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Excessive overtime & how to reduce your use

Too often, the demands made on an organisation fluctuate throughout the year, but the ways in which time and resources are applied never change giving the same weekly hours day after day, week after week, month after month, regardless of need and levels of demand. 

Consequently, this can lead to excessive levels of overtime during periods of high demand.

An overtime culture can have detrimental effects on both organisations and their employees. In some cases it can drive inefficiencies, low productivity, poor performance and high sickness levels.

This week, it was reported that the overtime bill for 39 police forces in England and Wales has rose from £307.1m in 2013/14 to £313.2m in 2014/15. One officer, working for the Metropolitan Police, was paid £45,000 for overtime worked during 2014/15, a Freedom of Information request found.

Chief Constable Francis Habgood from the National Police Chiefs’ Council commented that “overtime is a very flexible – and can be a very cost-effective way of managing unexpected demand and it is only right that officers whose lives are disrupted by a last-minute order to work an unexpected tour of duty or work on a rest day are compensated for that disruption”.

Too much overtime is bad for your health:

However, it is questionable whether overtime should be used as a long-term workforce management tool. Long working hours can cause soaring stress levels and fatigue leading to employee burnout and high sickness rates. 

Furthermore, numerous studies have linked shift work to higher rates of diabetes, heart attacks and cancer. Overlaying shift work with high levels of overtime can only increase this risk further.

Research shows that people who work persistent long hours have a higher risk of depression and there are increasing numbers of employment tribunal judgements against employers on the basis of long working hours, stress, fatigue and accidents caused by these factors. 

When reporting on the UK’s long-hours culture, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said “A long-hours culture is bad for workers’ health and their family life”.

Reduce overtime through demand-led rostering:

In order to manage and reduce excessive overtime levels organisations need to carefully analyse their demand for labour across each day, week and year, finding out how factors like special events have an impact. 

Furthermore, it is important to examine whether current roster systems result in periods of non-productive time, during which staff are under-employed, and busy periods with heavy reliance on overtime, contractors or agency workers. 

All of this data enables organisations to design new more responsive shift patterns that close the gap between supply and demand. 

Our workforce management software, Work Suite® , enables the design of creative ways of working to meet demand, with built-in flexibility to meet changing demand requirements while incorporating the aspirations of your staff.

Ultimately, this leads to a more planned labour environment that reduces overtime and increases productivity levels resulting in increased financial control and reduced labour cost.

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