Overtime Considered Harmful

I just read “Overtime Considered Harmful” by Basil Vandegriend. Sometimes, overtime can result in increased productivity and success. However, “Working regular overtime (more than a week or two) has a significant negative impact on a person. Factors such as increased stress, strains on family and personal relationships, less sleep, and less exercise all add up over time to affect an individual’s mental, emotional and physical health. Over time, this can result in increased physical illnesses, lack of motivation, and eventually complete burnout.”

I believe that everyone is different in their capacity to handle overtime. I’ve seen some people that can handle working 60 hours a week for months at a time, with little apparent loss in productivity. Other people can’t handle overtime for more than a few days. Those who work 70 or 80 hours a week to meet a deadline almost always burn out and switch jobs when the death-march ends.

A colleage of mine (I’ll call him Brian) refused to work mandatory overtime in order to meet a deadline. Brian’s coworkers became stressed and tired, and made more mistakes. In contrast, Brian came to work each day refreshed, with a sharp mind. He tackled and solved tough problems, fixed other’s bugs, and smoothed out rough edges. His efforts made it possible for the team to meet their deadline. Without his courage and self discipline, the team would have failed.

We owe it to ourselves, our families, our peers, and our employer to work at a sustainable rate; a rate that will maximize productivity and foster teamwork in the long run; a rate that will allow us to lead happy, balanced lives.