The concept of “overtime” in the U.S. has been around long before the term originated. As far back as 1890, average weekly hours for full-time manufacturing workers could be tracked as high as 100 hours. State and federal laws, worker rights groups, unions, and research on worker needs have all evolved tremendously since then. From the executive office to the front line, the need for stable and fair employee schedules with transparent overtime policies is no longer in question.
Shiftboard’s 2023 State of the Hourly Worker report highlights the heavy influence work schedules have on worker well-being, employee retention, and productivity. This latest research discovered that 82 percent of surveyed workers say schedule influence and control are extremely important to their job satisfaction, 40 percent even saying that they were willing to take a reasonable pay cut to have more control over their work schedule. Furthermore, 45 percent said they would likely leave their employer over perceived unfair scheduling practices.
However, in 24/7 large-volume workforces, fair and transparent scheduling is a complex process to manage, especially when it comes to overtime equalization.
What Is Overtime Equalization?
Overtime equalization is the practice of fairly distributing available overtime shifts throughout a workforce. Providing workers with fair and equal access is one of the most critical aspects of workforce scheduling. By eliminating errors and favoritism in overtime distribution, organizations can better comply with internal policies and agreements, maintain a more satisfied workforce, and prevent burnout and fatigue.
Although many union agreements outline overtime equalization policies, these guidelines are now becoming more common within complex industries in general. In 24/7 and mission-critical operations, overtime is often planned for and designed directly into shift patterns (i.e., the DuPont shift schedule). But overtime can be unplanned too, which adds a new level of complexity when it comes to on-the-fly decision-making around overtime assignments.
As overtime plays a more frequent role in keeping operations running smoothly, employee job satisfaction can suffer — a factor industries impacted by the ongoing labor shortage can’t afford to ignore. But overtime can also be a huge win-win for employers and employees. Shiftboard’s 2023 State of the Hourly Worker report revealed that 90 percent of shift workers are willing to work overtime, as long as it’s optional. Understanding fair shift distribution and implementing a process to ensure equal access to (and assignment of) overtime hours is crucial to this win-win: doing so safeguards workforce morale and retention and boosts shift coverage.
The Challenges of Overtime Equalization
The burden of offering workers fair (equal) access to additional shifts falls on scheduling managers. They must manage complex overtime rules and processes and track and update a multitude of work stats and preferences for each employee. Rules might also be governed by specific workflows within a CBA or other organizational policies. Sorting criteria for determining overtime equalization is wide-ranging and may involve:
- Overtime hours balance
- Overtime refusal hours balance
- Worker OT preference
- Last date overtime was worked or refused
- Seniority by company, plant, or unit
- Year-to-date hours worked
- Pay period hours worked
- Job classifications
- Pre-defined employee rotation order
Performing this kind of sorting process using manual tools is tedious and error-prone due to the volume of the ever-changing data. When errors impact employees, grievances can result. If the worksite is unionized, stewards may launch an investigation to help resolve the matter.
In these situations, it is imperative to have an audit trail that either proves overtime assignments followed guidelines or explains the rationale for exceptions. Manually tracking the schedule history takes diligence and time. Yet, without a complete audit trail to back up scheduling decisions, disputes can lead to monetary penalties and negatively impact job satisfaction.
How Technology Can Help
In today’s climate, scheduling complexity only continues to grow. Dynamic operations with changing business goals, industry regulations, and worker expectations call for intelligent, adaptive solutions. Today’s automated workforce scheduling and auditing tools empower organizations to address employee inquiries quickly, and back up scheduling decisions with confidence.
Shiftboard sets itself apart with superior OT equalization mechanisms that help organizations alleviate the intense manual data sorting required for overtime equalization. With intelligent workforce scheduling software, organizations can tailor-fit employee schedules to match their internal workflows — all while ensuring the fair distribution of overtime hours. Our highly configurable solution can help you meet coverage around the clock and achieve better efficiencies no matter how complex it gets.