U.S. employers are asking employees to work longer hours, with overtime levels among workers in extended hours operations rising to an average of 12.6 percent above the standard 40-hour work week for the first eight months of 2003 compared with 11.9 percent for the same period last year, according to a report published by Circadian Technologies, Inc.
"Rather than hiring people back as the economy improves and demand picks up, employers are relying on fewer people to put in more time to get the job done,” says Alex Kerin, author of the report. “At many organizations with extended hours operations, some employees are at or beyond the point at which long hours will negatively impact productivity, health, and safety."
Kerin says a reasonable level of overtime is in the 10-12 percent range--depending on the nature of the operation. That level would give employers flexibility to meet fluctuating demand and employees an opportunity to earn extra pay, according to Kerin.
"But many operations have employees whose work hours far exceeded this limit. Excessive overtime ultimately results in lower productivity, more fatigue-related accidents and injuries, costly increases in absenteeism and turnover, and higher employer medical costs," Kerin says. "It also increases the chances of a mistake or accident that could severely damage brand image and financial performance."
The report is based on a 2003 survey of approximately 550 U.S. businesses and institutions running beyond the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.