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Overtime on the rise: What effect will this have on workers?

By Jack Campbell | |5 minute read

Data has revealed a trend in the increase in overtime. Whether caused by a lack of staff or increased workloads, excessive overtime can be harmful to employees.


In Australia, 35 per cent of businesses reported increased overtime, while just 7 per cent saw a decrease, according to Hays.

Hays Asia-Pacific chief executive Matthew Dickason commented on the findings: “In recent times, it’s clear there has been an increase in the number of organisations requiring employees to work overtime.

“While a reasonable level of overtime may be expected in certain roles and industries, it should never become excessive.”

Meanwhile, just 39 per cent of these workers were paid for their extra time. Another 30 per cent were rewarded in non-financial ways, while 31 per cent received nothing for their extra effort.

Skills shortages were reported as the main reason for these added hours, and the hours varied vastly. Thirty per cent of those who upped their staff’s hours did so by five hours per week on average. Thirty-six per cent increased overtime between six and 10 hours per week.

The tricky part of this is defining what is “reasonable” when it comes to overtime. Excessive overtime can mean different things to different people, making it hard to define. If untreated, these issues can lead to burnout, among other things.

“Excessive overtime can negatively impact employees’ physical and mental health and wellbeing. It can lead to stress and burnout, and adversely affect work/life balance, job satisfaction, productivity and staff turnover,” said Mr Dickason.

“Unfortunately, perceptions of what constitutes ‘excessive’ overtime can vary from person to person. As a result, overtime expectations differ between organisations. We urge employers to recognise the hidden costs of overtime and take a proactive approach to better manage it.”

Hays offered some suggestions to help mitigate excessive overtime in the workplace:

  • Leverage tools and software to track working hours, detect overtime patterns and identify predictors of burnout.
  • Ask employees what they consider to be a reasonable level of overtime and whether occasional overtime would negatively impact their personal circumstances.
  • Encourage staff to report excessive overtime to their manager.
  • Use employee pulse surveys to measure employee health and wellbeing.
  • Review your resource model and embed agility so you can scale up for seasonal peaks without negatively impacting employee wellbeing and satisfaction.
  • Automate and streamline processes where possible.
  • Consider hiring additional temporary or permanent staff or redistributing tasks to employees with lower workloads.
  • Offer additional flexible working arrangements to help employees maintain a healthy work/life balance.
  • Encourage staff to take time off immediately before or after seasonal peaks.



Employees experience burnout when their physical or emotional reserves are depleted. Usually, persistent tension or dissatisfaction causes this to happen. The workplace atmosphere might occasionally be the reason. Workplace stress, a lack of resources and support, and aggressive deadlines can all cause burnout.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.