How Overtime Harms
Organizations that make covered employees work overtime lose out directly, for overtime entitles them to one and a half times normal wages inclusive of most benefits when another employee could do the same work for normal wages. Still better, temporary, or part time workers could do the work at wages much less than what a normal employee attracts. The deciding factor in such cases is the cost of hiring and training versus additional cash outflows for overtime wages.
However, regardless of overtime wages, organizations lose out when employees perform overtime. The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services report that 16 out of the 22 major studies addressing general health effects associates overtime with poorer perceived general health, increased injury rates, more illnesses, and increased mortality. Two studies associated overtime with unhealthy weight gain, another two studies associated overtime with increased alcohol use and smoking levels, and another study associated overtime with poorer neuropsychological test performance. The same report also reveals employees in a state of decreased alertness and increased fatigue between the 9th to 12th hours, resulting in lower application of cognitive faculties, decreased vigilance on task measures, increasing chances of errors and accidents, and more.
Employees who work overtime also tend to get less sleep, and remain more susceptible to cardiovascular and gastrointestinal disease, diabetes, and musculoskeletal conditions. They also face work-family imbalance. All these negative conditions directly affect work performance, lowering productivity, increasing absenteeism, and reducing the quality of work output.
An article by Michelle Rafter “The Yawning of a New Era" published in Workforce Management Magazine in December of 2010, documents facts about the rise of human fatigue in the workplace. It mentions a case of nurses’ work hours at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania where the company, to cut costs, requested nurses to work overtime. This led to fatigue and higher sick leave incidences, leading to a vicious circle of high overtime levels. The company stopping the overtime policy ended the vicious cycle.