Reducing overtime work and its impact on your business

At first glance, overtime working may seem like a benefit to British businesses.

51% of workers willingly put in extra hours at work even though employers aren’t required to pay for this overtime. 

However, a culture of overtime work can lead to many hidden costs and issues in the long run.

For example, regular overtime can lead to poorer performance at workincrease the risk of accidents and errors, and lead to higher employee turnover—and thus, an increase in recruitment costs. 

Employers may also have to pay hefty fines if an employee’s average pay rate ever falls below the National Minimum Wage as a result of unpaid overtime hours.

If you’re concerned by the impact that overtime might be having on your business and employees, there are a number of things you can do to reduce overtime and improve efficiency during regular working hours.

Identify Overtime Patterns and Their Causes

The first step is to gather more information about overtime at your company and look out for patterns. 

Is overtime a regular thing or is it limited to particularly busy times? Is overtime a company-wide phenomenon or are specific employees more likely to work extra hours?

The next step is to investigate what is causing this overtime.

Many office professionals do overtime because they can’t manage their heavy workloads during their regular hours. Others may put in extra hours at work in the hope that it will lead to a promotion. 

Talk to your team or conduct a survey to find out more about your employees’ views.

Train for efficiency

A lack of organisational skills can slow employees down at work, creating a situation where important tasks are not always finished during scheduled working hours. 

For example, one study revealed that British workers spend around two hours per day checking their emails, often unnecessarily. 

Consider providing further training to help employees complete their tasks more efficiently and improve their time management skills. Focus on skills like structuring their workload and identifying the highest priority tasks to ensure maximum productivity.

Sometimes it may only be one employee who ends up doing nearly all of the company’s overtime simply because they have a key skill, such as fixing equipment, that nobody else in the workplace is able to do. 

If you notice this happening, invest in cross-training to ensure that more employees have the ability to step in when needed.

Optimise your scheduling

Do you rely heavily on employees working overtime during the busiest times of the year? 

Whilst relying on unpaid overtime can seem more cost-effective than hiring extra employees, this is certainly not the case—especially in the long run. 

As we’ve discussed, overworked and tired employees work less efficiently, are more prone to accidents, make more mistakes and are more likely to become ill and need time off work. Tired employees in customer-facing roles may also struggle to provide a professional service.

Make sure you’re ready for any seasonal peaks in business and plan your rotas in advance.

Using smart shift scheduling software like Findmyshift alongside an efficient communication system can help ensure that staffing levels remain optimal without needing to rely on overtime working.  

Invest in the right tools

Are your employees performing tasks that take more time than necessary? 

Identify areas where automation and smart tools could free up valuable time and allow your employees to focus on more productive tasks. 

Are there any meetings that could be replaced with online collaboration? Are there any repetitive manual tasks that could be automated?

Sometimes the problem lies in old equipment and poor software that aren’t performing as well as they should. 

Replace or repair any machinery that isn’t working properly, and review software on a regular basis to ensure that the tools you are using are genuinely increasing productivity. 

And, whenever you introduce new tools, make sure your employees are properly trained to make effective use of them.

Lead by example

It is important to be a role model of healthy working habits.

Many employees fear that declining unpaid overtime could have an impact on their job security.  Seeing supervisors work overtime sends a strong message to employees that working extended hours is desirable or even expected. 

Be clear about expectations by creating an overtime policy that promotes efficiency, greater productivity and a healthy work-life balance. 

Include a target for overtime reduction, lay out the reasons behind it, and set out guidelines for achieving it.

Above all, find ways to work smarter instead of longer and your employees and business will benefit.


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