Reducing OTTY (Overtime Thank You)


THE last time I worked overtime was when I had to complete a presentation for the executive board last July. It was warranted because as a team, we had to put our best foot forward and that was one of the things I could do to make sure our team’s work and recommendations were well-received. But on any other given workday, we would end promptly when the clock hits 5 pm.

Given the pandemic, the line between work and personal lives has been repeatedly blurred and some people are actually working more than before the pandemic. But even without the pandemic, people work overtime for a number of reasons. Some people work better in the afternoon, so they do the bulk of their work at that time. Others do so to make their schedules flexible, allowing them to, say, do their personal errands during the day. Others do it for more pay which can cost the organization more, and which can also become counterproductive especially if the overtime is not justified.

If overtime becomes the culture in an organization, it shows that there are underlying issues which need to be addressed. If not remedied, it can open the door to a host of other problems which can reduce productivity or even increase absenteeism. When an organization has consistent overtime, it suggests that both the manager and the employee might have poor time management.

This could lead to a strained work force potentially resulting in employee health problems like high blood pressure, fatigue, burnout, even some mental health issues. An overworked work force can also lead to lower concentrations and focus on work which ultimately results in lower productivity.

Working overtime might also indicate unrealistic client expectations. As a people manager, it is your role to manage client expectations (internal or external) by knowing your team’s workflows and timetables before committing to a project involving your team. Either you work on managing your workflows or you need to communicate with your clients better and manage their demands. When your team works overtime regularly, it could mean an unclear understanding of work-life balance, or you are a manager who does not care about the personal lives of your team.

Consistent overtime also exacerbates the problem of presenteeism—employees who are physically present but do not function to their full capacity. Some also use it to become more visible to their managers without actually doing productive work—they are just there pretending to do work on things that do not significantly contribute to their job. They do overtime to make their managers think they are hardworking when they are hardly working at all. Some even use it as a badge of honor and post in social media to flaunt they are working overtime when what this actually illustrates is their inability to manage their time.

The bottom line is that consistently making your team work overtime is a sign of poor leadership and can lead to team resentment, lack of trust, and eventually disengagement. So, what can you do to reduce overtime in your team?

Review your team’s processes and ensure there is enough time for employees to complete their work within the timelines agreed with internal and external clients. A deliberate review of your own processes with your team can show you which processes can be eliminated or shortened. It gives you an opportunity to discuss with your team how it can be done better while at the same time allowing you to get their support immediately because they were involved in the decision-making process.

Manage client expectations by making them aware of the processes within your team and provide options when given short deadlines. Negotiate what features of your product or services will be taken out when given short deadlines. Remember, your team is not an unlimited resource you can just tap into when needed, so ensure your team is protected from clients who demand more than what your team can provide.

If there are more clients or demands are higher, then ask for a manpower complement and justify it with the previous achievements of your team. The best argument you can use to complement your manpower is the business your team is generating. Your role as a leader is to make the best representation for your team and provide them the resources they need to do their work well.

Consult with your team what processes can be adjusted or shortened. And when there really is a need to work overtime, ask team members to take turns so as not to exhaust everyone at the same time. This will help your team cope with increased demands and allow them time to recuperate for their next project.

Working overtime is not always bad. In fact, there are some team members who would exert discretionary effort to do more than what is required form them without a need to be compensated or recognized. But regularly asking your team to do overtime can reduce that discretionary effort and even push your team to look for other managers who think of them as partners rather than as resources only. When your team understands what they need to do without regard for personal or professional gain, you have effectively managed your team by making them understand that they are a valuable asset to the team and you show that by respecting their time.

Image courtesy of Daike on Unsplash

Read full article on BusinessMirror