Overtime: A Real Problem in the Polish Labor Market

Warsaw Spire

The research clearly shows: overtime is a real problem in the labor market. It affects the vast majority of specialists and managers – regardless of gender, age, or profession. It has a negative impact on personal life, well-being, and health, and often leads to irritation. According to the latest “Overtime 2023” report, created by Hays Poland in cooperation with Baker McKenzie law firm, as many as 85% of employees and 92% of team managers face overtime.

Although overtime is defined as work beyond regular hours, the findings from the latest Hays Poland and Baker McKenzie study show that this is just the tip of the iceberg. From the employee’s perspective, overtime is much more than just carrying out a direct order from a supervisor. The reasons behind overtime often lie in communication gaps, unhealthy cultural habits, and outdated business models that don’t match current conditions.

Specialists agree that working excessively has a negative impact on their health, satisfaction, and personal life. If possible, most would like to completely eliminate overtime from their professional life. What then causes professionals to work too much? In reality, it’s not just an excessive workload, but also issues of mentality and work culture – comments Alex Shteingardt, Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and Managing Director of Hays in Poland.

Too much work, too little time The vast majority of the survey respondents admit that they often stay at work longer. Nearly 7 out of 10 from this group also perform their duties on days off – weekends, holidays, during vacation. Almost half of the respondents (49%) state that they most often work a maximum of 5 extra hours per week. Extreme cases are rare, although it varies with the job position – the higher the position, the more frequent the overtime.

Overtime is a result of a large workload, mentality, and work culture Regarding the causes of overtime, respondents generally agree. 78% point to too many job duties as the main reason. This can be analyzed in multiple dimensions. An overload of work may indeed result from a disproportion between the tasks assigned and the working hours. However, in some cases, the reason for overtime is also a lack of prioritization skills or productivity issues. These can result from employees’ insufficient soft skills, ineffective business processes in the organization, inefficient management models, or a low level of company digitalization.

Agnieszka Czarnecka, Head of HR Consultancy CEE at Hays, believes the reasons for overtime in organizations should be sought deeper, as excessive workload is just one side of the coin.

Frequent overtime might be associated with cultural, often unconscious beliefs about work, which partly stem from Poland’s history. As a nation, we’ve always been accustomed to demanding work in adverse conditions. Hence, many employees still operate in the – not entirely healthy – culture of hard work, believing that staying longer than 8 hours a day will earn them recognition from colleagues and superiors, resulting in better developmental and earning prospects – emphasizes Agnieszka Czarnecka.

This is reflected in the survey results. 39% of respondents feel that overtime is due to the expectations of superiors. There’s a chance that excessive work often results from beliefs on both sides – employees thinking that overtime leads to better evaluations, and managers assuming that overtime is a natural part of work and indicates employee commitment. Moreover, over a third of survey respondents believe the problem of overtime lies in the organizational culture, and 28% point to unfavorable processes and inadequate technology. This is an important signal for employers to review their company management, mutual understanding, and support.

Communication gap Within the culture of hard work, it’s often said that the time spent on job duties indicates employee commitment. In many cases, this is a misconception. However, perhaps because of this, some employees decide to stay at work longer on their initiative, not seeing it as a problem and not communicating it to their manager.

This creates another problem – insufficient communication. 85% of professionals claim to work overtime. However, only about a third of managerial staff are convinced that their teams work overtime. Where does this discrepancy come from? Perhaps employees do record overtime but, for various reasons, do not communicate this problem to their superiors, who therefore do not treat this matter as a priority to be addressed.

Another potential reason lies in how overtime is perceived. From a managerial perspective, overtime might be work done outside regular hours on a supervisor’s order. Meanwhile, employees may consider any situation where they had to stay longer at work because they couldn’t complete all tasks within a standard 8-hour workday as overtime.

As Michał Lisawa, Partner in charge of Labor Law at Baker McKenzie, points out: – Overtime can be ordered in case of special employer needs or during a rescue operation. In such cases, extra work is an employee’s duty. On the other hand, employers should not set overtime as a standard work schedule. Ordering overtime can be done in any way, for example, in writing or verbally. In practice, it can also be implied, meaning that the mere lack of a supervisor’s objection to an employee working longer in their presence, or assigning urgent tasks that can’t be completed during regular