Does Working More Hours Make For a Better Employee?

By Luisa Liberatore

In August 2013, Human Resources Management Online reported that “more than one quarter of employers report their staff is working overtime, with 62% confirming that the extra hours are going unpaid.” For many, the amount of overtime is steadily increasing, and while this may be good for keeping salaries in line, other costs for the organization emerge:

  • The cost of absenteeism due to workplace stress and burnout
  • The cost of productivity due to disengagement and retention issues

Unfortunately, UBC is not immune to these additional organizational costs. The recent UBC Focus on People Benchmark Report indicated that the overall voluntary turnover rate in 2011 was 7.4%. For M&P staff it was 7.7%. In the report, UBC did not fare well when compared to Simon Fraser University, University of Alberta, BC Public Service, and BC Lottery Commission, whose rates ranged from 4% to 6.4%.  The report also noted that psychological illnesses accounted for 39% of employees on long-term disability at UBC. 

According to the 2011 UBC Workplace Experiences Survey, one of the top three reasons employees were thinking of leaving UBC was to reduce stress. The survey also indicated the following priority areas for improvement:

  • Workload
  • Health and wellness
  • Attraction and retention

It is not uncommon for M&P staff to work above the standard work week of 35 hours due to the nature of their work or to take on increased workloads as a result of lack of funding or organizational change. Understandably, many avoid speaking with their managing supervisors about their increased workloads and/or hours for fear of losing their jobs or being perceived as an underperformer.

Nonetheless, the Collective Agreement does have provisions regarding working significant additional hours of work that all AAPS members should be aware of. Article 10.4 states “The University recognizes that the contributions of M&P staff may often take the form of hours worked outside the standard work week. This contribution is recognized in the greater flexibility in working conditions and the accelerated pace of earning vacation time afforded to M&P staff relative to other staff groups.”

As well, most M&P staff receive paid leave between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day (Article 12.10) as a way to offset some of the significant amounts of hours of work that are over and above the usual job requirements. Recently job postings have also included language such as, “The requirement for travel and work on evenings and weekends is offset by the flexibility in hours and work location” which is in line with Article 10. However, it should be noted that Article 10 also stipulates that employees must be compensated (either in the form of time or monetarily) for “excessive” overtime.

AAPS encourages members to have a proactive conversation with their supervising manager about working significant additional hours. Diane Ross, an AAPS Professional Development Facilitator, identified these tips at her recent session, Strategies for Building Your Negotiating Power:

  1. Prepare to talk: What is the issue, goal and alternative?
  2. Design and deliver your ABC message: Be accurate, brief and clear in 30 seconds or less.
  3. Stop talking and start listening.
  4. Respond powerfully: “let me make sure I understand what you are saying…” or “I assume from what you are saying…”

Members can also connect with the AAPS Member Services Officers for counsel and support in navigating this often difficult conversation. It is important to be calm, concise, and confident during this discussion. Ultimately, the discussion should clarify what the expectations are, how the additional hours of work will be tracked/monitored, and how the contribution would be recognized. Remember that the spirit of Article 10 is not about hour-by-hour tracking but about recognition.

If an employee and their managing supervisor are unable to reach a reasonable compromise, the M&P employee is encouraged to contact the AAPS Office for further advice and support.

By not addressing the issue employees run the risk of

  • Becoming disengaged and dissatisfied with their work
  • Compromising their health and well-being

Managers run the risk of

  • Decreasing productivity which may impact deadlines and service areas
  • Losing a good employee and having to staff a vacancy
  • Having to deal with attendance or performance management issues

An engaged and healthy workplace is one where there is recognition, equity and fairness.