COMP NEWS – Workers are becoming burnt out from mandatory overtime shifts, as some professions have begun logging four to six times the amount of overtime in 2023 than they did in 2019.

Virginia Beach firefighter Max Gonano was coming off a 24-hour shift on Father’s Day when he was told he’d have to work another 12 hours to cover for a staffing shortfall. By the time he got off work at 8 p.m., he’d missed the day with his 2-year-old and 4-year-old children and spent 36 hours straight at work.

Long shifts with little rest and last-minute schedule changes have become a routine occurrence for Gonano and his colleagues, who have worked six times the amount of mandatory overtime hours this year that they did before the pandemic.

From firehouses and police stations to hospitals and manufacturing plants, workers say they are being required to work increasing overtime hours to make up for post-pandemic worker shortages — leaving them sleep-deprived, scrambling to cover child care duties, and missing birthdays, holidays and vacations. While the extra hours can provide a financial boost, some workers say the trade-off is no longer worth it as they see no end in sight to a problem that has now lasted for several years.

Professionals in emergency health services and civil services are suffering from overwork, with EMTs in particular suffering

This Halloween, eight Boston EMTs were mandated to work the overnight shift at the last minute, some of whom were parents who had planned to take their kids trick-or-treating that evening, said Mutter. So far this year, EMTs in the city have worked triple the number of mandatory overtime hours that they worked in 2016, said Mutter.

Employers say requiring overtime is a necessity — especially in health and safety positions with minimum staffing requirements — because they are unable to find enough workers to staff the shifts.

“I don’t like having to rely on that,” James Hooley, chief of Emergency Medical Services in Boston, said of mandatory overtime, which he said the department can only use to meet mandated minimum staffing levels. “It is something that we certainly watch, we certainly have been concerned about.”

The Virginia Beach Fire Department said in a statement that fire departments nationwide have been seeing a lack of interest in the profession for various reasons, including health risks, the long hours required, and a relatively low salary compared to other jobs.

To read more about worker burnout and how companies are fixing it, click here.

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