No Overtime

I come from an organization where overtime is not paid time. You do overtime on your own account and tons of people do. At least 10 hours a week they stay longer then they have to just to clear their workload. I've never had to stay beyond the stipulated knock off time because I don't see the point. If these people stayed back cos their workload was humungous they should have just reflected that up to their boss. If they stayed back cos they just work slow during the normal hours while still maintaining their 1/2 hour breakfast and tea breaks and 1 hour lunch break; I thought "OBI GOOD".

I once had a superior who also saw things my way. He looked down on those who did overtime because it just pointed to one disability or the other in the way they do their work. He said

"I also used to be like them. Then I thought to myself, KNN how come the others go home on time and not me? They so much better than me meh? Cannot be what, I'm better than most of them. So, I tweaked the way I work and never feared leaving work to be done tomorrow. Really cannot do today what you want me to to do? Work for free ah?"

Here's an excerpt by Narayana Murthy of Infosys Technologies during a mentor session at a big IT firm in India:

I know people who work 12 hours a day, six days a week, or more. Some people do so because of a work emergency where the long hours are only temporary. Other people I know have put in these hours for years. I do not know if they are working all these hours, but I do know they are in the office this long. Others put in long office hours because they are addicted to the workplace.

Whatever the reason for putting in overtime, working long hours over the long term is harmful to the person and to the organization. There are things managers can do to change this for everyone's benefit. Being in the office long hours, over long periods of time, makes way for potential errors.

My colleagues who are in the office long hours frequently make mistakes caused by fatigue. Correcting these mistakes requires their time as well as the time and energy of others. I have seen people work Tuesday through Friday to correct mistakes made after 5 PM on Monday.

Another problem is that people who are in the office long hours are not pleasant company. They often complain about other people (who are not working as hard); they are irritable, or cranky, or even angry. Other people avoid them. Such behaviour poses problems, where work goes much better when people work together instead of avoiding one another.

As Managers, there are things we can do to help people leave the office.
First and foremost is to set the example and go home ourselves. I work
with a manager who chides people for working long hours. His words
quickly lose their meaning when he sends these chiding group e-mails
with a time-stamp of
2 AM, Sunday.

Second is to encourage people to put some balance in their lives. For
instance, here is a guideline I find helpful:
1) Wake up, eat a good breakfast, and go to work.
2) Work hard and smart for eight or nine hours.
3) Go home.
4) Read the books/comics, watch a funny movie, dig in the dirt, play
with your kids, etc.
5) Eat well and sleep well.

This is called recreating. Doing steps 1, 3, 4, and 5 enable step 2. Working regular hours and recreating daily are simple concepts. They are hard for some of us because that requires 'personal change'. They are possible since we all have the power to choose to do them.

In considering the issue of overtime, I am reminded of my oldest son. When he was a toddler, if people were visiting the apartment, he would not fall asleep no matter how long the visit was, and no matter what time of day it was. He would fight off sleep until the visitors left. It was as if he was afraid that he would miss some thing. Once our visitors' left, he would go to sleep. By this time, however, he was over tired and would scream through half the night with nightmares. He, my wife, and I, all paid the price for his fear of missing out.

Perhaps some people put in such long hours because they do not want to miss anything when they leave the office. The trouble with this is that events will never stop happening. That is life! Things happen 24 hours a day.

Allowing for little rest is not ultimately practical. So, take a nap. Things will happen while you are asleep, but you will have the energy to catch up when you wake. Hence,

- Narayana Murthy



The Sch O Hard Knockx said...

You write well..very nice article..i liked the previous one too..i feel the same way abt overtime though i did sometimes love overtime back in AMD..made me feel impt..perhaps tt comes fr the notion tt big shots put in long hrs..?

ah_neh said...


waiting for you to updated ur place mate.

big shots put in long hours. hmmm. if you're talking about the common american CEO, perhaps. Not the ones who are aiming for a golden parachute but the ones who built up their firm, took it public and are leading with a vision.

But, in Singapore? I believe the long hours the head honchos put in is more to be "seen" doing work rather than actually productively doing work.

Ghost Particle said...

hemm...that is so true. It turns into sleep work sleep if we do overtime, but for engineers./ scientists or any demanding job, there is no way going home at 5 isnt it.

ah_neh said...

But I don't mind paid overtime one bit at all.