How many overtime hours are too many?

I’ve taken on two people for my start-up business and it’s all hands on deck. I’m trying to keep them to their contracted 38 hours a week, but they often work more than that. How far can you stretch the definition of ‘reasonable’ additional hours?


Reasonable additional hours? The word ‘reasonable’ can mean different things to workers and their boss.


Where it is stretched it can lead to resentment. If your employees are working in such a fashion that the hours required are seen by them as unreasonable, then you have a problem.


You can, however, be creative. In down times you can offer opportunities to be flexible.


Let people know that you are aware of the demands you are placing on them and compensate them with time off on other occasions.


If you do not make concessions you are undoubtedly opening yourself up for claims for additional payments. We have national Employment Standards and you may run foul of your obligations.


Allow the employees to suggest ways of taking time in lieu because if you impose time off when it suits you, the potential benefit can be lost.


“All hands on deck” must be placed in context for your workers. If they see no light at the end of the tunnel you will lose them, either mentally or actually have them leave.


Many organisations have people who “quit and stayed” and they are doing your business no good at all. The trick is to communicate and raise your head occasionally to check out the landscape.


You can look for signs of resentment and quickly nip it in the bud.


Do things such as take the guys out for a meal, say thanks, acknowledge the effort, ask what they would like you to do and then deliver what you can. Also, invest in finding out what your team think is reasonable and make sure you know how far you can go.


Or you can keep on motoring along oblivious to the fact that your best workers can’t wait to leave at the next opportunity.


Recently I saw a show on TV where a particularly fussy and demanding manager was aware that he had pushed his team to the brink.

He arranged a paint ball trip where only he was the target. Very therapeutic indeed!


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