Friday, 07 August 2015 15:55

Shiftwork Safety Checklist

Shiftwork comes with many inherent risks – especially risks related to human error.

Here’s a useful checklist that managers can use to identify which safety practices should be added to their shiftwork operation.

shift work safety checklist Require daytime managers to periodically work at night.

Managers who’ve experienced the challenges that of working at 4 A.M. are more likely to think of practical ways to improve the safety and wellness of their shiftworkers than managers who’ve never experienced a night shift.

shift work safety checklist Evaluate your work environment

Conduct a comprehensive review of your workplace to identify factors that contribute to fatigue – such as dim lighting, poor airflow, and warm temperatures (i.e. over 70 degrees).

shift work safety checklist Put shiftwork safety on the agenda

Make sure that overnight safety is a mandated discussion point at safety committee meetings and that night workers have a seat at the table.

shift work safety checklist Teach workers about sleep and napping

Getting enough off-duty sleep is the most effective way to maintain alertness. You can’t force workers to sleep, but you can ensure that they are given sufficient shiftwork lifestyle training to educate them on the fundamental importance of sleep, getting quality daytime sleep, and making the most of pre-work naps.

shift work safety checklist Permit several short breaks

Many shiftwork jobs involve doing the same task for long stretches of time. This monotony can induce microsleeps and other lapses in alertness – especially on the night shift. In addition to a 25- to 35-minute break per shift, workers on the night shift benefit from a 10- to 15-minute break every two or three hours.

shift work safety checklist Assess your schedule

No shiftwork schedule is perfect, but some are particularly difficult. Schedules that require workers to rotate backward (i.e., to go from nights to evenings to days) or work five or more consecutive 12-hour shifts can exacerbate fatigue levels.

shift work safety checklist Monitor overtime

People are more likely to make mistakes when they’ve accumulated a sleep debt from several days of insufficient sleep — which may result from excess overtime. Keep an eye on overall overtime levels (including a breakdown of day vs. night OT hours) and identify individual “overtime hogs” who accrue large amounts of extra work hours.

shift work safety checklist Standardize shift change procedures

A large proportion of accidents occur during shift changes because of the additional movement around the plant and the increased need for communication among workers. Make sure you have procedures in place that ensure a smooth transition between shifts.

shift work safety checklist Watch out for “The Wall”

Due to the dip in circadian rhythms, the hours between 4 and 6 A.M. are generally the hardest — and riskiest — hours of the night shift to work. Exercise has been shown to boost alertness, making an exercise bike or treadmill available for interested workers may minimize the risk of “hitting the wall”.

shift work safety checklist Don’t forget the drive home

Due to the increased risk of falling asleep at the wheel, the post-shift commute home is often a dangerous part of a shiftworker’s day. Provide workers with a quiet room to nap in before heading home.

shift work safety checklist Provide shiftwork lifestyle training

Whether it’s handing out relevant literature, providing training online, or holding in-person seminars – it’s always a wise idea to educate workers on the health and safety challenges of shiftwork. Providing shiftwork lifestyle training is also a great way to show workers that you recognize the unique challenges they face – which can improve employee morale.

Managing a Shiftwork Lifestyle Training

Working closely with researchers and experienced shiftworkers, CIRCADIAN has developed the Managing a Shiftwork Lifestyle training program to provide practical solutions for easing the adjustment and day-to-day difficulties associated with shiftwork lifestyles.


Download our complementary CIRCADIAN white paper, “Shiftwork Lifestyle Training: Employee and Employer Benefits




CIRCADIAN® is the global leader in providing 24/7 workforce performance and safety solutions for businesses that operate around the clock. Through a unique combination of consulting expertise, research and technology, software tools and informative publications, CIRCADIAN helps organizations in the 24-hour economy optimize employee performance and reduce the inherent risks and costs of their extended hours operations.

Friday, 10 July 2015 14:36

5 Tips for Managing 24/7 Operations

managing shift work operations

Managing 24/7 operations comes with a host of challenges that many daytime-only operations don’t have to consider. Based on our expertise in 24/7 workforce solutions, here are five useful tips for managing 24/7 operations.

TIP 1: Examine your business reasons for operating around-the-clock

Many operations involve processes that require the operation to run continuously – however, some operations have a choice, one that is often made largely on economic grounds.

A variety of factors should be taken into consideration when deciding on whether or not to run operations continuously (i.e. 24-hours a day).

