The run up to the festive season represents a particularly challenging time for businesses across all sectors. The onset of winter brings with it a heightened tendency for absence, with employees on average taking twice as much unplanned leave in winter months when compared to the summer. Christmas time is also naturally a period where we all feel like winding down for the year, looking forward to a well-earned rest. Continued concerns around the pandemic as well as the heightened indoor mixing that comes hand in hand with the holidays can also represent a specific risk to businesses, especially if employees find themselves having to isolate.
Unfortunately, this need to take a break is often fetching up against heightened demands for products and services in the lead up to Christmas, presenting unique challenges for organisations in keeping themselves operational, efficient and productive. In order to meet increased demand, businesses often find themselves relying on their employees to step up and take the strain of extra hours. However, with us all naturally excited to take a break over the festive period, is this easier said than done?
With the holidays approaching, we wanted to take the time to look at overtime over the Christmas period and explore some of the ways in which you can help make taking on board extra hours more appealing to your people.
Why is overtime more important than ever at Christmas?
To put it simply, Christmas is busy. With retail sales showing a surge since October, it’s clear that as ever, this festive period is going to bring with it a greater demand for products and services. A failure to meet demand during this time can reflect poorly on a business, particularly when it comes to letting down customers at Christmas. Given also that Christmas is the most profitable time for many businesses, it’s no wonder that productivity and output are going to be key for all industries.
With increased demand fetching up against higher incidences of sickness absence and annual leave requests, overtime and the ability to get the most out of your people will be absolutely critical in helping you hit key targets this festive season.
In order to ensure that they retain high levels of output in the run up to Christmas, businesses will need to think creatively when it comes to incentivising overtime and ensuring that they have the key people in place to keep them operational even as we’re winding down for the year.
What is overtime?
Broadly speaking, overtime covers any work undertaken outside of normal contracted hours. Overtime comes in two forms- optional and compulsory. Businesses are expected to set out rules and expectations regarding compulsory overtime, with any mandated extra hours required to be laid out in employment contract.
Interestingly, organisations aren’t required to pay employees for overtime worked, although obviously incentivising additional hours without financial reward will be a tall order.
Further protection for UK employees comes in the form of government regulations which mandate that no one can be forced to work more than 48 hours per week, regardless of overtime expectations. Additional hours can be taken beyond the 48 hour limit but only with the consent of the employee.
Outside of compulsory overtime, any additional hours are at the discretion of employers, although the same government regulations do prevent organisations from discriminating against workers, offering overtime to some and denying others.
Whilst the need for overtime over the Christmas period seems self explanatory, it’s not an automatic given that your people will all leap at the opportunity to work extra hours. Even with the potential of financial incentives at play, this may not be enough to override the quite natural desire to take time off around the holidays.
When it comes to managing overtime, many organisations fall into the trap of very binary thinking- assuming that financial inducement will automatically mean that employees will jump at the chance to take on extra hours. For many workers, particularly over the holiday season, increased workloads will make the thought of taking time off far more appealing than potential financial reward.
The working time regulations 1998 sets out clear expectations around overtime and just how employers can enforce additional work. These regulations protect employees from being forced to work additional hours and offer them a right to refusal over non compulsory overtime.
This right to refusal is an important piece of legislation in that it safeguards employee’s rights. It does however, present specific challenges when it comes to filling positions during key periods as it is no longer a given that people will be willing to work additional hours.
How to incentivise overtime?
So how do businesses go about incentivising their employees to work extra hours? This is the question that has become quite the puzzle, especially as it becomes increasingly apparent that financial incentives aren’t always enough to convince employees to work more over the festive period. This has necessitated businesses to become more creative in their thinking and finding ways to reward their people beyond traditional means and looking for other methods to make additional hours more appealing.
Let’s take a look at a few key ways you can incentivise overtime this Christmas:
Communicating the need – This is a less reward focused step and one that is based more in communicating requirements and making additional hours seem more appealing. Soft HR skills have emerged as one of the most dominant trends across workforces in the past few years and a large part of this is the ability to create a more open and sympathetic working environment. By clearly communicating the need for overtime, businesses bring their employees into the fold and help demonstrate their part in the chain of making the organisation work and being successful. Communicating the need for extra hours is part and parcel of communicating your mission statement and the way you discuss it with your employees should reflect this. Make them aware of the wider needs of the businesses as well as their own rights regarding overtime. By bringing your people into discussions in this way, you can more effectively communicate your mission statement and help make them part of a team, rather than expecting them to work extra hours without the wider context.
