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Young Architect Guide: 5 Reasons You Should Not Work Overtime

Overtime has the potential to be a positive influence on your career and life — but it is certainly not for everyone.

Stephen Ramos Stephen Ramos

Steve Ramos is the founder of the Buildings Are Cool blog and an architect for ls3p in Charleston, SC. Ramos is working on his first book, Breaking the Box: Explode out of architecture school to a successful career as an architect.

This article presents the flip side to a previous post of mine: five reasons why you should work overtime. Overtime has the potential to be a positive influence on your career and life — but it is certainly not for everyone. There are also plenty of reasons why you should not work overtime; here are five of the most crucial …

1. There is a questionable return on investment (ROI).

If you are motivated by a direct return on investment, then working overtime might not be the best thing. Take the example of Intern Kevin. Kevin worked at a firm that did not pay overtime. Kevin had a busy year averaging five hours of overtime a week for 250 total overtime hours.

If Kevin were paid for his time, he would have gained $6,500 of additional pay. If Kevin were paid time and a half, he would get $9,750 of additional pay. Unfortunately, this type of salary increase or bonus is unlikely for an intern in our industry. At best, Kevin might get half of this. Working overtime may pay in the long term, but it has a poor direct ROI.

Image courtesy Ridofranz

2. It can become the norm.

There have been times in my career when coming in on a Saturday and Sunday morning became normal. It started with me trying to finish a deadline and quickly turned into a regular event. The regularization of overtime is problematic. I am supportive of the occasional deadline crunch, but you should be wary of overtime becoming all the time.

3. It is bad for the industry.

When overtime becomes all the time, it brings down the industry. Many firms work long hours because it is the only way to be profitable. They have negotiated substandard fees; therefore, they must work overtime to make the project profitable. This becomes a vicious cycle and starts to bring other competing firms down. This is called the race to the bottom.

4. Life will pass you by.

I was thinking of naming this one “because you have other shit to do.” It is up to you to determine what brings you the greatest fulfillment. Deciding how you spend your time is a personal decision, and it would be tragedy for overtime to cause you to miss out on life. For example: If you are young and single, then working some extra hours may be the best use of your free time. Whereas a single parent with two kids may not have the ability to work unpaid overtime.

Image courtesy Zoran Zeremski

5. You do not like your work.

Not everyone will have passion for his or her occupation. Sometimes work is just work, and that is OK. If architecture is just a job for you, then do not work overtime. You should be spending the time doing the things that you love.

Why I get up at 5 a.m.

During the week, I do all of my writing in the morning before I go to work. There are two reasons that I do this. First, my brain works best in the morning. Second, this keeps my evenings free so that I can spend time with my friends and family. I have found that nobody wants to hang out with me at 5 a.m., so spending a couple hours writing at that time does not hurt my social life.

You have been trained to design spaces and the same process can be applied to your life. Design your time so that it supports your goals. That may include working overtime and it may not.

I would love to get some feedback! How much overtime do you work? What are your thoughts on overtime in our industry? Have you found working after regular hours to be a good investment? Let us know over on Facebook.

This post first appeared in Buildings Are Cool. Top image courtesy shironosov

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