There are many compelling economic advantages to running nonstop, 24/7 operations, including: increased utilization of capital investment, improvements in customer service, and reduced pay-back time for investments in automation.

Each of these provide a sizable operational advantage, especially when labor costs are a small percentage of the total budget. Additionally, if the alternative to running continuous operations is to purchase major equipment or build a new plant, the financial advantages of running nonstop can be considerable.

Financial disadvantages of running 24/7 operations include potentially significant excess costs due to employee fatigue, which can emerge as increased errors, accidents, legal liability, turnover, health care costs, labor relations, and absenteeism. Remember – just one serious error of inattention by a sleepy employee can cost a company millions or even billions of dollars.

In many organizations, the costs of human fatigue are hidden costs buried in the budgets of the operation – however, these very real costs should be quantified and included in decision-making processes.

It’s critical that the financial implications are calculated for both major fatigue-related accidents and the cumulative costs of smaller fatigue-induced errors that reduce productivity, impair quality, damage equipment and increase scrap and rework.

TIP 2: Recognize and respect the limits of the “human machine”

We are taught that people should not be treated like machines; however, if we thought of people as highly complex machines, we might have a greater respect for their limitations.

Machines have design specifications and operating manuals that tell us the conditions under which we can use them. The human body is an exceedingly complex machine with very constrained performance limits, which we must respect if we are to reliably perform the tasks modern society demands.

We’re not designed to operate continuously around-the-clock, or on irregular schedules, or with consistent performance no matter the time of day or night. Human performance doesn’t occur linearly.

With these and many other such limits to human physiology in mind, think carefully about the tasks you are expecting people to perform, the work and rest schedules you expect them to live, and the workplace conditions you have created for them. Are you respecting and adapting to human physiological limits and building on the strengths of the human machine, or are you setting up your shiftworkers for failure or impaired performance?

TIP 3: Educate your workforce on the biological basis of shift work challenges

When it comes to managing people in continuous operations, supervisors and managers can incorrectly rely on intuition when assessing and addressing the needs of shift workers.

For an operation to run safely, it’s important that both management and workers understand the physiological principles of alertness, sleep, fatigue and circadian rhythms. Education can be provided with formal training about human sleep and alertness physiology – supplemented by readings, manuals, classes, online training, and/or seminars.

With an understanding of basic human physiology, managers and supervisors can make educated decisions that will enhance the alertness, effectiveness and health of your 24/7 workforce, rather than unintentionally undermine them.

TIP 4: Position fatigue risk management as a win-win for labor and management

Effective fatigue risk management systems (FRMS) require that management and employees work together cooperatively to combat the root causes of fatigue. This is essential because part of the solution lies in the employees’ hands and part is controlled by management.

CIRCADIAN experts agree that an FRMS can be launched even under the most difficult labor-management relations, as long as the win-win nature of the outcome is fully communicated and understood.

Considerable benefits exist for employees including improved sleep, quality of life, health and well-being. Likewise for management, major improvements can be achieved in safety, quality, productivity, employee morale and plant performance – all of which impact the bottom line.

The challenge, of course, is to build trust between management and employees to the point where all levels of management and all employees (and their union representatives if the facility is organized) can listen to and understand the win-win outcomes that are possible.

Neutral, third-party experts can provide the credibility and trust needed to implement an effective FRMS and can aid in communications between management and workers to ease underlying tensions.

TIP 5: Build a seamless continuous operations culture

Running a successful 24/7 operation requires a full commitment to the development of a continuous operations culture – where Wednesday afternoon is no different from Sunday night.

This is a challenge for many operations, as life is different on all shifts, especially in a fixed shift environment. How do you create one culture? One set of values? One operating standard?

Are all shifts supported equally? If not, problems can emerge in terms of employee morale, operational safety, productivity, and quality control due to differing levels of attention, training, supervision, experience, and/or motivation across various crews.

Professionalizing your entire 24-hour operation requires building a unified culture, where the corporate mission is well-defined, and standards and policies are uniformly applied 168 hours a week.

The end goal is to retain employees who see their jobs as a full-time commitment, who develop a loyalty to the entire operation and not just one crew, and who can move from crew to crew when necessary.

To earn this degree of employee commitment, an operation must make a sincere commitment to the safety and health of the entire workforce – all crews, at all hours. This is the only way in which an operation can develop a seamless, continuous operations culture.

