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Is Too Much Overtime a Bad Thing?

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 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

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 a catastrophic accident. 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.

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 given 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. When you are overworked and tired, your cognitive functions slow down and make it more difficult to complete your daily responsibilities as efficiently as you normally would. On average, productivity drops 2.4% with every 10% increase in the number of hours worked.

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 who use excessive overtime typically see higher turnover rates as employees struggle with a healthy work-life balance.

If you have been involved in a workplace accident, contact Arnold & Itkin today to learn about your legal rights.


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