For those of us who've earned salaries in creative fields, the thought of overtime pay is often looked at as a pipe dream.
Although Federal Law requires workers to be paid time-and-a-half after 40 hours, workers classified in executive or professional roles are excluded if they earn more than $23,600 per year.
Is this fair? Americans don't seem to think so.
A recent Public Policing Polling found 65% of Americans would support mandatory overtime pay for workers earning up to $75,000 per year. If this became a reality, 84% of the workforce would be eligible for overtime pay, but currently only 11% qualifies.
Last month, the Obama administration submitted a proposal to expand the number of workers who are eligible for overtime pay. This reform could result in a pay bump for millions of workers, but the results won't be made public for several weeks.
Overtime pay? I probably would have laughed if you asked me about it 3 years ago.
For most of my career, I worked as many hours as possible and tried not to think about my hourly rate. If someone asked about being compensated for extra hours through overtime pay or comp time, I quickly changed the subject.
Meanwhile, I couldn't help but notice friends enjoying happy hour cocktails or beer Fridays at the end of their work weeks. Was working through my weekends really worth it?
It probably didn't surprise anyone when I got burnt out and eventually quit my job. However, it took a recent hourly side hustle to highlight the importance of protecting my time.
Reducing Your Hourly Rate
Ready for a wake-up call? Divide the hours you're working per pay period by the amount you see in your paycheck.
How does that hourly rate make you feel? Are you being fairly compensated?
The truth is, you're reducing your hourly rate by working unpaid extra hours. Think about the opportunity cost. Would your time be better spent on a side hustle, at the gym, or with loved ones?
Your time has value, and you're the only one who's going to fight to protect that value.
The easiest way to avoid being overworked is to communicate during the hiring process. Ask specific questions about their expectations and be clear about your needs.
– How many hours will you be expected to work per week?
– What does a typical day in this role look like?
– What's the company's vacation policy and will you be encouraged to fully disconnect?
– Does the company value work-life balance?
I've had these conversations during the hiring process of all of my previous jobs, but made the mistake of overestimating my energy levels, desire for downtime, and how many hours I was willing to put in.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
If you're trapped in an environment of non-stop work, there may still be ways to maintain your hourly rate. How? Working smarter.
This isn't always easy, but I've experimented with technology to try and find new ways to save time. Introducing productivity apps into my daily life has saved me countless hours every week.
Some of my favorites?
Trello – to do list
IFTTT & Zapier – task management
Mailbox & Unroll.me – email
Slack – team communication
Buffer, Hootsuite, TweetDeck, Mention, Cyfe – social media and brand monitoring
Headspace – meditation
Tripit – travel management
What apps do you rely on to work smarter?
While many companies are skirting overtime pay laws by unfairly classifying workers as executive or management, employees must take responsibility for themselves. Asking questions during the hiring process and managing expectations from the beginning is crucial.
It's unclear whether the administration's recent proposal will pass, and if it does, it still would not cover all workers. Senate Democrats have recommended a salary threshold of $56,680 and House Democrats have suggested $69,000.
In the meantime, I'll continue working to protect my hourly rate by working smarter. My time has become more valuable as I've grown older. And I'm just not willing to part with it as easily.
Readers: Is Our Definition of Overtime Absurdly Low?