Overtime Blues

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The Hiring Zone
Issue #11238 - May 2019 | Page #74
By Thomas McAnally

The Designer Hiring Season is here and now, and with it comes overtime. It may be a Saturday or two, or even some 9–10 hour days. Short term, managing your labor needs with overtime is a great alternative to the expense and risks of hiring another designer. Long term use may cost you a few replacements too.

While some seasonal or job deadline-related overtime is very cost effective, trying to run 50–60 hours per week for weeks on end is one of the biggest reasons people tell me they want to find a better job. The money is great, but time to spend it can be just as important. After a while, family and social pressure can cause friction at the office, at home, and on the bottom line.

How you use overtime can be the difference between a very happy design team and one that is ready to jump ship. So what is the best system for implementing overtime without losing people or productivity? There’s no easy answer, but I have some insight as to what people can tolerate, and what sets them off.

  • 40–45 hours per week: No matter how you dice it, most designers average 45 hours per week. A little overtime is good, especially when it is not dropped on people at the last minute. A complaint I often hear is having last-minute overtime constantly running into (ruining) the weekend. If this is an on-going problem, then you probably have a scheduling problem not just an occasional unplanned surprise.
  • 50 hours per week during peak season: If you have a 2–4 month peak season, running 50 hours works if you handle the schedule right and provide schedule flexibility. Some people are early risers and some are not. Some will work Saturday to cope with childcare during the week. Be as flexible as possible when overtime starts to drag on for weeks.
  • If your overtime is approaching 55–60 hours per week and you can’t hire seasonal or additional designers, consider letting people work from home as much as possible. Cutting commute time can mean more time at the desk, and that means more work done in the same time. Maybe set two days per week on which people have to be in the office for meetings or department scheduling, but let them have the option of working at their desk, or at home, some of the time. They can be a phone call away, if needed in the office or on site.

If your goal is getting the most out of people, give them the most support. Provide flexibility on the days they work overtime, hours of the day they are working, or where they work, as long as the job gets done. If you can’t be flexible, maybe ask yourself it your ability to schedule work is the reason. More of my clients are using flex schedules to retain people and manage overtime stress. When you show that you value your people, they will value the work they do for you.

You're reading an article from the May 2019 issue.

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