On Overtime

November 20th, 2013 by Potato

It has been a crazy few weeks around here, largely because of some large projects at work with nearly overlapping deadlines. I’ve had to put in a massive amount of overtime to keep everything on track. It started back in mid-September with an all-nighter for one project that had a deadline of midnight on Sunday, and I didn’t get the final material to edit and compile until Saturday afternoon. We pulled it together and sent it off just after 6, “six hours ahead of schedule” one guy quipped on the conference call. No, I muttered, our schedule was not to go right up to midnight on a Sunday, the schedule was to finish on Friday and kick it for the weekend. Anyway, I can tell I’m getting old because it’s becoming hard to recover from those all-nighters. And with the next four projects in the pipeline that followed right on the heels of that one, it’s been almost two months of feeling drained and on the edge — I’m just now getting into recovery mode. Things were busiest the last few weeks (as you could probably tell when the blog went dark), with a few hundred-hour weeks in there (technically the worst one was only 88 hours of work, but add in meal times at work and commuting time, and I was on my feet not relaxing for a craptonne of time), followed by a conference.

Like many employers these days, mine is looking to control staffing costs by not paying out overtime; instead we get time-in-lieu (i.e., if I work an extra day on a project, I get to take a day off at some quieter time in the year). It’s an understandable compromise, acknowledging that 88-hour work weeks are not normal while trying to stick to a budget. But for employees this is a tough system, especially if a quiet period to burn banked time never really comes (due to the nature of the work or chronic under-staffing). Moreover, working overtime has costs, particularly as a new parent. You may be eating out more in your rush, have more parking costs as you skip transit or walking to get a few precious minutes back, and of course daycare and babysitting. Then there’s the toll on personal health from the stress of a major project and burning the midnight oil.

Getting time off is a good way to catch up on the family time you missed out on (indeed, I just spent the day playing with Blueberry). But it doesn’t make up for the monetary costs of working more. A good balance would be to pay out some overtime (e.g., if someone hits time and a half territory, pay out the half), though there’s nothing I can do about that for my current position.

Without changing the policies of a large bureaucracy, one way to put back the hole in the budget that crazy hours (and pizzas) burned is to use the time off to do freelance work1. In my case, I’ve had a few ideas on that front, and one possible project on the back burner — and now have enough lieu time to pursue some of them. I doubt I can ever find a time quiet enough to take it all in one chunk (scheduling my normal vacation is hard enough), so it’ll likely be burned off as a day or so per week (at this point I won’t have to work another Monday from now through June). Most likely I’m going to start working on the 2nd edition of my book, and maybe look at a dead tree edition. Fortunately, Wayfare’s work is fairly flexible, so if I can take more time off to watch Blueberry, she can work more to repair the hole in the family budget.

If freelance isn’t an option for you, then time-in-lieu may be a chance to save money around the house, for instance by making more things from scratch. Failing that, you can take a day to just relax, and let the expenses sort themselves out in the budget somehow.

1: Which leads me to: hey, I’ve got time banked. Who has a project for me?

2 Responses to “On Overtime”

  1. Sandi Says:

    I’m struck by how strange it is that working more nets you (the royal you) less money. I don’t have anything intelligent to say because I find myself wanting to rail against big companies that oppress the workers, etc.

    In short: Holy crap. That stinks.

  2. Potato Says:

    Well, as far as one’s T4 is concerned it’s the same amount; In theory one could continue to make lunch at home (and dinner also)… but yeah, working more to net less is a great way to summarize the issue of time-in-lieu.