Use of overtime in projects

Why and how to avoid it



By Florence Alliod

SKEMA Business School

Paris, France




In a constantly changing environment, projects face multiple issues. Overtime is a common answer to constraints among most companies: scheduled or not, it will guarantee project completion on time and flexibility. Although it might seem like a useful solution, it appears that extended use of overtime has disastrous consequences on a project organization, the main one being productivity loss, which is one of the main reasons of project failure. Considering those facts and focusing on the model of construction projects, this paper aims at exploring alternatives to overtime, in order to avoid productivity loss and limit all the negative consequences on cost, time, quality and scope of the project.

For our research, we chose to use a qualitative and two levels of quantitative methods. Thus we could answer the following question: what are the possible and best alternatives to overtime considering the constraints and obligations of the project? Our final studies will explain why shiftwork or construction methods and sequencing should be used instead when considering our attributes.

Key words: Overtime – Productivity – Labor – Schedule – Project Management – Construction projects – Contract – Cost – Performance – Alternatives


As numerous government references such as the Human Resources Management Manual state: “Overtime work shall not be resorted to except where it is absolutely necessary”[1], overtime as never been proven best practice in project management. However, certain firms commonly use overtime work in order to finish a project following the initial schedule and thus respecting the contract time requirements of the project: “Some owners and contractors consider extended overtime as necessary and required to meet the demands for faster schedules or to staff their projects.”[2] But what is overtime and how does it affect productivity? In most studies, experts state that a normal labor week is 40 hours of work (Carter, 2017). Above that number, the extra hours worked are considered overtime. “The resulting stress and fatigue that overtime produces can affect cognitive performance such as attention, concentration, memory, and logic errors”[3], which are components of productivity.

Overtime can either be scheduled (mechanical contractors, contractors and owners have agreed on the schedule and performance requirements in the contract) or unexpected, and thus being a consequence of multiple factors or events occurring before and during the contract. For instance, we could cite change orders in construction projects[4], constructive changes or unexpected working conditions: those will necessarily have an impact on the scheduling and as a consequence impact on costs, and require specific project management interventions. In fact, an “often forgotten impact to productivity which has consequences to both time and costs is the number of hours per day and days per week being scheduled for work.”[5]

If we look at the root causes analysis of overtime in projects, we can trace it back to ineffective policies and procedures, lack of effective scheduling and time management, before and during the project:


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Editor’s note: This paper was prepared for the course “International Contract Management” facilitated by Dr Paul D. Giammalvo of PT Mitratata Citragraha, Jakarta, Indonesia as an Adjunct Professor under contract to SKEMA Business School for the program Master of Science in Project and Programme Management and Business Development.  http://www.skema.edu/programmes/masters-of-science. For more information on this global program (Lille and Paris in France; Belo Horizonte in Brazil), contact Dr Paul Gardiner, Global Programme Director paul.gardiner@skema.edu.

How to cite this paper: Alliod, F. (2019). Use of overtime in projects: why and how to avoid it, PM World Journal, Vol. VIII, Issue V, June.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/pmwj82-Jun2019-Alliod-how-to-avoid-overtime-in-projects.pdf



About the Author

Florence Alliod

Paris, France



Florence Alliod is a French business student at SKEMA business school. After a generalist year in Lille where she learned about strategy, management, law and finance, she traveled to North America to start her second year, where she studied entrepreneurship and management in NC State University. There, she had the opportunity to work with entrepreneurs on their company project and started to understand the importance of Project Management.

After this semester, she came back to France for a 6-month internship as a Project Manager Assistant at By Terry, a luxury cosmetic brand company. She gained skills and competences as a young project manager and confirmed her will to work is that field.

Logically, she then chose to specialize in Project and Programme Management and Business Development for her last year. To learn in an even more challenging environment, she started the year in an international university campus at Fondaçao Dom Cabral, in Brazil. There she had the occasion to meet with local start-ups and NGOs and learned from their ways to do Project Management.

The second semester of her specialization was spent in Paris, during which she was certified Prince2 and AgilePM.           Passionate about Project Management and sustainability, she will write her Master’s thesis on these subjects, and is willing to start her professional career as a project manager in the energy sector. Her objective is to use her knowledge and skills to build the world of tomorrow, where social and environmental issues are the first interest of companies.

Florence can be contacted at: florence.alliod@skema.edu


[1] Ministry of Civil Service and Administrative Reforms. (2011). Human Resource Management Manual. Retrieved from http://civilservice.govmu.org/English/Documents/HRM%20Directory/HRMM_08042011.pdf

[2] The Construction Users Roundtable. (2004). Tripartite study on extended overtime on construction projects (R-402A). Retrieved from https://kcuc.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/R402A-Extended-Overtime-on-Construction-Projects.pdf

[3] Olson, B., & Swenson, D. (2011). Overtime effects on project team effectiveness. Retrieved from http://micsymposium.org/mics_2011_proceedings/mics11_olson.pdf

[4] Ibbs, W., & Vaughan, C. (2015). Change and the loss of productivity in construction: a field guide. Retrieved from http://ibbsconsulting.com/uploads/Changes_Field_Guide_Feb_2015.pdf

[5] The Guild, http://www.planningplanet.com/guild/gpccar/acquiring-manpower-for-the-project