Working overtime is never fun, no matter what state the economy is in. But, when the economy did take a turn for the worst, many employees found themselves with increased workloads, a worse work/life balance and working longer hours — all for the same compensation.
In a 2009 CareerBuilder survey, 34 percent of employers said their workload had increased in the past six months; 8 percent said it greatly increased. In addition, 21 percent of people said they took on additional responsibilities.
While those who are unemployed say that people should be happy they have a job at all, rather than complaining about hours or workload, it’s easier said than done. It’s hard not to complain when you pick up the slack, work more hours and get paid the same amount. But, while it undoubtedly sucks at the moment, your hard work could potentially pay off in the long run.
“For those who don’t get laid off and take on more responsibility it can be a great opportunity. For one, people who pick up the slack will be appreciated by the management and when things turn around, the management will remember them. It’s a way of building greater loyalty from management in the hard times,” says Paul Sorbera, president of Alliance Consulting.
If you find that your workload has increased or you’re working more and more hours each week, here are some pros and cons to consider about your situation:
Pro No 1: You have a job.
Do you have to be happy about working more hours or having an increased workload? Of course not. But, by all accounts, you do have a job to complain about, which is more than can be said for millions of other people. You and your family have the peace of mind knowing that a paycheck is coming and food will be on the table.
“If you can make peace with extra hours [or] multiple roles, you can alleviate resentment, bitterness and stress,” says Debra Condren, author of Ambition is Not a Dirty Word. “This pressure won’t go on forever; if it does, find silver lining. Eventually seek out new opportunities and make a move.”
Pro No. 2: More recognition.
If you step up to the plate without complaint, no matter how many hours you’re working, how many people’s jobs you’re doing or much money you’re making, someone is going to notice.
“The additional hours worked may lead to a promotion sooner than someone who only works 40 hours a week,” says Jane Goldner, president and founder of The Goldner Group. When business does start to pick up, you’ll hopefully be one of the first people to get more opportunities.
Pro No. 3: Employee incentives.
Not all companies are able to give employees motivation to put in long hours, but some are doing what they can, Goldner says.
“Some companies have added time-saving features, such as the ability to fill prescriptions at work and child care,” she says. “These incentives can help motivate employees to work harder, and for longer periods of time.”
Pro No. 4: More exposure.
In addition to building on loyalty with your employer, Sorbera says you are putting yourself in a good position to be seen by all parts of an organization.
“We see many people gaining higher level work task, projects and responsibilities that will gain them greater exposure internally,” he says. “We see this in every downturn that the survivors and people who distinguish themselves during the difficult times are in a position to advance either short term to fill vacancies, or when things turn around.”
Con No. 1: Not enough recognition.
While working overtime can get you recognition, there is also the possibility that your company will just expect you to step up — and not reward you for it.
“Working longer hours is enabling your employer’s dysfunction,” says Stever Robbins, host of the “Get-It-Done Guy” business podcast on personal productivity. “You’re giving your employer the illusion that layoffs are free. They aren’t. By being willing to try to cover for laid-off employees, you’re just pushing off the day when your employer must realize that layoffs must be accompanied by decreased ambitions.”
Con No. 2: Jilted work/life balance.
In a recent CareerBuilder survey, 23 percent of workers were dissatisfied with their work/life balance. When you’re working 50 or 60 hours per week, you can assume that number will increase.
“The employee has less time to spend with friends and family, which can lead to a much more depressed and less productive worker,” Goldner says. “Working longer hours not only affects the employee, but their families too. Having less personal time means spending less time with your kids and spouse, and this can really strain relationships.”
Con No. 3: Possible health issues.
When you’re working too much, there’s not enough time to be active and live a healthy lifestyle.
“Employees have less time to stay active, and lead a more sedentary lifestyle when they work 50-60 hours [per week],” Goldner says. “Higher levels of stress are linked to heart disease, obesity and many other conditions.”
Con No. 4: Less productive.
Long hours don’t equate to more work, Robbins reminds. “Your productivity tanks when you’re stressed about not being able to take care of your personal life or if you’re missing sleep,” he says. Robbins estimates that working 60-hour weeks depresses your productivity to 80 percent, at least, which is equivalent to a 48-hour work week. “Only with the 60-hour version, you also get the stress of having no life,” he says.