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Overtime and burnout

Written by: Sophie Warwick

Burnout. Overtime. Vacation/PTO. Mental health/flex days. All of these are words you’ve likely heard at work in the last couple of years. You also may find that the value of time off has increased and has become a higher priority in negotiations. Unmanaged burnout can have adverse affects both on individuals and employers. It impacts mental and physical health, relationships at work and at home, performance, and long-term retention. To learn more, earlier this year we produced the 2022 Vacation & Burnout Report to better understand vacation policies across Canada and how they relate to burnout. We heard from respondents in 6 different provinces and territories, 27 different cities, and 18 different industries.

We found that many Canadians are feeling burnt out, and women often to a higher degree. We’ve summarized our key findings below to help get you thinking about your own relation to burnout. Where does recharge time sit on the priority list for you?

Our report showed that only 52.6% of women report that they feel their employer supports them in achieving their desired work/life balance compared to 65.2% of men. Additionally, while it might be perceived that greater balance is achieved in the public sector, our survey showed the public and private sector as very similar. 58.3% of public sector workers compared to 57.0% of private sector workers report that they feel their employer supports them in achieving their desired work/life balance. Overall, 33% of respondents do not feel their employer supports them in achieving their desired work/life balance.

54% of respondents do not receive flex and/or mental health days in addition to sick and vacation days. The world has made big waves in normalizing open dialogue on mental health, but workplace policies are often still behind. Of Canadians who are 40 years or older, 1 in 2 have – or have had – a mental illness (CAMH, 2022). This also doesn’t include individuals who occasionally have days with lower mental wellness (feelings of stress, anxiety, loneliness, etc.), all of which are occurring at greater rates in recent years. We need to empower employees to take time when they need it to rest or seek support, so they can show up more powerfully once they’ve recovered.

3 in 5 respondents reported working overtime in a typical work week. If 60% of Canadians are working overtime each week, then either the workload or the hourly expectations likely need to change. In some ways, it ceases to be overtime if it’s part of the typical routine. Think about the number of hours of work you feel comfortable with, both with respect to sprints (e.g. extra hours for an upcoming deadline) and long-term sustainability (e.g. average number of hours worked per month in a year). Ensure this is reviewed both with how it works for your own life demands (e.g. meeting responsibilities, enough rest, eating right, exercise, time with family and friends) and that you’re compensated in a way that feels appropriate to you.

Of those respondents who worked overtime in a typical work week, half worked more than 9 extra hours per week. Essentially, half of those respondents were adding at least an additional workday into their typical work week. We all work in different ways. I personally prefer longer days with more undisrupted unplug days compared to the same number of hours spread over more days. Think about what feels comfortable for you, both in the number of hours worked per week and in how they’re distributed. Are you able to take time in lieu when you log more hours? Are you able to meet your social and personal needs with your current schedule?

43% of respondents reported that they work more hours per week than their employment contract states or than they understood when they accepted the offer. Overtime isn’t necessarily the problem, but managing expectations is. If you sign an offer with the expectation that you work 40 hours a week consistently, then you may find that job no longer possible if the actual number of hours worked is 49. It may be that you have a young family and can no longer do after school pickups, you volunteer weekly with an organization that’s important to you and can no longer maintain that commitment, or you have other hobbies that provide immeasurable value to your wellbeing.

Every person has different expectations for how many hours they need and want to work in a week. However, it’s critical that those expectations are defined at the point of job acceptance so both parties understand the requirements of the job. Employees need to have the opportunity to review whether this job can work with their other life demands and goals.

Additionally, employees need to be compensated for their overtime hours. There are a lot of ways to provide compensation for overtime and this doesn’t necessarily mean being paid for each hour directly. It can mean a higher base salary that encompasses those hours, bonus structures that reward performance (although this should be measured by performance not number of hours), flex time off in lieu, extra vacation time, or health and wellness allowances. Everyone’s priorities will look different and will likely change for each of us in different roles and at different parts of our lives. Before accepting a new job offer make sure you feel comfortable with the overtime expectations and corresponding compensation.


The full version of our 2022 Vacation & Burnout Report is available for free from our online store. We offer a range of video courses and products to help you negotiate for the compensation you deserve and build better workplaces for women. Need something more specific? We advise women in compensation and contract negotiations, from junior roles to senior executives. Using our team's deep expertise in compensation, we empower women to feel confident in asking for the compensation they deserve. Compensation includes salary, stock options, RSUs, bonuses, benefits, vacation, severance, RRSP/401Ks/ESPPs, non-competes, allowances, parental leave and much more. Send us an email at to book a session today.


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