Mandatory overtime seems contradictory, but it is the reality for many professionals around the world.
For Polk County Professional Firefighters union, this paradox has led them to fight for improved work hours and address its tiring mandatory overtime hours.
“There’s people who want overtime anyway, so having openings within our system, it’s not a terrible thing, our guys like to have the opportunity,” said Jon Hall, vice president of the union. “It just has gotten to a point that it’s so much that it’s unbearable…It’s being able to work it versus being forced to work it.”
Overwork has become a prevalent issue in recent years, with labor shortages and increased consumer demand putting pressure on workers from all industries.
Employee exhaustion has led to record-high levels of burnout, and many workers have had little to no choice but to take on extra hours at work for either fear of layoffs or decreased pay.
“For many, many workers, they don’t really have a right to refuse forced overtime. It’s just a growing problem,” said Paul Sonn, state policy program director at the National Employment Law Project. “It causes huge stress for families; it fuels greater on-the-job injuries.”
Injuries on the job become more frequent when dealing with burnt out workers, meaning that not only are these work conditions hard on employees themselves, but they serve as a liability to companies who do not offer the proper protections for their staff.
“The danger of being a fatigued employee is prevalent in any industry that you’re working with other people or machinery,” said Hall.