The United States operates on a standard 40-hour workweek, but companies often have employees work overtime to meet demand or make up for lost time due to unexpected absences. The flexibility to use overtime is beneficial to both the company and employees since workers are generally paid a higher rate for any hours worked beyond the normal workweek. However, studies show that overtime does not come without costs. Excessive use of overtime has several negative effects on workers that companies need to be cognizant of.
Here are four negative effects of excessive overtime.
Excessive Overtime Leads to More Health Problems
Working long hours takes a toll on the body. Studies have shown that people who work an abnormal amount of overtime are more likely to suffer from workplace injuries or develop other health problems.
Some common health problems associated with excessive amounts of overtime include:
- Back injuries
- High blood pressure
- Mental health problems
- Lower birth weights for pregnant women
- Increase in alcohol consumption
- Higher suicide rates
Studies have found that jobs with overtime schedules are associated with a 61% higher injury rate. If a job has workers put in 12 hours or more daily, they’re at a 37% higher risk of injury. Workers who clock in 60 hours each week are 23% more likely to have an accident.
Excessive Overtime Leads to More Workplace Accidents
A major contributing factor in many workplace accidents is fatigue. Fatigued workers are more prone to making mistakes that can lead to catastrophic accidents. In fact, some research suggests that workers who have worked 16 consecutive hours or more are three times as likely to be involved in a workplace accident.
Jobs such as those in the oilfield, at refineries, or in hospitals have workers follow a schedule known as shift work. These schedules split up the 24-hour day into long shifts. While shift workers often work fewer days, they work long shifts of 12 hours or more, increasing their risk of injury and other health problems.
More about the dangers of shift work can be found in our blog about the topic.
Worker fatigue doesn’t just present a risk at the worksite either. Fatigued workers are more likely to be involved in a car accident on their way to or from work. In fact, one study revealed that working just 8 hours of overtime in a week can make you 5 times as likely to be involved in a wreck.
Excessive Overtime Decreases Productivity
It should come as no surprise that fatigued workers also lose some productivity. Because of this, employers who overwork their employees aren’t just putting them in danger—they’re decreasing productivity, morale, and profitability.
When a person is overworked and tired, their cognitive functions slow down, making it more difficult to complete their daily responsibilities as efficiently as they normally would. On average, research shows that productivity drops 2.4% with every 10% increase in the number of hours worked in the industrial setting.
Industrial workers exhibited the following decreases in productivity after overtime:
- Fatigued workers had issues performing their duties because of mental exhaustion.
- Tired workers need more time to complete a task, their work rate slows and becomes increasingly unproductive.
- Workers who do too much overtime have trouble focusing on their job as they think about other aspects of life they’re missing out on. This can result in depression, decreased motivation, and a lack of awareness while working.
- Workers with long work weeks start to see the job as something where they “just put in the hours.” In other words, they become less goal-oriented and more focused on showing up and doing as little as possible until it’s time to go home.
Excessive Overtime Leads to More Absences & Higher Turnover
Many employees seek out as much overtime as they can get because of the higher pay rates. While the short-term benefits are clear, it can be difficult not to “burn out” over the long run. The health effects accumulate, and workers find it more difficult to continue with the heavy workload.
This can lead to workers needing to take time off to recover from injury or simply catch up on rest. When that occurs, overtime from other employees is generally needed to make up for the lost productivity. This creates a cycle of overworked employees that is difficult to break. As a result, companies that use excessive overtime typically see higher turnover rates as employees struggle with a healthy work-life balance.
Ultimately, overtime is an option that should be used sparingly by companies and workers. While it might seem tempting for both parties, studies show that the overall benefits of the practice can be as dangerous and counterproductive as they are potentially profitable for workers.
If you have been involved in a workplace accident caused by overtime and unsafe conditions, contact Arnold & Itkin today at (888) 493-1629 for a free consultation.