Perceptions of Working Overtime

Standing out in a competitive job market isn’t always easy. You may even try to employ various tactics to make a bigger impact – ranging from staying current with industry trends to picking up more marketable skills. And once you have a job, you might feel inclined to put in a few extra hours here or there to build your standing with the company or to make a good impression. 

Working the occasional overtime shift may seem normal, but should it be? Research shows remaining stationary for extended periods is bad for your physical health, and working longer hours can take a toll on your emotional well-being. 

As it happens, staying clocked in past your standard shift may not give you the best reputation, either. For a closer look at the perceptions of working overtime, we surveyed 1,001 employees about their professional habits. Keep reading to see how often Americans work overtime, how managers feel about their employees burning the midnight oil, and how often people work later without wanting their bosses to know. 

Working Overtime

The average American aged 25 to 54 works more than 40 hours every week. And for nearly 1 in 3 employees, these hours include weekend work, a trend common among over half of Americans working more than one job. 

As our survey found, more than 1 in 5 Americans admitted to regularly working overtime, followed by nearly 1 in 10 who always found themselves working extra hours during the workweek. While 16% of respondents rarely worked overtime, less than 4% of Americans never worked after-hours. Forty-three percent of people with experience working overtime acknowledged doing so at the office (75% of who got paid for their overtime), while 30% indicated taking their work home.

On average, working Americans clocked 8.3 hours of overtime every week. The frequency of after-hours efforts was lowest among entry-level employees and associates (7.8 hours) and highest among those with senior-level and executive titles (10.9). But people who weren’t paid for overtime put in less time outside their normal schedules (7.6 hours) than those who were compensated for overtime (8.8 hours). 

Additionally, 67% of employees without overtime pay reported feeling work stress, compared to nearly 56% of respondents receiving overtime pay. 

Managers’ Thoughts on Overtime

Nearly 10 million Americans work more than 60 hours every week, although they may not be doing so with the blessing of their bosses. 

Among 380 managers, fewer than 1 in 5 wanted their employees to work overtime. More commonly, 44% said they sometimes wanted their employees to work additional hours, and more than 1 in 4 never wanted their employees to work overtime. However, a little over 1 in 10 managers had no opinion. When asked how they felt about the sentiment that they “didn’t care whether my employee(s) have to work extra hours, as long as they get the work done,” nearly half of managers agreed. 

Regardless of whether they want their teams working after-hours, 70% of managers said their perception of employees who work overtime changes. Overwhelmingly, staff members who work more than they’re expected to were seen as hardworking (nearly 77%) and committed (almost 74%). Around half of managers also saw overtime workers as responsible and diligent. 

Still, perceptions weren’t always favorable. Thirty percent of managers believed employees working overtime are trying to get ahead, followed by attempting to appear favorable (about 11%) and having bad time management (8%). 

Causes of Overtime

Although they may not get positive affirmation for their efforts, or even additional compensation for their time, 60% of employees admitted to working overtime because they had too much work to get done

However, despite being overloaded, 81% of respondents with too much to get done during normal business hours experienced workplace satisfaction. Roughly half also wanted to get ahead or make more money. 

An employee’s daily work schedule may also cause them to work overtime. Almost 18% of respondents worked overtime because they had too many meetings throughout the day, followed by nearly 17% who experienced too many distractions at the office. One in 10 people even worked overtime because they felt obligated when their peers stay after-hours. Overall, 16% of people working beyond their set schedules didn’t know if their boss was aware of their overtime, and 9% didn’t want their boss to know at all. 

Others Putting in the Work

If you decide to put in extra hours, it’s worth noting that your co-workers may have a different outlook on your efforts than your manager or boss. 

Less than half saw their co-workers who worked overtime as hard workers, and roughly 1 in 3 thought their work ethic was admirable. And while another 1 in 4 said their commitment motivated them to work overtime as well, more than 1 in 10 respondents thought working overtime made their co-workers look like overachievers.

However, over 2 in 3 employees got positive feedback from a co-worker or boss who saw them working overtime, whereas more than 1 in 5 got negative feedback instead. Most commonly, negative comments came from co-workers (11%) rather than bosses (7%) or both (almost 4%). 

Finding a Balance

Experts are widely in agreement that working overtime is bad for your health. Not only will your physical and mental wellness suffer, but your professional standing may not fare any better. A majority of employed Americans worked overtime, but many managers didn’t care about employees working after hours, so long as their tasks were completed. 

At ZenBusiness, we know you don’t want to spend extra time working through menial tasks. That’s where our service steps in, keeping an eye on the paperwork so you can stay focused on the real work. With more than 75 years of combined experience, our team provides expert support you need at a rate you can depend on. 


For this project, we surveyed 1,001 employed respondents who worked overtime at least sometimes in the past year. 380 of these managed employees. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 80 with an average age of 37 and a standard deviation of 10.9. 539 respondents identified as women, and 455 identified as men. Four respondents identified as nonbinary. 806 of the respondents experienced work satisfaction; 104 experienced work dissatisfaction; and 88 experienced neither work satisfaction nor dissatisfaction in the past year. 262 respondents worked one to four hours; 318 worked five to nine hours; and 328 worked 10 or more hours of overtime weekly. 379 of the respondents didn’t get paid overtime, and 619 got paid overtime.


These data are survey-based and depend on the self-reported recollections of respondents regarding their everyday life. Limitations with such data include telescoping, selective memory, and exaggeration. We did not statistically test our data, and our campaign is exploratory. The data were not weighted.

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