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Working Too Much Overtime? You’re Wasting Your Time!

A new study suggests working too much overtime is a waste of everyone’s time — including your own!

I’ll admit it: I sometimes work over 40 hours per week. I almost can’t remember a time I didn’t work more than the standard five 8-hour days.

There were times I had to stay late from time to time because of various equipment issues or last-minute changes that would otherwise have thrown a project too far behind schedule.

There were times I chose to stay late because I felt I had a strong vision of how to pull something off and felt if I just put a little more time into it, it’d work. (And that “little” bit of time, before I knew it, turned into a couple of hours.)

Then there were times when I chose to stay late because I was just enjoying my work. I felt, for whatever reason, that the rhythm was feeling right, that I was in “the zone,” and completely lost track of the time.

Most of the time, my overtime amounts to only a few extra hours per week. My bosses have been consistent in giving me a gentle reminder to leave on time, and I appreciate that.

I have never, for the record, attempt to make myself a “work martyr,” the term used to describe people who intentionally work too much.

But CNBC reports that work martyrs are not only doing themselves a disservice, but may not be contributing that much to their workplace, either.

A recent Stanford University study shows the more overtime an employee works, the less productive they are:

…employee output falls sharply after a 50-hour work-week, and falls off a cliff after 55 hours—so much so that someone who puts in 70 hours produces nothing more with those extra 15 hours…

There are some of us who are tied to their cell phones, and are “on call” to a greater degree than some of our colleagues. But once you reach a point where additional hours aren’t accomplishing anything, then all you’re really doing is wasting the off-time you do have.

How many hours do you work per week on average? How often do you generally work overtime?

2 Comments

  1. Well, I normally worked about 42 – 45 hours when I was a lowly Human Resources Representative, but not for any other reason than restrictions on overtime. A rep is an hourly paid employee. Once I became a Human Resources Manager, I became an exempt employee – no more compensatory interest in overtime; but to me, that was a badge of honour I wanted very much – not to be tied to a set of hours, but to be a manager. And then, of course, I worked to usually 48 hours.
    It’s when I came to Baltusrol Golf Club that I started out working a sedate 40 – 44 hours both as a temporary employee from an agency and when I accepted the position permanently. I became an HR Manager by title, but I was an executive – a whole new thing to me. The Security manager called me the HR Director all the time. But the lower hours were mostly because 1. I was still learning to do payroll, which was woefully done more by hand than not (completely time consuming in the most unnecessary ways), 2. they’d been in the habit of having the Comptroller doing many of the HR tasks because the HR department was in its infancy and 3. the HR manager at the time, who was on pregnancy leave, had primarily been an accountant, not a trained, crazy HR person from the outset. It wasn’t a matter of fault or anything like that, but the newness of it all. So that kept things – other things – down to minimum.
    As time went on, I automated every last part of the payroll, which cut it down by hours. I began taking more and more and more off the hands of the Comptroller, both to my intense satisfaction and his utter relief. (It was crazy how much he was doing that never should have been under his preview at all. Poor guy.) By the time I was there a year or eighteen months, I was working closer to 46 – 52 hours a week, sometimes 60 hours, if warranted. I was admittedly not at my best after 47 or so. That was the ideal amount, as I loved that job, workplace, my compatriots and all the employees – well, almost all. I considered them my kids – sometimes I wanted to slap them, I had to be confession listener, parent, schoolmaster, assassin, mentor, and mete out punishment; but I really had their best interests at heart and wanted them to succeed and to also protect the company. I made everyone my priority and definitely was advocate to both company AND employee, not just company, as happens in too many other places.
    But yes, once I reached 50 hours or more, I was truly not doing myself or the company too much good. It also shortened my overall working time that was remaining to me permanently – I pushed myself far too hard and had to step down because of my health. I have too much guilt and regret about that. I did myself and them a huge disservice in that, and I miss everything about Baltusrol.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.