Like a good little worker, you’ve been working overtime in your job, piling on the work and striving to do more and more with every passing day. But while that might be seen as the admirable thing to do in a work-centric world, the reality is that you’re not doing yourself any favors. In fact, you could be doing yourself -and your career- real harm by burning the midnight oil at work.
If you are guilty of continual overtime, here are some of the reasons you should rethink that, along with some solutions to the most common overtime problems.
1. Your boss might think you can't prioritise
So you’ve been deliberately spending extra time in the office and drawing the overtime that comes with it, in the hopes of impressing the boss with your serious work ethic. It might come as a surprise, then, to find out that your boss is not at all impressed. What’s the problem?
Instead of your boss looking at it from the perspective that you’re working extra hard and being willing to put in extra time, he’s thinking that you are a person who’s unable to manage priorities. He might be thinking that you have to spend ten hours doing what others do in eight. See the problem here?
The first step to fix that problem is to take a good, hard look at how you’re spending your time during the regular work day. Are you falling prey to serious time-wasters, like checking your email too often or allowing meetings to run long? Chances are you need to learn how to manage your time better. Schedule your time in blocks and don’t let anyone derail you from that work time, for one. For another, get a handle on meetings, and set boundaries with clients too. If you need help, look to one of the many time management tools online to learn to get better with this all-important element of a productive work day.
2. Your boss will just keep piling work on you
Now there’s always the chance that your boss is not the type who looks down on you for working extra hours, and is actually proud of you for your willingness to take one for the team and put in extra time on the job. But as you can imagine, there’s a problem with that too. In this example, there’s a good chance that your boss will simply keep piling work onto your plate -heaping it on, in fact- until you’re working overtime every day. That’s not good.
The solution there is to get real with your boss and to let them know about how much you’re already juggling. Some bosses really are unaware of the amount of work you’re doing, and as such will continue to give you more without a thought about whether you can handle it or not. If you let her keep doing that, she will. To stop it, have a one on one discussion with your boss and air your concerns.
3. Your boss might not even notice at all
And then there’s yet another boss situation that you have to look out for: The boss who’s so checked out from what you’re doing, that he doesn’t even notice that you’re pulling all that overtime. In other words, he definitely doesn’t appreciate your effort. If no one is taking notice of the monumental effort you’re putting forth, why in goodness’ name are you doing it?
The solution? Just stop doing overtime. In addition, you may need to find ways to manage your time better while you’re at work, but there’s really no need for you to kill yourself for something that you’re not going to get credit for.
4. Rest increases productivity
Here’s the other thing you may not have considered about putting in all that overtime: It is not the way to get more done. Numerous studies have shown that frequent rest breaks are the key to increased productivity, and not the opposite. You might have thought that putting in that late night was going to help you get more done -and it might, at least for that day. But the next day, take notice of how much energy you have. If you cut back on your sleep in order to get the work done, there’s a good chance that you’re going to be tired and that you’ll slack the next day. In other words, your body is trying to establish an equilibrium.
The solution here is to be sure you’re scheduling frequent rest breaks, both short ones during the work day and long, vacation-type ones. It’s also very important that you give yourself the nightly break that you deserve. Without those important things built into your schedule, you’re on a crash course for burnout, and when you’re burned out you’re often not able to complete your normal work tasks, let alone put in the overtime.
5. It could cost you more
If you’re doing overtime, chances are you’re doing it at least in part because of the extra pay that you’ll get. Depending on where you live, it’s often mandatory that you get paid extra for overtime -and that financial consideration is a big reason that workers endure their grueling schedules. But when you break down the numbers, you’ll probably find out that the financial incentives aren’t quite what you thought. For one, if you have kids, you may have to pay someone extra for the extra hours of child care you’ll need. If that child care resource has already been taking care of your kids for the entire day, you may have to pay them overtime, too.
Add up your child care costs and eating-out costs and determine whether it’s still as worthwhile as you first thought. In many cases, you’ll find that it’s not.
6. You could be missing out on other opportunities
Here’s yet another thing to consider: If you’re spending so much time focused on getting ahead at work, you’re letting other things slide in your life. It’s inevitable that your social life will suffer. Without some fun in your life, it’s difficult to get motivated enough to continue doing whatever it is you’re doing. In other words, you’ve let your quality of life go down the toilet in exchange for a little bit more money and perhaps some praise from the boss -though you don’t always get that either.
What’s more, you may be so tired and burned out that you’re not getting yourself out there career-wise. You may like your job, but like most workers, it’s always a good thing to have something in your back pocket. Don’t spread yourself so thin that your ability to get out there and see what else is possible goes by the wayside.
With burnout, increases in taxes, a lack of quality of life and all those other things as factors, it should be clear by now that working overtime is not necessarily the best of ideas. So unless your employer is forcing you to work overtime in order to keep your job, it really could be time to rethink the whole affair.