Want to learn more about managing 24/7 operations?

Download the free CIRCADIAN white paper, “Reducing the Costs of Continuous Operating Schedules”.

shift work costs and management



CIRCADIAN® is the global leader in providing 24/7 workforce performance and safety solutions for businesses that operate around the clock. Through a unique combination of consulting expertise, research and technology, software tools and informative publications, CIRCADIAN helps organizations in the 24-hour economy optimize employee performance and reduce the inherent risks and costs of their extended hours operations.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015 16:06

Managing an Aging Workforce


Researchers at Georgetown University predict that the U.S. economy will face a shortage of 5 million workers with the necessary education and training by 2020.1

Shiftwork & Aging Workers

For shiftwork operations with older workforces, the three critical questions:
  1. Is our operation facing an impending labor shortage?
  2. How do we retain our highly-skilled senior workers?
  3. If we retain our senior workers, what safeguards must be employed?

Impending Labor Shortage

For shiftwork operations that depend on senior workers, it’s a good idea to strategize a solution for the potential labor shortage in advance. Your operation can:
  1. Space out multiple retirements over a period of years
  2. Implement training programs for more junior employees
  3. Encourage senior workers to delay retirement

Shift Work, Aging, and Safety

A common misconception among shiftwork operations is that older workers develop more problems with shiftwork as they age.

In a review of research that focused on the effect of age on the sleep, fatigue, performance, accident rates and health of shiftworkers, the findings were mixed:

Two studies reported more problems in older people, four studies reported opposite results, while in five studies no significant age-shift work interaction was observed. From across-shift comparisons (six studies), it was deduced that older compared with younger workers have more sleep problems with night shifts, while the opposite is true for morning shifts. This review did find some differences between older and younger workers, but did not find evidence for the suggestion of more shift work problems in older workers.2

Sleep and Aging

Sleep itself has been found to be directly affected by age. With age, it becomes harder to fall asleep, stay asleep, and achieve restorative amounts of sleep.

On a related note - our circadian rhythms begin to slowly shift backwards as we get older, normally beginning in our early twenties. This means that throughout our lifetime, we progressively wake up and go to bed earlier and earlier. For some people, the natural morning wake-up time can change by as much as two hours throughout their lifetime. This increase in “morningness” (i.e. earlier wake-up time) can make it harder for shiftworkers to sleep during the daytime.

Along with increased morningness, circadian rhythms become less flexible with age. Coping with shift changes can become more difficult with age, as it takes longer to adjust to working at night after several days off. However, as previously mentioned, aging doesn’t necessarily result in additional problems with shiftwork.


  1. Allie Bidwell, “Report: Economy Will Face Shortage of 5 Million Workers in 2020” U.S News and World Report, July 8, 2013
  2. Blok MM and de Looze MP. “What is the evidence for less shift work tolerance in older workers?” Ergonomics. 2011 Mar;54(3):221-32

Communication breakdowns can easily occur in any 24/7 operations, which can threaten the safety of an operation.

Shift workers are especially susceptible to communication gaps, due to fatigue, shift changes, and long breaks that often come with 24/7 operations.

The risk of a serious accident or injury occurring is dramatically increased when careless mistakes made during one shift don’t surface until the next crew has taken over.

You can’t completely eliminate the inherent human performance limitations of shift work, but you can increase workforce communication to improve the safety of your operation, here are six tips on how to do so:

1. Log books

shift work log books
Shift log books aren’t new to 24/7 operations, and they remain an effective communication tool for workers and supervisors. Ensure that shiftworkers and supervisors record what happened on their shift, highlighting any abnormal or unusual activities. Require workers on the next shift to read the entries of the prior shift and record that they’ve read it.

2. Bulletin boards

shift work bulletin board Operations with little change in day-to-day processes often find that a centrally located bulletin board works well as a communications center. Make sure to only post need-to-know information to keep the postings relevant and effective.

3. E-mails and text messages

shift work email alert

Even as technology continues to advance, email is still one of the fastest and easiest forms of communication. Text message alerts can also be set up for emergency notifications.

4. Shift overlaps

shift workers on shift overlap
Many companies utilize shift overlaps of 15 to 30 minutes, which allow workers and supervisors on different shifts to directly communicate with one another. Shift overlaps present opportunities for brief, informal meetings to be occur between workers rarely communicate in-person with one another.


