When companies depend on overtime to meet productivity goals, they can’t ignore or minimize the stress and disruptions it causes in their workers’ lives. The risks — especially now that so many employees have made it clear that they’ll voluntarily leave their jobs — are too great.
What’s more, if a business becomes overly dependent on overtime, productivity could actually drop as employees become exhausted, work more slowly and call in sick. From this perspective, overtime can become markedly expensive when you add in the costs of fixing mistakes and paying for increased workers’ compensation costs.
Here are eight simple steps that can help maintain productivity and health without giving up on the reasonable use of overtime: 

1. Analyze your overtime needs. Look for patterns and peaks. Adopt alternative work schedules that can reduce — or even eliminate — long-term overtime. If two workers share a job, for example, ask one to work the extra time or split the time between them. 

2. Get input from your staff. Give your workers a say by frequently asking for their suggestions.

3. Look for volunteers. If you can’t anticipate overtime, ask for a show of volunteering hands before handing down a mandate. If possible, assign the extra hours with a schedule everyone understands and accepts. 

4. Be sensitive to problems. Try to accommodate workers’ needs. Employees might be more willing to put in extra time if they can do it while still managing other aspects of their lives. 

5. Offer stress-management classes. Staff members who are equipped to handle stress will show more drive, energy and overall good health. As an added bonus, you could see a decrease in medical claims, accidents and poor productivity. 

6. Provide perks. Catering in some food, covering transportation costs and offering compensatory days off can all lower stress and increase enthusiasm for overtime. 

7. Hire temps. In some cases, it can be more cost-effective and less disruptive to bring in temporary help during regular periods of overtime. Outsource work if you can. 

8. Show gratitude. When employees are working hard and doing a good job, a pat on the back is always appreciated. Distribute handwritten thank-you notes, or at least send out a appreciative e-mail, to let workers know you really are thankful for their extra time and effort. If overtime is relatively uncommon, and you have the cash on hand, give employees gift cards as a thank you.

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