers over every task and every employee but rather be sporadic when visiting staff. Supervisors should, on occasion, verbalize that a task doesn’t have to be completed by the end of the day. Using this strategy will eventually condition employees to reduce their own individual stress level and allow them to better manage their task completion.

Supervisors can also better organize themselves so they minimize the times that an employee is given a task that must be completed by day’s end. Periodic meetings with staff can aid in this effort. Of course, if a task does arise that must be finished immediately, it should be verbalized. If at all possible, the task should be divided among several staff members in order to ensure completion while reducing individual stress levels.

One thing that certainly must be kept in mind is frequent overtime will result in tired employees. Even the most dedicated employees will experience this. A fatigued employee translates to an employee not performing at his/her peak during regular working hours. In extreme cases, employees may eventually burn out and seek employment elsewhere.

Another consideration is the real cost of compensation. Obviously overtime pay at time and a half can wreak havoc on a budget. However, compensatory time can reduce productivity. For example, if an employee works two and a half hours of overtime and receives compensatory time then that employee will be unavailable for almost half of a workday. For employees receiving monetary compensation, there will come a time when the money received will not overshadow the dread of having to work late.

By far, the most important reason for limiting employee overtime is family time. If you are a supervisor, respect your employees enough to remember that your employees have family obligations. Consider that your most loyal employees will rarely question your request for overtime. Many will even forego personal obligations without telling you. Make it your practice to alert employees to the possibility of having to work late at least a week in advance. This will give your employees time to adjust their personal schedules. Better yet, put yourself in their shoes. Where would you want to spend your evening?

In the end, supervisors have the final say on overtime.

Supervisors are in the best position to evaluate whether overtime is really needed or not. So, for those of you who are supervisors, please make it your mission to ensure that your employees have as happy a 2014 as possible. Limiting their required overtime will certainly help.

Topics: Overtime, education, K-12, Ramiro Zuniga