Working Overtime: The Pros and Cons of Staying Late

Uncategorized Sep 03, 2019


Now this is one of those topics that can be controversial. There is no right or wrong answer, but certainly everyone has an opinion.  To succeed you must work hard and do whatever it takes, is one school of thought. While the other school of thought encourages us to always maintain a work life balance, to focus on the quality of personal life and to do only what we need to do to get by at work.

How many hours per week do you work? If you run a business or climbing the career ladder, there is a good chance you are putting in more than 40 hours. My guess is you are working 50 hours per week — maybe even more.

Working overtime is inevitable, especially when you are approaching an important deadline/have a deal to close, when your colleagues are on holiday, and you are responsible for covering their roles, or if it’s just a busy season and you need to offer a helping hand for your team to meet targets.

But, when it becomes something of a norm, you need to question whether the extra hours are worth it, or whether your overtime is causing you to burn out, feel underappreciated, and unproductive. Research suggests that after a certain amount of time, our productivity at work significantly decreases and our rate of errors increases.

Let’s take a look at the possible effects on your career, finances, and family life:

The Pros

If you are crammed with work and you are wondering, ‘Should I work overtime?’ There are several benefits to putting in the extra hours, so let’s uncover everything you need to consider if you want the best results for your effort.

1. You Make More Money If You Are Paid For Overtime

Everyone likes making more money. Being compensated for overtimes gives your budget a boost, helping you pay off bills, expenses, credit card or loan debt. You can also stash the extra cash into savings or a pension plan. Some people like to set aside any additional salary for a future vacation.

Be careful how you manage your finances, however. Working overtime isn’t guaranteed, so don’t increase your spending to match the temporary bump in earnings. Your ultimate goal should be a promotion, or negotiating a higher salary.

2. It Could Help Advance Your Career

At some jobs, just showing up on time and doing your work correctly is enough to set you apart from your coworkers. When the atmosphere is more competitive though, putting in extra hours is a good way to stand out from the crowd as well as learn new skills. Putting in extra time allows you to put additional effort into a special project, leading to better results as well as showing dedication to your job and the company.

If you haven’t been specifically asked to work overtime, don’t overdo it.  A smaller company might not appreciate having to pay overtime every week. Besides, hanging around after hours every night to do work could also signal that you have poor time management skills.

3. You are More Productive

Added time to complete tasks means you will naturally be more productive, but it’s not always about quantity. If putting in overtime means working after hours, you will find yourself in a quiet environment with no phones ringing, clients coming in, or your boss interrupting you every five minutes. Even retail or service jobs can offer you more peace to focus when you are not officially “on the clock,” leaving you to work while someone else is scheduled to take care of customers.

If you find yourself staying later and later each night to take advantage of the calmer atmosphere, you may want to consider switching to a different shift entirely. While working the night shift has its own challenges, a shorter and steadier schedule without overtime will likely be better for your health over a long period of time.

4. It’s Better Than Working a Second Job (If You Get Paid Overtime)

One of the benefits of working overtime is that it allows you to make money at a job you are already familiar with. Taking on a second job is another way to make extra income, but requires learning a new environment and possibly different skills.

Overtime usually allows you to just extend your hours at the same location. With a second job, you would have to carefully schedule your day around commuting between the two gigs and home, eating up more of your personal time. More commuting would also mean more fuel (and wear and tear on your car), adding to any expenses for uniforms, tech or tools for your second job.

5. You’ll Improve Your Relationships with Coworkers

Whether you have mandatory overtime or just several employees taking advantage of extra hours, you’ll spend a lot of time with your coworkers.

6. It Puts You In Great Stead For The Future (Even If You Do Not Get Paid Overtime)

You will never earn more than you are worth in the future, if you are not willing to work more than what you earn today. Most people may only be willing to complete extra tasks over and above their exact role if they are paid extra for it.  Do not fall in to that trap. Working extra and adding value to your current workplace will always pay back one way or the other. 

The Cons

Whether you are eager to increase your work hours or are just following your boss’s instructions, there are some risks to taking on overtime. Here are five disadvantages to take into consideration.

1. It Can Affect Your Physical Health

It may not seem like a big deal to put in a bit of overtime at the office each day, but Columbia University researchers discovered that just a couple more hours of sedentary work a day is hard on your heart and is as dangerous to your health as smoking.

If you must stay late, try to avoid sitting still the whole time, glued to your computer. Take a couple of breaks to go for a quick walk around the office and get your blood pumping.

2. Your Mental Health Could Suffer

Many employees feel forced into overtime because of the volume of work and their bosses’ demands. A 2000 survey published in the Independent, British workers revealed that over 40% of respondents felt more stressed because of these additional work commitments. Intense stress at work can lead to insomnia, overeating, drinking too much alcohol, depression and other mental health concerns.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities in your job, talk with your supervisor about delegating some work to other departments or hiring on more help. Start looking at your priorities and how to eliminate unnecessary noise in your work. Ask yourself, “What is in my control? And what is not?” Then focus on what you can have impact on and eliminate the rest where ever possible.

3. It Cuts into Your Personal Time

We already spend a large portion of our life at our jobs, and working overtime takes even more time away from our personal life. This can mean less sleep, less time for hobbies, and less socialising. The more hours you stay late, the more it can upset the optimum work-life balance that keeps you happy and healthy. Excessive overtime can cause real harm to your relationships.

4. It Could Lead to Job Dissatisfaction

We all want to get the most out of our jobs, but you really can have too much of a good thing. Even if you enjoy your work, overdoing it can make it tough to sustain the passion and enthusiasm for every task. You can end up drained of energy and creative ideas, lowering your productivity and stagnating in your career. You can also start to resent what you were passionate about in the first place.

If everyone else is there on mandatory overtime as well, the combined exhaustion can lead to frustration, arguments, and lowered morale–all of which will make work a total bummer to be part of.

5. You Don’t Always Get Paid Overtime Rates

Extra money motivates many employees to work overtime, but the fact is that 59% of UK workers, for example, don’t get paid for putting in those additional hours. Salaried employees often stay late for no compensation, and no recognition if their boss has already gone home. You just need to be smart about things.

Some companies do convert overtime hours into additional days off. If you don’t need the money, getting days back in lieu to relax and spend time with family and friends could be a great compromise.

As you can see, there are pros and cons to working overtime, and you need to consider all angles before agreeing to expand your work week. Just remember, it is all in your control, so always focus on what it is you really want and work with the end in mind.

What has your experience been working overtime? What would your advice be to other people? Join the discussion below and let us know!

Interested in a customized workshop about How to create a healthy balance? Send an email to [email protected]



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