I work in the IT industry.

My current workplace provides a good decent salary, not many benefits, but great work life balance, and I get to work from home almost 95% of the time. This also leaves me good enough time to focus on side projects where I can earn some more side income. The only disadvantage is that the company is not stable, so sometimes salaries are late, and I am not sure how it will be after 6 months.

Because of this I started looking for jobs. I got an offer. This company offers slightly higher salary, great benefits, but no work from home at all. And it requires a lot of unpaid overtime (around 3-4 extra hours a day), sometimes even on weekends. You could say, around 60%-65% of the working days in a year would have overtime. That's a HUGE disadvantage for me. This company has bigger and better clients, so once I leave from here, I would get better job prospects.

I am in 2 minds, because of the extreme workload and very low pay given the workload, of this job offer. If I take this new job offer, my work-life balance is pretty much gone, and I won't even have time for extra side projects. I have a few options now, and was wondering what would be best:

  1. Negotiate a significantly higher salary for the new job offer, and ONLY IF they agree, then take it.
  2. Accept the offer with a decent pay but not as high as point 1 above, and decide to leave company after 1 year, get better job prospects in future.
  3. Decline the offer, stick with the current job I have as it is still safe for 6 months at least, and continue looking for better opportunities in that time.

(Point no. 1 and 2 also come with the risk of me hating my days as its just going to be so much extra workload, including weekends)

Any advice?

  • 3
    around 3-4 extra hours a day..that's almost 50% of the standard work hours...if this is on paper (contract)... I'd think ten times before accepting that (despite the hike). We work to live, not the other way around. Mar 7, 2019 at 6:17
  • 1
    1. Money will never make you happy. 2. Do what you think will make you the happiest. 3. I personally would not take a job that required 3 to 4 hours of overtime every day, or even several times a week.
    – joeqwerty
    Mar 7, 2019 at 6:18
  • BTW: did you already check this question: How do I maintain a work-life balance when company culture tends towards frequent overtime? Mar 7, 2019 at 6:20
  • 2
    @har00n86 It's good in your case that you know it beforehands, so you still can make the choice pretty easily. Not that I'm trying to influence your choice, just presenting a scenario. :) Mar 7, 2019 at 6:43
  • 3
    "That's a HUGE disadvantage for me." You already say this before even experiencing it. As someone who is working these hours, and quite depressed because of it, I recommend to not even consider this, and keep looking for other opportunities. Mar 7, 2019 at 7:41

3 Answers 3


First, a minor quibble with the terminology used here before I respond to the main question. I'll repeat the same point I made here: if you're a salaried employee and they were clear with you what the expected hours and workload of the job are, it's not unpaid overtime. If they say "we'll pay you $100,000 to work 60 hours a week at this job," you are not working 20 hours a week of unpaid overtime - you're just doing the job that you're already paid to do. The 20 hours isn't unpaid - you're paid $100,000 a year to do it. As long as you knew the hours in advance, and they're paying you the agreed-upon salary, it's neither overtime nor unpaid.

The actual problem here is what you pointed out: the extreme workload and very low pay given the workload. I agree with this assessment, actually: the real question is whether it's worth working 50% more hours for only slightly more money.

Another question you might want to ask yourself: is it worth any amount of money to work that kind of hours? Personally, I was offered a job like that once - they offered a really high salary, but were clear from the outset that the job required a lot of hours (sometimes on the weekend as well). I ended up deciding that I don't want a lifestyle where all I do is work, and the extra money wasn't worth it, so I ended up declining the job. Ultimately, though, that's a question of what's important to you - no one can answer that for you.

This kind of comes down to the last point, really: which one is more important to you, making a high salary or good work-life balance? If it's the former, try to negotiate for a significantly higher salary. If it's the latter, you'd likely be miserable in the new job even if you successfully negotiated for a higher salary, so you should keep looking for something that's more suitable.

Based on your question, it sounds like the latter is the case, in which case option #1 is highly questionable, and option #2 sounds genuinely bad.

One more problem: if you can't work from home, that could significantly increase commuting costs. (This can be non-trivial; I've had jobs where the commuting costs after parking, train fares, gasoline, and wear & tear on my car added up to several hundred dollars a month). Also, with all of the extra time associated with the job hours and commuting, you indicated that you likely won't have time to continue with your side projects (which are actively generating income for you). If the new job entails higher costs and not getting income from your side projects, how much higher is the new salary, really? Honestly, this makes option #2 sound even worse.

