In an economic climate where employers are squeezing more productivity out of each employee, organizations are increasingly requiring hourly employees to work overtime.
The benefit: Employees enjoy the larger paychecks, and employers can get the work done without adding bodies to the payroll.
But an increase in overtime hours can also mean an increase in accidents and production errors. Consider these overtime policies and practices that can help reduce the likelihood of safety and production problems:
- Set a weekly or monthly cap on overtime hours. Employees who work excessive overtime hours are more prone to illness because they are rundown, studies show. Overtime often increases when departments are short-staffed, creating a vicious cycle that leads to greater productivity losses and an increased risk of fatigue-related accidents.
- Place greater limits on overtime hours for individuals who work overnight hours. Sleep and wakefulness are affected by a circadian rhythm in our bodies. People who work during overnight hours may feel more drowsy or fatigued than those who work during the day because of disruptions to the circadian sleep rhythm.
- Discard the double. Double shifts, in which employees are expected to work two shifts in a row, are not safe. Employees who are not accustomed to working long hours are at risk during the final hours of the shift, as well as on their drive home. Allow doubles only in emergency situations.
- Set up an overtime rotation system. Employees who voluntarily and routinely work excessive overtime hours are prime candidates for fatigue-related accidents and production errors. Establishing a rotation system helps to evenly distribute the strain—and monetary benefit—of working overtime.