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The TUC have designated 1 March as “work your proper hours day.” According to their calculations, this is the day on which the average employee who works unpaid overtime stops providing their services for free and starts earning for themselves. Billed as a light hearted day of fun the TUC suggests that on this day workers celebrate by taking full lunch hours and leaving work on time.
Light hearted or not, the publicity does highlight the way in which employees regularly provide extra time to their employers. Of course, there is nothing wrong with the odd bit of give and take. Staying behind to help with an urgent project can help to build team and business loyalty and also engender a sense of well being. But it is when that extra time not only becomes taken for granted but is expected that alarm bells should start ringing.
Over the years we’ve seen team leaders who won’t let employees leave until they themselves are ready to go; we’ve seen bullying cultures which punish those who seek to leave on time even if it is to pick up children and we’ve seen managers who dump work on desks last thing at night and expect results by the morning. All these are symptomatic of a toxic culture which shows no respect for the person. And the only result of this culture will be a disengagement of employee loyalty, an increase in error rates, a reduction in productivity and a high employee turnover and sickness rate.
Whilst there is nothing wrong with a little unpaid overtime from time to time, backing it up with thanks, with a “leave early day” or with flexibility over medical appointments can positively help to foster a strong employee loyalty. Conversely not only expecting overtime but penalising those who don’t step up to the mark is a one way ticket to failure.