Overtime in the civilian world is defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) as pay for any hours worked over 40 hours in a work week at a rate not less than time and one-half of regular pay. In the military, however, overtime is a foreign subject and in fact the amount of hours a service member can work in a week can go well over 40, especially if their unit is forward deployed in a combat zone.
It is not uncommon to see a service member asleep at a work station after working in excess of 18 hours a day for weeks on end with no days off. This type of working condition simply does not exist in the civilian world and any supervisor who attempts to work their employees in this manner would most likely be dismissed for un-fair work practices.
There are hundreds of studies on how overtime hours relate to employee productivity, but most experts agree that overtime does more harm than good when worked for anything more than a few weeks. Overtime is sometimes necessary for short durations when something critical needs to be done, but a level of burnout can occur if not monitored. For white collar or knowledge-based workers, six hours seems to be the limit before their brain clocks out. Blue collar workers can get a full eight hours out of a work day if the nature of their work is not too physically demanding. It is critical for civilian supervisors, as well as military leaders, to understand the rigors of the jobs of the employees they supervise. Knowing what your employees are up against will help you make good decisions when asking them to perform their jobs.
If employee performance isn’t marked by tardiness and an overwhelming feeling of being overworked, the effects of overtime can manifest itself in different ways. Employees who want to make more money may intentionally stall their work claiming that they need more time to finish their daily projects. In these cases, supervisors who find that they have to pay excessive overtime should re-examine performance expectations to determine the cause of the extra hours.
Employees who work overtime may also try to segment their work claiming that they are the only ones responsible for their duties. Cross-training can help increase performance, as well as increase opportunities for career mobility and eliminate the need for overtime hours. If, as a supervisor, you notice that your employees are starting to suffer the effects of excessive overtime, then you may need to revisit your manpower requirements. Asking for additional staff members in order to complete the daily work load can be a difficult request in a time where corporate downsizing and manpower reductions are prevalent. Adding an additional staff member can, however, be far less expensive as opposed to paying out excessive overtime hours, dealing with declining productivity and trying to correct employee morale problems.