The Cost of Working Overtime on construction projects.
Working long hours has numerous costs, some of which aren’t always obvious. These include:
- The premium of working overtime. Those on wages usually have to be paid a 50% to 100% premium on top of their normal wages. Are these workers 50% to 100% more efficient? Of course, they aren’t. In fact, that working overtime is frequently less productive.
- The loss of productivity. None of us can work long hours, day in and day out without a rest. We all get tired and need a break. Our employees also need a break – especially those doing heavy manual work.
- Shoddy management. Often, employees working after hours and on weekends aren’t supervised properly since the supervisors aren’t all required to work the same hours, or they spend time in the office drinking coffee. In fact, I knew one project manager who habitually expected most of the supervisory and management team to arrive on a Sunday, then they all went for breakfast at the nearest restaurant while the other employees were expected to continue working.
- Payroll inaccuracy. A lack of supervision often means that some employees don’t work the full hours that they say they did, and consequently are paid more than they are due.
- Exhaustion leads to errors. Fatigued workers cause accidents.
- Not all employees arrive for work on weekends and holidays. When a key employee (such as a crane operator) is absent it could mean that the rest of the team can’t work effectively.
- Working in the dark. Working at night can impact productivity and safety unless the work areas are properly illuminated (this includes proper lighting to access the work area and around the offices and lay-down areas).
- Staff shortages after hours. When equipment breaks down after hours, mechanics aren’t readily available, which could mean that the item isn’t fixed and the teams are left idle.
- Behavioural factors. Workers could be intoxicated on weekends which causes safety, quality, behavioural and productivity issues.
- Family strain. Working extended hours and on weekends is detrimental to families, often causing family feuds and even divorce. Some employees can become disgruntled with having to work long hours and they eventually leave the company.
- Employee health. Working long hours negatively impacts the health of employees.
Some projects have to work on weekends or at night because that’s the only time there is access to the work areas. Other times, limited overtime work may be beneficial to the project, such as:
- When there are too many people working in a small area, then it could pay to have some work done after-hours when the area is less congested.
- When the project is behind schedule, completing some specific tasks can help keep the project on schedule. Asking specific teams and key people to work additional time can help complete a critical task.
- When deliveries can only get to the project after-hours because of the traffic on the surrounding roads, then workers need to be available to offload the materials.
- Sometimes, it may help production if certain equipment is used longer hours, such as cranes to move materials around the project.
- Some dangerous tasks could be performed after hours when work areas are clear of people, specifically where cranes have to lift loads over areas where workers are busy during the day.
In some cases, a particular task can’t be interrupted, such as when a large volume of concrete is poured. It’s good practice to arrange additional people to come in later in the day to take over from the first team and to always allow individuals in the team to take sufficient rest breaks during the shift.
The Golden Rules for Working Overtime on your construction project
If the project has to work overtime, then it is vital to ensure that:
- There is sufficient supervision on the project so that employees work safely and productively.
- The work won’t annoy the neighbours and that the work doesn’t break any local regulations.
- The client is happy that work happens after hours.
- Workers don’t work such long hours that they become fatigued. They should always be allowed sufficient rest and meal breaks.
- The additional hours worked are monitored, to verify that the employees have actually been working on the project for all the hours they say they have.
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