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To work overtime or not to work overtime, a loaded question

On September 29, 2022

Overtime is often a requirement for agencies to sustainably operate 24/7/365, most especially in light of current staffing shortages. That said, it’s also an effective way for many employees to increase their salaries, as well as support their team members and share the responsibilities required to maintain service to the communities they’re committed to protecting.


However, an unfortunate consequence is for some employees to work excessively, and in the end doing more harm than good. Too much overtime can affect employee productivity and disrupt their work-life balance – often leading to burnout. In the case of mandated or forced overtime, there is a line between checks and balances versus acknowledging what is simply necessary. That said, in the case of voluntary overtime, agencies can play a significant role in helping their employees maintain a healthy balance by setting certain rules and encouraging employees to take time off when needed.


It’s the responsibility of both the employer and the employee to recognize when voluntary overtime makes sense. Here are a few points to take into consideration:

  1. Understanding if overtime fits into the employee’s schedule or disrupts it
    A healthy work-life balance is key to productivity. When contemplating overtime, it’s important to consider if overtime is likely to disrupt an employee’s personal schedule as neglect can quickly lead to decreased productivity, burn out, or an outright liability.
  2. Recognizing when fatigue and exhaustion are a liability
    Another important consideration is understanding how mentally taxing overtime can be. If excessive overtime is resulting in unreasonable added stress, it may be appropriate to reevaluate the agency's overtime needs globally.
  3. Initiating dialogue on financial reliance of overtime
    It’s not uncommon for public safety employees to be able to significantly augment their salaries using overtime. It’s important to be compensated for the work, but it can become problematic when their spending habits are sustained by an unsustainable work schedule.
  4. Accounting for the employee’s family schedule and lifestyle
    Understanding the obligations your employees have outside of work will help the agency encourage decisions that help them balance work and home life commitments.


While many of these factors are common industry wide, it’s also important to note that an automated scheduling solution designed for public safety operations can play a significant role when it comes to managing overtime, especially in consideration of fatigue. Agencies can also incentivize overtime to help more people take voluntary overtime so that it isn’t always only that particular employee who is willing to do overtime.


Evaluating these factors can be hugely beneficial while determining whether a particular employee should be given overtime. If the company already has rules in place for overtime, it might be worth reevaluating them to create a workplace culture based on balance, respect for its employees, and sustainable practices.



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