Is 40 hours a week a thing of the past?

ClockIt time and attendance software

Is 40 hours a week a thing of the past?

In most of the industries in many countries, a full-time job means putting in 40 hours a week. This provides some balance between work and life and allows two free days. Yet we see employees putting in extra hours to earn more – have you ever wondered why?

Most nations have overtime labor laws designed to ensure employees do not work excessively long hours. These laws may take into account other factors apart from just the humanitarian factors so that they continue not only to be productive but also increase the overall level of employment in the economy.

A few countries also give time off in lieu; compensatory time; or comp time to employees to take time off instead of receiving overtime pay.

But the irony is that employees continue to work overtime just to get that ‘Overtime Allowance’. But are they required to work beyond 8 hours a day to finish off their tasks for the day?

Common reasons to work Overtime:

Reasons employees are asked to work overtime is because of labor shortages, unexpected demand, employee training and extended busy period. Some companies use overtime allowance which is often one and a half times an employee’s normal salary— as an incentive to those who work overtime or during mandatory holidays and exceptionally busy periods.

One of the most common reasons for employees to work overtime is labor shortage within the company which maybe because of other employees’ absence at work because of illness or vacation, or because the company cannot afford to hire enough labor to complete all of the work to be done. With the corporate layoffs and other cost-cutting measures, employees work unpaid overtime. Reports also show that there are employees who routinely work an extra 20 hours or more a week without overtime compensation.

A sudden rise in unexpected demand of work leads to employees putting in extra hours at work without getting paid. For example, if consumer demand exceeds sales forecasts, manufacturers will increase production shifts to fill demand. This has a cascading effect through globalized industries. Industries which need to educate employees in adopting  new procedures also may offer overtime hours during the training period to allow training to happen while also keeping the business fully staffed.

Employees of the retail and service industries often work overtime during busy periods and holiday periods. During shopping season, stores may stay open longer during and may not be able to or want to hire enough temporary staff to fill out the schedule. Restaurant staff will often receive overtime when an unusually large dinner crowd stays late. Other business sectors, such as the computer software industry, plan on having highly intensive work periods which may require team members to stay back in office right before the release of a product. This so-called “crunch” time helps get products to shelves on time, but also is mentally and physically very challenging and tiring for many employees.

An employee’s perspective:

Overtime provides both an opportunity to earn more income. Many employees jump at the chance to make more money, but others may be tired after a long day and want to go home to spend time with their families. Overtime for should not be forced on salaried employees as it may not be received well in many careers.

The 40-hour week, which was a standard during the later 20th century, has now been replaced with a longer expected working period in many industries.

Working more than 40 hours a week – to earn more income, for free food at the cafeteria or just because one doesn’t have anybody to go home to- is it justified?

Farzi Ahmed
farzi.ahmed@tecsolsoftware.com