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Three Reasons Working For Free Is A Bad Idea

The saying “there is no free ride” applies to nearly everything in life. If you don’t study, you probably won’t pass the test or get into a good college. If you eat a lot of fast food, the chances of experiencing significant weight loss or a healthy lifestyle are slim. Perhaps most importantly, if you don’t get paid for going to your job every day, you are not likely to show up and clock in for your shift. However, asking workers to come to work without pay is just what one retailer recently did.

Urban Outfitters has asked employees that are on salary to come in and help out during the holiday season, but they won’t be paid any extra for their efforts. Surprisingly, many of the workers agreed, but even with the offer of a free lunch and transportation, here are three good reasons working for free is a bad idea:

  • Your time is valuable, and the more hours you put in the less valuable your time becomes when you actually are on the clock. For employees that make a salary, it is important to look at the actual number of hours worked versus the salary paid. In many instances, working beyond a regular schedule reduces your effective hourly rate (were you to be paid by the hour), the more time you spend at work. At some point, you may be providing a benefit to your employer that is below the minimum wage figure. If so, you are devaluing what you offer your company and it might be hard to seek wage increases given these statistics because few employers will want to pay more than what they are already getting out of you.
  • The time spent away from work has a dollar figure attached to it as well, because your time off is used for personal errands and enjoyment. If you are at work during these hours, the cost of doing things such as picking up a prescription or going to the grocery store increases.
  • The potential for burnout increases with every extra hour you put in, and at some point the work relationships you build for free are no longer worth the health risks that are associated with stress and burnout from your job.

The bottom line is your time is valuable. There is nothing wrong with being a team player, but there has to be a limit. One thing to always keep in mind is your monthly budget as well. Staying on top of your finances will give you greater stress relief than going to work for free.


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