So, while ultimately only you can answer this, my suspicion here is that your best option would probably be to keep looking for a job opportunity that's a better fit for you. There are other jobs out there than just that one.

  • 1
    Thanks for the answer. This clarified it all better. I actually called them up to ask for a significant (and fair) increase in base salary. They refused. They did not want to increase the base salary offered at all They said it was their final number. Which was really cheap imo. So I decided to decline the offer, and shall stick with option 3, where I continue working my current job, side projects, and look around for better opportunities.
    – har00n86
    Mar 7, 2019 at 14:46
  • @har00n86 Glad I could help. Yeah, if they're not going to offer you more money and you'll have to pay more commuting costs and lose your income from your side projects, this sounds like a really bad deal to me. Mar 7, 2019 at 14:48
  • 1
    The terminology might actually depend on region. In quite a few European countries it's typical to have a fixed/maximum amount of h/week either enshrined by law or by contracts between unions and employers. Anything above that is overtime and the contracts will refer to it as such. A contract might then for instance say that the pay is for Xh/week and covers additional over-time up to Y hours per week. Actually having employees do that overtime in any given week can also be regulated and e.g. require confirmation by a worker's council or needs justification that is regulated by law. Mar 7, 2019 at 17:13
  • @FrankHopkins Yeah, the way I describe it is probably at least somewhat U.S.-centric. Mar 7, 2019 at 22:45


If that is what they require now and you have the time/energy/willingness to do that, imagine what they will ask of you when they are in trouble.

Another way to think of it is this, if you're a single person in your 20s and have the time and energy to devote 60h+ to a job per week that might be fine, for a short while. But then what happens when you meet someone and settle down. Or want to meet someone and settle down. You cannot sustain 60h+ weeks and a relationship (let alone a family).

And it's my experience that organisations that expect 60h+ of work from you:

  • Do not compensate you for the time (60h @ $100kpa is less pay than 40h @ $80kpa on a per hour basis, if you applied a 1.5 times penalty (standard or below standard overtime rates for manual labour) for every hour over 40 that you work, 40h @ $80k is worth $140kpa)
  • Don't have any qualms about firing you or making you redundant at any time
  • Have toxic internal cultures

Seriously, 40h per week is well and truly enough time to do your job. And if it isn't in some cases, you should put in an extra few hours occasionally, not on a regular basis.

This all changes if you're given significant equity in a company (which basically means you're a partner in the business, which is extra responsibility).

If you're salaried, you're contracted to 40h per week. The company really doesn't have a right to claim more than that. You only have 112 waking hours in the week, and likely you'll spend a minimum of 5 of them commuting too and from work, 2h per day eating, 1h for showering/cleaning and you're immediately down to 46 hours per week. Do you really want to spend half of that time working?

  • A great answer. People often forget that your free time is valuable, and finite. Doing overtime in emergencies is all good, especially if you're working for a start-up or a small company, where a bit chunk of responsibility lies on your shoulders. 3-4 hours overtime A DAY is ridiculous however, especially if it's unpaid. As a general rule I always lean against unpaid work, it just leads to bad treatment of employees
    – Yury
    Mar 7, 2019 at 10:17
  • "If you're salaried, you're contracted to 40h per week. The company really doesn't have a right to claim more than that." This is really region depending, obviously there are countries where companies have every right to formulate their contract (mostly) as they wish and it's up to the employee to agree or not. Even in most countries that have a regulated maximum hour work week, there are typically also laws that allow over-time. Often it's regulated under which circumstances this over-time can be done/required, but it's certainly legal in one way or another in many jurisdictions. Mar 7, 2019 at 17:19

When you say the job requires "a lot of unpaid overtime (around 3-4 extra hours a day), sometimes even on weekends", are your deadlines pushing you to work hard or does your employer / project manager asks specifically for you to work those hours?

Instead of going in for a do-or-die situation, you could perhaps offer your managers to maintain the deadlines at a humane level (that's their job after all, to negotiate with customers) or ask for an additional employee so that you two could share the burden. Since your employer is working with "bigger and better clients", they seem to be capable of affording an additional engineer. At least a contract position.

In my personal opinion, negativity will usually be met with a defensive action. I would first try to control my frustration and approach with a positive attitude first, before going in for a professional tug of war.

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