Why we don’t do overtime

Overtime is part of the job. At least that's what a lot of employers and employees think. We disagree.

Jeroen
Written by Jeroen Founder / CEO / CSO
Posted on
Reading time 4 minutes

In most jobs, more often than not overtime is expected. We don’t believe overtime is the solution to getting work done and meeting deadlines. Over and over again. In fact, we think it’s counterproductive. That’s why we wrap stuff up after an eight hour day, a regular working day in the Netherlands.

Overtime hides inefficiencies

Let’s face it: there is always work to do. But putting in more hours to finish the job hides the fact that we are either working inefficiently, or that there is just more work than time. Everyone knows that secretly. But if we don’t make it visible, and make it hurt, we’re not inclined to change our behavior. You have to force yourself to change. It won’t happen on its own, we’re creatures of habit.

Setting a limit to the number of hours makes it visible, and it hurts. We can’t deliver to the client on time, or meet our deadline. This immediately gives us a reason to look at the things that are holding us back. What’s taking too much time? Where can we make things run more smoothly? If we ask ourselves these questions, we will find things in our work processes that can be improved. And we will improve them, because we want to deliver to the client and go home on time.

Doing overtime hides the fact that you should hire a new colleague, or that you should be doing less work.

But what if there really is just more work than time? Then you’re allowed to put in extra hours, right? Wrong! Doing overtime hides the fact that you should hire a new colleague, or that you should be doing less work. That is probably why we are always looking for new colleagues 😉. Focus more on the type of work that brings the most value, or that you like doing most.

When we started, we called this common sense, now we call it a target condition.

Overtime leads to more work

You may think doing overtime helps you to reduce your workload, but reality shows the opposite. In our experience, it leads to more work ...

Here’s an example of an imaginary person, let’s call him Jake. Jake is working on a project with a tight deadline. To meet the deadline, Jake puts in extra hours. After a few days of overtime, he gets home late and he’s tired, eats unhealthily (McDonald’s again), and goes straight to bed. The next morning he gets up early, still not refreshed from the short night. At work he goes through his work from the day before and discovers a stupid mistake he could have prevented if he had been well rested. It takes him a couple of hours to fix it, which means he will have to work late again to finish his regular tasks. But what were they again? Because he is less focused, he forgets things and gets distracted easily by his Instagram notifications. Also, his productivity is as low as the current interest rate on his bank savings account.

Doing overtime is preventing you from achieving flow.

Doing overtime is preventing you from achieving flow. There is a limit to how much time you can work in flow. If you put in more hours, you can’t be in flow all the time, like Jake in our example. Because of the extra hours, you can’t fully recover. The next day you will be a couple of percent less focused, making it harder to get in flow.

Not being in flow leads to all sorts of side effects:

  • It prevents you from being as productive as you could be. Meaning you need more time to finish your work.
  • You make more mistakes. More mistakes need more time to fix, most of the time unplanned, taking you out of your flow yet again.
  • It holds you back from producing your best work, which will take you more iterations than necessary to get to the same point.

All these things prevent you from achieving flow. Repeat.

Go home on time and enjoy

So, go home on time. Have dinner with your family or a drink with friends, play sports, read a book. Get a good night's rest. Get back to work the next morning fresh and ready. Just like us.

You make more mistakes. More mistakes need more time to fix, most of the time unplanned, taking you out of your flow yet again.

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