A row of office workers, one behind the other, sit at their desks in front of computers with their heads in their hands. They are tired and working overtime. It is dark outside.
Image: © alfa27/Stock.adobe.com

Working overtime: Many of us do it, but should we?

19 Aug 2021

Does working overtime harm or help our careers? Business services company ZenBusiness surveyed 1,001 US workers to find out.

Few would argue with the general consensus that today’s work environment is a competitive one, with many employees devoting a lot of time and energy to their careers.

Thanks to the advancements in technology over the past few decades, workers are never truly disconnected from work mode and can be tempted, or even expected, to check and respond to their work emails outside of normal office hours.

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But perhaps it’s too easy to blame technology. What if the problem lies in us humans and our ability to say no to working overtime?

After all, it is relatively simple to leave a mobile on silent and mute notifications or log out of an email account. It’s less easy, however, to grapple with other people’s expectations of you – and indeed your own expectations of yourself.

If you feel pressured to work overtime, then the likelihood is that you will spend a few more hours in the office or open up your laptop in the evening when you’re at home. And if you overwork too often, you can begin to feel stressed – physically and mentally – which isn’t good for your health.

US business services company ZenBusiness surveyed 1,001 workers about their professional habits, and found that the average American employee works about 40 hours per week.

Almost half of the survey’s respondents said they sometimes worked overtime, whereas just 3.6pc said they never worked extra hours.

On average, respondents said they put in an extra eight hours per week, with entry-level workers doing less than senior and executive level staff.

Predictably, those who were paid for the extra work they put in reported higher levels of job satisfaction. Just over half of employees were paid for working overtime, but more than two-thirds were not.

The survey also established how managers felt about their teams working overtime.

More than 18pc of managers said they wanted their staff to work overtime compared to just over 26pc who said they did not. Most managers (44.2pc) said they only wanted their staff to work overtime occasionally.

The majority (72pc) said they preferred it when employees notified them if they were working extra hours, and 70pc also said that an employee working overtime changed their perception of that employee.

Some managers believed that an employee working overtime meant they were trying to curry favour, were poor at managing time or were trying to get ahead. However, most saw workers willing to put in extra hours in a positive light.

As for the reasons people worked overtime, these included a high workload, time to prepare, the opportunity to make more money, because they felt obligated to do so, or to impress their boss.

There are plenty of reasons to work overtime but it is important for our wellbeing not to make a habit of it. There will always be times in the workplace when staff are expected to put in a few extra hours to get something finished, but nobody should work for free on a regular basis – and that is something bosses and workers alike can agree on.

ZenBusiness infographic

Infographic: ZenBusiness

Infographic by ZenBusiness.

Infographic: ZenBusiness

Infographic by ZenBusiness.

Infographic: ZenBusiness

Infographic by ZenBusiness.

 

Infographic by ZenBusiness.

Infographic: ZenBusiness

Infographic by ZenBusiness.

Infographic by ZenBusiness.

Infographic by ZenBusiness.

Infographic: ZenBusiness

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea joined Silicon Republic in 2021 as Careers reporter, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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