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How Do We Get People to Work Overtime?

June 28, 2012

Dear Frazzled in HR:

Mandated overtime rarely is a win-win situation. It creates animosity that reflects itself in lower productivity and higher rates of absenteeism (thus necessitating still more overtime). Except in extreme cases, keep overtime voluntary.

Most organizations' answer is to throw more staff at the problem. However, step back and ask yourself why overtime hours are needed in the first place. Take absenteeism, for example. Find out if the absences are scheduled or unscheduled (i.e., vacation time or sick days). If there are excessive unscheduled absences, then that may be the real problem to solve, not overtime. If on the other hand you have open shifts because of scheduled absences, perhaps you simply need more employees at your facility.

Also take a look at capacity issues. Rather than adding staff, could you instead boost productivity through better technology, ergonomic workspaces or motivating employees (pay for performance, for instance)?

If you solve these other matters, but still can't persuade overtime-wary employees to take additional shifts, then you could resort to the strategy of call-ins. At least this concept allows people to prepare for the possibility they'll be roped into overtime, while also knowing they definitely will get set days off. At this stage, managers also should consider bonus pay as an incentive for working overtime.

It is a good idea to regularly step back and assess whether your schedules

really meet operational requirements. Yes, changing schedules is a huge hurdle. But letting employees contribute to any changes greatly improves productivity and slashes absenteeism rates—two factors that drive down overtime.

SOURCE: Circadian Technologies Inc., Stoneham, Massachusetts

LEARN MORE: Increased workloads due to the recession are pushing workers past endurable limits, a recent survey shows.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.