Incentivise gratification – Although it’s difficult to argue that financial rewards rule the roost when it comes to making overtime appealing, it can’t be assumed that a slightly fatter pay packet will be sufficient in getting your people on board. We all appreciate being rewarded for a job well done and a large part of that goes beyond the financial and feeds into how workers are perceived by management. If businesses want to see a wider uptake in additional hours, then they need to demonstrate to their employees that their time is being well spent and that these sacrifices are appreciated.
Encourage management and shift running staff to give regular feedback and shout outs to workers who go the extra mile. Your HR systems should offer you a framework to provide employee feedback and it is important that businesses are encouraging regular use of feedback models in order to demonstrate to employees that their hard work is being recognised and appreciated. By taking a proactive approach to employee feedback- even outside of busy periods, you help reinforce the idea that taking onboard additional hours won’t be a thankless task and that employees can expect acknowledgement and reward.
Be mindful of burnout – As much as the wider needs of the business demand that additional hours must be picked up, this cannot come at the cost of the wider health and wellbeing of your people. When asking your employees to pick up overtime, ensure you are effectively communicating their rights to them, particularly their right to refusal. No employee should feel pressured into picking up overtime, nor should anybody be made to feel guilty for exercising their right to refusal. Pressuring your employees into picking up additional hours can have a fundamental impact on their stress levels which can in turn lead to high levels of burnout.
As important as it may be to fill key positions during busy periods, it is actually far more productive to take a mindful approach to your employee’s wellbeing. Resentful employees are hardly the most productive workers and the output you can expect from people who have been strongly armed into overtime won’t compare to that of contented and well looked after employees. Furthermore, by demonstrating your commitment to being mindful of the wellbeing of your people, you are communicating to your employees your willingness to understand their concerns and to safeguarding them. This can go a long way towards making overtime more appealing within your workplace as your people understand right from the off that the traditional stresses which may accompany additional hours will be less of a factor.
Freedom to access – Financial rewards are unlikely to ever be replaced as the number one factor incentivising people to pick up overtime. However, this doesn’t mean that organisations can afford to become too rigid in their thinking when it comes to rewarding their people. Working additional hours is a gift from employees to their bosses and a welcome boon during business critical periods such as the holiday season and the way in which you reward your people is a reflection of your gratitude.
Additional benefits – Consider rewarding your hard working people by making the actual process of picking up additional hours as pleasant as possible. Free food or drink can go a long way towards creating a convivial atmosphere even during a hectic time. Also look into ways to reward your people beyond the period worked, perhaps by giving them time back and offering them flexibility as to when they can take time away from work. Over the Christmas period, this can mean that workers who go above and beyond can get first dibs on sought after periods off such as new years.
Financial incentives are a welcome bonus in and of themselves but by allowing your employees to see in real-time the earnings that they are making, you help to immediately communicate the benefits of overtime worked. Your HR systems should link intuitively with your payroll, offering your people access to a self-service suite whereby they have instant visibility to the earnings they are making from extra hours. This not only reduces the admin burden on management and HR teams but also allows your people the ability to take ownership of their overtime.
We understand that Christmas is a hectic time for everybody and even as we all prepare for a well earned break, the demands of your business require that your people go that extra mile. We also understand how important your employees are to your continued success and that properly rewarding them for their hard work over the festive season is vitally important in ensuring their ongoing engagement and wellbeing.
The modern shape of the workforce has highlighted the importance of not solely relying on financial inducement to fill overtime. Whilst we all appreciate a fatter pay packet at the end of the month, the benefits of acknowledgement and reward for a job well done cannot be disregarded. Many of us are looking for our employers to craft a kinder and more sympathetic working environment and the way in which the need for overtime is communicated and rewarded serves as the perfect starting point.
We also appreciate that handling the burden of extra hours represents a significant strain on your HR teams and team leaders. That’s why at Mitrefinch, our workforce management solutions offer the perfect way for you to reduce the admin headaches and cut down on the manual input that comes with managing overtime.
If you’d like to find out more about how Mitrefinch can help you make the most of overtime this Christmas, with one of our friendly team members today.