Burnout Prevention Starts With Overtime Reduction

January 30, 2020 Brandon Barborka


We all know that overtime carries costs, but do we know just how much? By contributing to worker burnout, overtime could be an even bigger drain on your workforce spend than you think.

A recent study of human resources professionals stated that 32 percent of respondents found excessive overtime or after-hours work to be a driving force behind burnout.

Do you need a plan for burnout prevention? The first step toward eliminating this problem might be to reduce overtime. We’ll explore why overtime contributes to burnout, why burnout is a problem and how you can reduce overtime as a burnout prevention technique.

Overtime & Burnout: What’s the Connection?

Perhaps the most immediate way in which overtime can lead to burnout is by making workers fatigued. The option to take on two extra hours every couple of weeks might not have much of an effect, but overtime can be significantly more tiring if workers have to work several extra hours for multiple days in a row, or on a regular basis. As time goes on, workers might find that their exhaustion on the job just isn’t worth the extra pay.

In addition, overtime means workers are spending more time at work and less time at home with their families or pursuing hobbies and other activities outside of their jobs. That trade-off can upset a worker’s desired work-life balance. If employees don’t get enough of a chance to recharge by doing what they love, burnout can set in.

In addition to reducing overtime, there are a lot of other options available to businesses that went to help their workers maintain a solid work-life balance.

All that fatigue and stress can have an impact on the health of workers too. A report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) that analyzed several studies found that “overtime was associated with poorer perceived general health … in 16 of 22 studies.” When workers don’t feel well, burnout could be next.

The Risks of Burnout

Burnout doesn’t just hurt workers. It hurts businesses as well. The costs include reduced productivity and unsafe behavior.

How does burnout impact productivity? First of all, if a worker is fatigued, they’ll perform their work more slowly, reducing the overall workflow. Additionally, if a worker is so burnt out that they leave their position, other workers will have to absorb that person’s workload until a replacement is recruited, interviewed, hired, onboarded, oriented and trained. The steps it takes to hire a replacement are a drain on your resources too.

If a worker doesn’t quit as a result of burnout, they might continue to perform their job but in an unsafe manner. A study of occupational drivers in public transportation found that “burnout exerted a direct effect on accident involvement beyond the effect of occupational stress.” This means that burnout could carry big risks for workers who are exposed to heavy machinery or other potential hazards.

The negative impact of burnout isn’t confined to individual workers. It could spread throughout an organization’s culture. The effect of a person’s peers and an organization’s policies can have a big impact on that person’s relationship to their job. What does that mean? It means that workplace culture plays a big role in contributing to, or stopping, burnout. A study of teachers in their first four years found that new teachers in schools with high burnout rates were more likely to burn out themselves.

Burnout Prevention: What Can You Do?

If overtime turns out to be a necessity for your operation, there are precautions you can take to try to stop overtime from becoming excessive and turning into burnout. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends you take two actions. First, increase the amount of break time that workers get during overtime so that they have time to recharge. Second, if possible, you should opt to bring workers in for additional days instead of extending their shifts. It’s important for management to monitor the workforce for signs of fatigue, such as irritability, giddiness, reduced alertness, headaches and digestive problems. Take preventive action if needed.

Another burnout prevention strategy is to limit your overtime in the first place by leveraging the power of a contingent workforce. When you have to scale quickly to meet demand, giving your permanent workforce overtime is not the only way to rise to the challenge. Onsite staffing solutions can help you scale quickly while avoiding overtime costs and associated problems like burnout and turnover.

How do we do it? One of our strategies is a flexible job-sharing framework called FLEX.

Burnout Prevention Starts With Limited Overtime

Overtime is just one stopgap solution to increased demand, and it carries risks. In addition to the upfront expense of wages, it can also lead to burnout, which can cause turnover and damage a business’s culture. Burnout prevention starts with implementing overtime the right way if you have to use it, and by avoiding it when you can. Working with an onsite staffing partner can reduce your overtime while allowing you to scale your business up and down based on demand.

Find out how Staff Management | SMX helped one client reduce overtime from 11 percent to 1 percent and reduce turnover from 70 percent to 1.9 percent with our Flexible Staffing Solution.


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