Approximately one-third of an adult’s life is spent working. Working grants the opportunity for professional advancement; it can support a person’s daily life, pay for life’s major events and serve as a much-needed social outlet.

However, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, employees are being denied the day-to-day benefits that work can provide and are now finding themselves under more stress. Higher stress levels have left employees feeling burnt out and demotivated, playing a large part in the rise of The Great Resignation. Businesses should consider their employees’ needs and take steps to ensure that they value and retain their employees long term.

Working Overtime

According to a recent study, 70% of employees reported higher levels of stress, burnout, depression and loneliness, making 2020 the most stressful year of their lives. An estimated 78% of the global workforce has experienced adverse effects to their mental health due to high, workplace pressure (42%), tedious, routine tasks (41%) and unmanageable workloads (41%).

Overtime has become a common occurrence during the pandemic. Employees are having to fill in for absentee colleagues, adding stress to their own workload. In fact, 45% of employees who surveyed in the recent Workforce Experience Gap Study revealed that the pandemic complicated their work schedule.

In the U.K., overtime hasn’t only been driven by the pandemic. Thanks to Brexit, the U.K.’s departure from the European Union, workers are returning home, leaving significant gaps in organizations. And over the past couple of years, many workers closer to retirement have simply left employment for good. The truck driver shortage in the U.K. is a great example, with almost 60% of truck drivers suggesting that Brexit was their reason for leaving the industry, followed by just over 50% of employees leaving due to IR35 — the U.K.’s anti-avoidance tax legislation — and almost 50% due to low wages.

Overtime isn’t necessarily a bad thing; employees are usually paid a premium for any additional hours worked. However, studies have shown that frequently working overtime can negatively affect employee performance and can risk their health and well-being.

Thanks to advances in workforce management technology, employers can identify burnout using predictive analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), and use those findings to make more efficient decisions for the well-being of their entire workforce.

Using AI and Data to Determine Employee Overtime

Not all employees are comfortable with discussing workplace stressors, especially when it relates to scheduling.

Employees can feel reluctant to speak up for fear of receiving fewer (or less favorable) shifts, being seen as unmotivated and “not a team player” or facing more overt retribution, such as dismissal.

However, AI-enabled software can analyze time and attendance data to determine how often an employee has worked overtime consecutively or unplanned (i.e., being forced to pick up last-minute shifts to cover co-workers’ unexpected absences). Employers can use the result as a proxy for potential overwork and vulnerability to burnout — therefore setting more effective, overtime thresholds.

This can help prevent job injuries and ensure employers don’t experience any costly lags in productivity due to absenteeism, presenteeism or employee turnover.

Invest in AI-Enabled Digital Assistants

Understaffing can lead to less productive employees and high turnover, giving the organization or employer a negative look. When employees are overworked and do not receive sufficient time off, they are more likely to show up late the following day or struggle with their workload, feeding into a vicious cycle that leads to even more overwork.

That’s why employers are turning to AI-enabled, digital assistants to make predictions and initiate conversations in the workplace between employees and managers. AI-enabled digital assistants can be used to surface alerts, such as: if an employee has accumulated a lot of overtime, has worked late the day before, hasn’t had sufficient rest between shifts or has yet to clock in for their shift.

This greatly assists managers in making better and more efficient scheduling decisions. The real-time alerts and emerging trends, identified by the new generation of modern solutions, can help employers respond to potential issues faster. Not only does this ensure adequate, shift coverage, but it provides staff with the time to recharge and employers with the data to avoid overwork.

Capture Employee Sentiment with Chatbots

Chatbots have grown in popularity since the pandemic as more employers use them to conduct pre-shift, COVID-19 screenings safely.

However, employers can also use them to capture employee sentiment on hours worked, identify scheduling conflicts and assess their employees’ well-being. This helps employers make proactive and emotionally intelligent decisions — decisions that would be harder to accomplish without these additional insights or a platform that facilitates real-time communication in tandem.

For example, suppose an employee has been working extra hours or more days than usual. A chatbot can be configured to send a pulse survey or questionnaire to find out how they’re feeling about the increased overtime. Based on the recipient’s responses, the next steps can be communicated to the responder or a third party at the company (such as a manager or human resources (HR) to facilitate time-off approvals and swap shifts more efficiently. Doing so can reduce unplanned, overtime costs, prevent payroll leakage and help mitigate non-compliance risks — all of which impact an employer’s bottom line.

Create Positive Outcomes

Data-driven intelligence is vital for businesses to make effective, informed decisions about managing overtime and protecting the staffs’ well-being. Ultimately, it will improve the employee experience as well as increase performance and drive better business outcomes.