Career and Jobs

Employees Are Working An Extra Day In Unpaid Overtime Each Week

Unpaid overtime is on the rise, and workers around the world have the pandemic to thank. 

One in 10 employees say they’ve been putting in more than 20 hours of free work per week, according to an ADP Research Institute study released Wednesday. That proportion has doubled since the health crisis began. What’s more, workers on average are logging 9.2 hours of unpaid overtime weekly, up from 7.3 hours just one year ago. 

ADP Research Institute surveyed more than 32,000 working-age adults across 17 countries to gauge employee sentiment in the face of the pandemic.

“Managers have a responsibility to know how much their employees are working,” says Kevin Rockmann, a professor of Management at George Mason University’s School of Business. “It’s lazy and irresponsible to leave it up to the employee to tell the manager whether overtime has been used.”

Such managerial practices, he says, may leave vulnerable employees—such those from underrepresented groups or with temporary work arrangements—at a disadvantage, since those who feel secure in their positions may be more inclined to speak up.

Workers are putting in these extra hours either to compensate for colleagues who lost or left their jobs, or simply to cope with the extra workload the pandemic created, ADP found. North America saw the most significant uptick in unpaid overtime, its workers’ averaging nearly nine hours of free work per week, a 125% year-over-year increase. The Asia-Pacific region, however, still leads, with its workforce averaging almost 10 hours of unpaid labor each week.

Though ADP Chief Economist Nela Richardson says this trend has led to a dramatic spike in productivity, she’s quick to point out that it’s unsustainable in the long term.

But it’s not all bad news: 68% of workers report having received a pay raise or a bonus in the past year. In North America, this was true for 63% of men and 51% of women.

Those who benefited from that, as well as the potential cost savings associated with working remotely for a year, may never want to return to the office, says Thomas Malone, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

Some 38% of respondents to a recent FlexJobs survey estimate saving at least $5,000 by working from home over the past year. The remote job search site surveyed more than 2,100 people who telecommuted during the pandemic. The majority of these workers, or 65%, spent $500 or less on home office supplies in that time.

Malone says companies should consider these cost savings when making return-to-office plans. Better yet, he suggests that employers give their employees a say in how they want to work.

“As a society, we are having trouble reconciling the different views,” Malone says. “Probably the thing that is most common that we’ve talked about is all the bad things [related to the pandemic.] Not many people have talked about the good things, but I think that’s an important part of the story.”

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