By Kara Dennison, SPHR
As an executive career coach and HR professional, I’ve worked with thousands of high achievers and leaders who are passionate about enhancing their careers. When career progression is at the forefront of a high achiever’s mind, it’s natural to volunteer for extra projects, work longer hours and stack overtime, all in an effort to gain additional skills and prove you’re capable of that next step.
But what happens to high achievers — and the companies they work — for when the costs of working overtime start to outweigh the benefits?
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Overtime pay compensates the hours an employee works beyond their regular working hours. Employers are required to pay “time and a half,” or one-and-a-half times the hourly rate, for any hour worked beyond the allotted 40 hours in a week, as long as the employee is in a non-exempt role.
Non-exempt employees are those who are not prohibited from overtime pay. These employees are hourly workers whose jobs do not involve significant management or professional duties and must be paid at least minimum wage.
Exempt employees, or salaried employees, are managers, executives and professionals who have job duties that require them to use judgment and discretion while performing their roles. These employees are not eligible for overtime pay but may still work more than 40 hours per week based on job duties, demands of the company or professional growth opportunities.
Overtime can be a great way to increase your skills or earn extra money.
However, sustained periods of work without adequate rest can lead to some negative consequences. Here are some benefits and disadvantages to consider.
Some pros of overtime are:
Some cons of overtime work are:
At the end of the day, projects have to get done, client needs have to be answered and deadlines have to be met. Overtime can play a role in all of that.
Companies benefit from overtime in the following ways:
Overtime isn’t all rainbows and unicorns for companies either. Some cons include:
Employers may also face legal risks if they do not comply with overtime regulations. Failure to pay overtime or misclassifying employees can result in costly legal battles and reputational damage.
With five generations now in the workforce, it’s important to zoom out and think about how we got here so we can know where we’re going.
Traditionalists and boomers were responsible for standing up the systems and organizations we currently find ourselves working in. These systems were born from survival (two World Wars and the Great Depression) and a value system that emphasized dependability and duty.
Decades later, with the rise of technology and an evolving culture, these systems don’t necessarily support the long-term goals and values of new generations. A 2022 study by EY, for example, revealed Gen Z and millennials care about the companies they dedicate their time and skills to as well as what their companies do to foster a culture that aligns with their values.
In fact, 39% of both millennial and Gen Z employees affirmed that culture greatly impacts their decision to stay at their current company, as opposed to 29% of boomers who said a company’s culture has little or no impact on their decision to stay.
The same study underscored the importance of other factors too. Flexibility, for example, is important: 29% of Gen X and 35% of millennials said they’d consider staying with their current companies if remote and hybrid options were offered.
So, what does all this have to do with overtime? The changing landscape of the workforce impacts everything from quiet quitting to where and how we work. That means overtime — and its implications — are up for reevaluation.
As I see it, employees can no longer be viewed as capital, assets or resources. They are people. People who want to be valued, heard, respected, fulfilled, aligned and invested in as much as they invest their time, energy and skills into their work.
I have both witnessed and experienced burnout. I put in long hours for the promise of a promotion that never came before I wised up and left. And I’ve seen numerous high achievers who felt pressured to work overtime but end up feeling jaded, undervalued and disengaged. If overtime happens on a long-term basis, these high achievers often leave for greener pastures where companies see their value and invest back into them holistically.
Overtime can be beneficial in the short run for non-exempt employees who need a financial boost and employers who need to meet short-term deadlines. However, overtime should be used only in moderation and in combination with initiatives that prioritize long-term sustainability and the growth and alignment of the individual within the organization. This can help ensure not only steady and sustained levels of productivity but also increased employee engagement and reduced turnover.
And that’s something that benefits everyone.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kara Dennison is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), Executive Career & Leadership Coach and Forbes Contributor. She’s the CEO of Optimized Career Solutions and has helped over 2,000 high-achieving professionals and leaders land their dream jobs, helping to negotiate over $12M in salary increases. Her dream job is helping high achievers and leaders live authentic lives, starting with their careers. When she’s not writing for University of Phoenix or coaching high achievers and leaders, you can find her hanging out with her husband and two black cats or swinging in the hammock out back in her small, remote town in Tennessee.
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