Overtime Hurts the Everyone

Late last week, a client and I were discussing a struggling project. The client mentioned his project team regularly works nights and weekends to meet the deadlines he had scheduled. I was stunned. This was months into a years longs project.

    There are 3 things fatally wrong with this management strategy:

  1. It devalues both the worker and the work.
    If the work doesn’t need alert, well-rested, and focused people – a machine should be doing it. Conversely, if the people don’t need to be alert, well-rested, and focused to accomplish the work – they’re on the wrong assignment.
  2. It hides the need for additional people and better tools.
    Regularly working overtime means there’s demand for more people and the company would rather exploit their existing staff than fill the demand. Productivity actually decreases throughout the day and after long enough, turns negative. This work-longer mentality keeps helpful people unemployed while others are overworked – both cases destroy health and families.
  3. It hides the need for realistic project scheduling.
    We all may be able to work faster, 9 women can’t have a baby in a month. Things take as long as they take, regularly working overtime hides this fact. Putting lower-quality time (overtime) into project introduces more defects, actually prolonging the project.

For other arguments against overtime, crunch time, and aggressive planning, I recommend:

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