Working overtime might pad your bank account in the short run and/or get the boss on your side, but too much of a good thing isn’t great for your career.
You’ve probably pulled an all-nighter or two in your day, and while that energetic loopy feeling the next morning might get you through an exam, you can’t sustain that pace. When it comes to working overtime, a little here and there likely won’t hurt. But what you may not realize is that consistently working overtime might be taking a lot more than it’s giving you.
1. Diminishing Returns
“Productivity drops immediately upon starting overtime and continues to drop until, at approximately eight 60-hour weeks, the total work done is the same as what would have been done in eight 40-hour weeks,” a recent report by the International Game Developers Association stated.
If you’re a salaried employee and putting in more work to get in good with your manager, you better hope she’s impressed by face time — because after a certain point, you probably aren’t getting more done.
2. Not Even Fit to Drive
When you start skimping on sleep, the problems start to really add up. Sleep-deprived people lose the ability to focus, have short-term memory issues, get moody, and even start to behave a little erratically, according to sleep issues expert Dr. Harneet Walia. But when you work extra, you also start to act like you’ve lost sleep. You could even seem a little drunk. The National Sleep Foundation says that “being awake for 18 hours straight makes you drive like you have a blood alcohol level of .05 (for reference, .08 is considered drunk). If you’ve been awake for a full 24 hours and drive—say, after a night where you just couldn’t fall asleep—it’s like you have a blood alcohol level of .10.”
3. Establish Productivity at the Start
The IGDA study showed more insights into how we tend to work, not just how long we work. “Productivity varies over the course of the workday, with the greatest productivity occurring in the first four to six hours. After enough hours, productivity approaches zero; eventually it becomes negative,” it said. So get what you can get done early, and chances are you won’t miss out on focus come that afternoon slump.
4. Downtime Is Essential
Sleep is so important, and so is a bit of work/life balance. The National Sleep Foundation says adults on average need seven to eight hours of sleep a night. If you factor in a 60-plus hour work week, plus a eight hours of sleep, you’re only able to fit in three to four hours before and after work for things like eating, showering, and commuting. By the time you get home, grab something to eat, and maybe see a loved one, it’s time to turn around and do it all over again. Doesn’t sound too restful, right? Or like a schedule where you can fit in seeing a movie, reading a book, or just plain visiting with friends.
Tell Us What You Think
How much overtime do you feel is too much? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.