Working overtime: is it really worthy?

In recent times, working overtime seems to have become a constant part of almost everyone’s life. We just find ourselves spending those couple of extra hours on the job, especially because we feel we may not have much of a choice. But then, what is the end product of all these hustles? Happiness, productivity, health, quality time are some of the most important areas where the impact of working overtime is felt.

At first, it feels great, and you may be appeased. As time goes on, wear and tear in all areas begins to set in. The benefits and drawbacks to both the employer and employee are fully outlined below, with the aim of providing a practical assessment of the intrinsic worth of working overtime. Arguments and counterarguments have been made on both sides and the point of view from which this is addressed matters.



Short term

  • Increased income for the employee. This is especially useful, if you need this income to keep up with daily household activities or to raise money for some project.
  • It enables one to meet up a milestone or deadline. Imagine a company with an IPO already scheduled, but is lagging behind in some areas due to some logistics, working overtime here may prove to be useful strategy because of the increased productivity.
  • Recognition from employers. If you are lucky as an employee, your employers could recognize or notice all the efforts put in and duly reward you.
  • Working overtime helps you to maximize the little personal time you have to yourself. In the short term, it could teach you one- or two-time management skills, help you to prioritize the tasks at hand.

Long term

  • It may help to prevent over-staffing problems for the employer. This way capital can be preserved within the financial plan of the system and diverted to other areas.
  • For companies that may have things to do with maintenance and repair, working overtime provides the opportunity to do so. This way, you always ensure things run smoothly during working hours.
  • It helps to avoid uneven productivity which might occur due to employment of staff who do not have the same skill quality on a job. For the sake of simplicity of explanation, let us imagine a trained Neurosurgeon managing a case in his field. Handing over to a say, Dentist on the same issue would not guarantee the same care because of the difference in their field. In other words, no two individuals can carry out a job in the exact same way.
  • It provides flexible personnel. This way an employee can balance between work and family or personal life in a better way because of arrangements such as flexitime. Also, if there is need fill in the gap for someone in an unforeseen situation, the overtime can easily be worked out between the employee and employer.



Short term

  • This is a dilemma for the employer, because it may sound a bit harsh to really scold an employee who came late the next day after staying several hours after. Nature can’t be cheated, so workers tend to oversleep or just become sluggish due to inadequate rest. Lateness is the manifestation of this.
  • Working overtime is serves as an early indicator to give an idea of the capacity of an organisation. The implication of this is that an employee could use this as an opportunity to get any leverage possible from the company before going elsewhere.
  • It may be difficult assessing the importance of the extra hours put in at times. For example, there may be lapses in creating a spreadsheet for the exact hours worked and the effectiveness of each hour. This means a strict monitoring system has to be put in place to ensure that no one is cheated between the employee and the employer.
  • Organisations are many times assessed by the amount of overtime hours employed. This means that by just taking a look at the organisation’s profile, the overtime may be a turn off for investors who may be worried about the balance between demand and supply, or other important people such as partners, etc. This statistical subject could prove to be the difference between the success of one company and the failure of another.

Long term

  • Effects on the family and social context. We all know that the interest of a client is top priority, but even more so is your family and friends. They are usually the first point of call whenever you are in need of help. Working overtime for long periods easily strains relationship with them. For example, you begin to miss a lot of important family events.
  • Effects on health. Overtime eventually leads to physical, mental, and other health complications months to years down the line. The severity of this health issue depends on the nature of the work. For example, working overtime in an asbestos company can predispose one to asbestosis, mesothelioma, etc. If you are on a job where you sit for so many hours, can lead to obesity, infertility in men or back pain. The examples are endless, because the hazards of a job are always increased on overtime.


Also, accidents are more likely to happen on overtime because of the decrease in concentration. Mental health issues such as anxiety disorders, panic attacks and mood disorder are not uncommon in this setting. Stress leading to alteration of levels of different hormones in the body also has its own metabolic effects which include high blood pressure. Maladaptive coping strategies are also usually employed in order to cope with this stress, so alcohol, drugs and unhealthy sexual practices are frequently involved in the picture.

  • Performance usually drops. There is hardly anyone who can maintain a consistent level of performance when working overtime because the brain also needs time to rest. Fatigue, boredom, frustration begin to set in. Many times, even personal care is neglected. In general, productivity reduces.
  • You may end up being taxed higher than what you are payed for the overtime. In this case, all the effort just goes to waste. Also, employers may start taking advantage of someone who they know really needs the overtime.


Root causes

Overtime is not a problem on its own. Most times, it is just the result of lack of firm policies and a poor definition of the values with respect to time, which are usually associated with the work at the level of the management. The implication of this is that for a definitive solution to come up, it must be at the level of these root causes.

Another root cause of working overtime is ignorance about what the law in your city, state, or country says concerning overtime. Proper knowledge will empower employees to see to it that their employers do not take advantage of them in any way. Employers also need to know what is required of them concerning this.

Since the root cause of overtime is peculiar to each organisation, a project manager, human resource manager, or someone trained to analyse these loop holes can do so with the tools available so that the best can be gotten from it when necessary.


Impact on organisations

Initially, working overtime tends to make an organisation feel at the top of the game productively, however this is the exact opposite. Work is a process that never ends, so eventually, working overtime leads to a number of negative effects on the organisation as follows:

  • It reflects poor management in many cases. Overtime does not mean hard work, rather it means that the company does not know how to manage work within a stipulated time. Of course, there might be a few exceptions to this. In some way, this might reflect incompetence. Since one of the main aims of a management is to create value as seen by subordinates, time management is a major criterion used to assess this.
  • Extra expenditure. As an organisation, you definitely have to pay your employees for the extra hours put in. Human productivity significantly reduces overtime with too many hours on a job. This is because no one is machine. This means that as a company, you are paying more for less productive hours.

Also, since the risk of injuries and accidents is far higher in workers who do overtime, it becomes an extra hole in the pocket of the organisation. As well, since the number of sick days will most likely increase because of the intense stress on the workers, in the end the overtime just becomes counterproductive.

  • Employee turnover. This simply means the rate at which an employee is replaced with another due to a number of circumstances and life events such as retirement, termination of contract, death, and resignations. For an organisation where a lot of employees work overtime, the turnover rate is most likely going to be higher due to many reasons. For example, there might be disagreement between the employer and employee on the basis of the pay for the number of extra hours put in which may lead to a growing discontent between both parties. Also, motivation and performance of employees may decrease overtime due to fatigue or frustration. Employees become dissatisfied with the job, have issues with health and eventually all translate to a far higher employee turnover rate.
  • Waste of resources. Imagine employing a number of resources to train an employee to become efficient at a particular job, only for him or her to leave after a few weeks or months, just because of the impact of overtime. To worsen things, this employee may now get to work for a fellow business competitor, leaving the employer with a bunch of green workers. At the end of the day, there is always the chance of overtime leading to a waste of human resources.



Overtime has more advantages on the short term, especially when a goal is within sight. However, it becomes deleterious in the long run. Utilizing this knowledge creates a leverage for you to navigate your way through any situation you find yourself.

Having considered the subjective of overtime in details, it is safe to say that the only person who can determine if it is really worth it is you. This is because each person or situation is unique, and it is all about weighing the advantages and disadvantages to see what suits you, either as an employer or an employee.

Ask yourself, “Is working overtime affecting my happiness, health, motivation, productivity, and income negatively? Have I lost time for the things that I love doing the most, and do I still have time for myself? Am I overtaxed for the extra hours? Do I hate the work I am doing?” If many of the answers are “Yes”, then you might want to reconsider making efforts towards alleviating yourself of the burden of working overtime.

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