Working overtime in the era of hybrid work – why is it happening and how to measure it

Before most of the intellectual workforce was forced to start working from home it was relatively easy to measure employees working time. Most of the organizations used some kind of time stamping solution that enabled employees and their managers to measure attendance directly. But how this changed when there was a major shift in the way of how people work. First, remote work was widely implemented, and now – 2 years after the pandemic started organizations are implementing hybrid types of work, which consists of working remotely and working in the office. Ever since corporate America was built many employees were working overtime. There are countless reasons why – a personal ambition, work obligation, industry specifics, etc. But in the past at least those workers were compensated for their overtime contribution, especially since it was easier to measure. But with hybrid work the measuring part got complicated. For example – if an employee is sending e-mails before sleep. Do you measure his working time or do you measure just his results he or she gets compensated based on the goals achieved at the end of the year?

Let’s start with discussing first why high-intellectual employees are working overtime?

  1. It’s doesn’t matter, remote or office work, it applies to both – there is just too much work. Maybe the goals and expectations were set too high at the beginning of the year. Maybe there are too many risks involved in managing a project or a business unit for a person. Maybe there is an industry norm that normalizes overtime work, such as management consulting. We could go on and on but this is a very fundamental challenge that should be addressed between employee and his/her supervisor or manager. It’s important to state that overtime hours should never be the norm. It’s okay to have some short periods of work overload until that doesn’t become a new norm. But as stated already, an employee should discuss this over with the supervisor.
  • A massive amount of e-mails received is another trend that is going on for the past 10 years. In the past,it was the telephone the dominant medium. Nowadays is an e-mail. The problem with that is that everyone is sending e-mails. And it doesn’t matter if it’s important or not, urgent or low priority. The largest challenge is that everybody expects and answers within a reasonable time frame. And when you sum the e-mail overload and expectations to reply you will understand that people nowadays are spending a massive amount of time reading and sending emails.They even feel they are being productive while doing that, but at the end,there is not enough time to do the things that matter.
  • We find distractions everywhere. When we are in the office, some colleagues want to drink coffee with us and chat, when we are at home we are facing family members that would like to see our attention and so on. The list of distractions is endless no matter where we are and it requires an iron mind to resist them,
  • Pointless meetings. Sometimes you come across a quote that says »this meeting should be an email«. There is no other more time-consuming thing than pointless e-mails, especially if there are too many of them.
  • Have you heard of Ambition? The previous 4 reasons were external. This one is internal and it depends on the individual directly. Should you put in extra hours to prove yourself?If you come across someone doing this and being ambitious, be sure to express your appreciation for their efforts while also reminding them that quality is more important than quantity.Research shows that excessive overtime can cause physical and mental health issues, as well as decreased productivity and job unhappiness.There must always be a cap on the number of hours an employee may work beyond their regular schedule because otherwise, both the business and the employee are in a losing scenario.
  • An obsession with monitoring and reacting to communications prompt is referred to as “Telepressure”. Worrying about responding to multiple conversations add another layer of time being wasted unproductively. That layer often brings anxiety and workers must juggle it with the other task in order to complete their tasks. An individual who works remotely often also feels pressured to perform and always responds to texts, emails, calls to give an impression that they work hard even when they are remote.

What can organizations do about it?

In the first place, they can start improving their company culture. Their employees should prioritize productivity over time spent working. Managers should also reconsider the transition from measuring only time to measure outcome plus time. An advanced attendance management system could definitely benefit organizations to achieve that. They should also consider implementing automation to offload their key performers to spend less time doing meaningless tasks.

You can read more about the transition to a productivity-oriented organization at Spica’s blog.

employees working