“But I don’t want overtime.”

I have been a salaried employee for a very long time. After a recent move to a new city, I found myself working an administrative job with an hourly rate. I think that the last time I actually clocked in and out of work may have been 20 years ago when I had my first job in fast food.

While in training at my new job, the word ‘overtime’ was thrown around quite often. “Well we do this, and the volume increases this time of year, but it’s ok because we’ll get overtime.” Or “because that takes so much time and it’s so tedious, the managers will generally approve overtime.” At one point I asked, “Do y’all ever get your work done in 40 hours each week or do you rely on overtime?” After a sarcastic giggle and drawn out “Wellllllll…”, the consensus answer was “It depends.” As my co-workers tried to explain all the scenarios of the ebb and flow of our workload, they esteemed overtime as some great reward for having more work than is possible to complete in a work day.

Wellllllll…with 5 words I quickly quelled the glee in the room: “but I don’t want overtime.”

(Stop the music. Hold the press.)

I’d never seen my co-workers look so puzzled…presuming that corn was now growing out of my head by the looks of their faces, seconds before their mouths fell open. “What in the world? How could you not want overtime?”

So I said it again: I don’t want overtime. I want to get my job done well in the 8 hours that are allotted and move on with my day.

And it’s true! When did it become a good thing to work SO much? I have a life, people!

While I understand the thrill of having 1.5 times your hourly rate be offered to compensate for working more than full-time, why can’t this job be done in 40 hours? Does the company need to hire more staff to build capacity? Are resources, time, and people being used most effectively? Are there processes that could be more efficient? What in the world is going on behind the scenes to result in teams of people having more work than what can be done in a day?

Welllllllll…clearly, I’m the only one trying to figure this out because my 2nd declaration caused my co-workers to politely end the conversation (sorry guys…I hate to be the ‘overtime buzzkill’ in the group).

As a salaried employee, I’d spent MANY a days working after hours to get the job done. Coming in early, leaving late, making phone calls and checking emails all hours of the night. Drafting this document or reviewing that agenda, preparing and getting caught up, knowing full well that my paycheck would be no different whether I worked 40 hours, 45, 50, or 60 even! At the same time, when working after hours (for free, essentially), my mind was always thinking about what could be done differently so that NEXT time, this work would take LESS time, OR how to AVOID there being a next time altogether.

I don’t know…I guess I wonder what is the incentive for the hourly employee to get the job done effectively and efficiently, and to offer solutions to workflow and productivity gaps if those gaps potentially create a higher paycheck?

Oh well.

I’m on a work-life balance kick these days and it’s really important to me to have start/end times to all the different hats I wear. As I navigate this newly revisited hourly-employee space, I’ll keep trying to figure out how to streamline OUR work so that I can get in, out, and on with my day. And I’ll keep offering ideas up the chain for how to build capacity as an organization. Being overworked is not sustainable and it certainly doesn’t set the stage for growth. I’m glad my co-workers are happily working overtime…on purpose…week after week. And I’m glad our organization acknowledges and compensates that time. But for me, I’d rather do excellent work in that 8-hour window, then go on and do some other area of life excellently. Overtime? Thanks, but no thanks.