At one chemical company, the shift “leadman” — an hourly employee — always stays over for 30 minutes of overtime. “It’s a cost we’re willing to pay because it works well,” the unit manager said. “It’s especially beneficial during the midnight shift change, when there may not be any managers working.

5. Meetings near shift changes

shift work meeting
Schedule meetings near a shift change to enable multiple crews to attend, or hold the same meeting two or three times to accommodate different schedules.

If possible, avoid requiring night workers to attend daytime meetings (when they normally sleep), or calling in workers on their days off for meetings.

6. Record Meetings

recording meetings for shift workers
Many conference systems today have built-in video/audio recording features that can be used to record daytime meetings for night shift workers to view when convenient. These recordings can be posted on the local computer network for easy viewing.

If video/audio recording of meetings isn’t feasible or ideal, circulate meeting notes via email to appropriate individuals.


One metal processing company on fixed 8-hour shifts holds a monthly meeting at 2:30 p.m. for first and second shift workers (with the second shift coming in half an hour early). The meeting is videotaped for third shift employees to watch that night.


Communication failures can be a root cause of many preventable accidents and injuries. Improving workforce communication is the first step to increasing the overall safety and well-being of an operation.


Download our complementary CIRCADIAN® white paper, “Shiftwork Lifestyle Training: Employee and Employer Benefits

shift work lifestyle training



CIRCADIAN® is the global leader in providing 24/7 workforce performance and safety solutions for businesses that operate around the clock. Through a unique combination of consulting expertise, research and technology, software tools and informative publications, CIRCADIAN helps organizations in the 24-hour economy optimize employee performance and reduce the inherent risks and costs of their extended hours operations.

Tuesday, 07 October 2014 14:45

9 Ways to be a Better Shiftwork Manager

talking to co worker-no corbisBeing the intermediary between the demands of corporate management and the needs of shiftworkers is a challenging position, especially in 24/7 operations.

We’ve found that the following 9 tips have been the most helpful to 24/7 operations managers throughout CIRCADIAN’s 30 years of consulting non-stop workforces.

These 9 tips will help you to bridge communication between corporate managers and shiftworkers, while still attending to the needs of both parties.

TIP 1: Educate corporate managers on the special challenges, risks and liabilities of shiftwork operations

It’s hard for a manager from corporate headquarters to stay connected with the challenges of 24/7 shiftwork operations. Yet, corporate managers have the authority to make decisions that can inadvertently jeopardize the alertness, safety and performance of their shiftworkers.

Many of these decisions can undermine the effectiveness of a 24-hour operation by failing to account for the limitations of human functioning.

Decisions made on topics such as: equipment purchases, engineering design specs, energy-saving policies, productivity, staffing levels and service objectives, can be detrimental to the company as a whole if the biological variables that greatly influence these factors aren’t taken into consideration.

Facilities managers are in the unique position to educate corporate headquarters about the realities, challenges and the delicate nature of 24/7 operations.

TIP 2: Designate and certify a specific “shiftwork manager” at each site to optimize worker alertness

Ensuring optimal levels of alertness among workers requires continuous attention to the multiple factors that influence fatigue and alertness. One effective way to boost alertness is to designate one individual as “shiftwork manager” in each 24-hour facility.

The best candidate for a shiftwork manager position is an individual who has experience with operations and working night shifts.

The responsibilities of the shiftwork manager include:

  • Managing shiftwork and related human factors information
  • Serving as the resident shiftwork expert at the 24/7 operations facility
  • Keeping up to date with technical information on fatigue management technology
  • Conducting periodic fatigue risk assessments
  • Coordinating the training of workers on managing sleep, nutrition, and other aspects of a shiftwork lifestyle
  • Providing input into decisions regarding changes to practices that impact the nature of the shiftworker’s job (e.g. work schedules, new equipment, man-machine interfaces, etc.).

The designated “Shiftwork Manager” will require training to appropriately equip him or her for the position.

Education and training programs should comprehensively cover the established best practices of fatigue mitigation in shiftwork operations. These programs should also provide a detailed introduction into fatigue management technology, circadian sleep and alertness physiology, and shiftwork fatigue risk.

TIP 3: Recognize the value of shiftwork experience when hiring managers and supervisors

Often times, problematic situations in 24-hour operations occur when decisions directly impacting shiftworkers are made by managers who have little/no personal experience with working a night shift.

Managers without shiftwork experience have a tendency to treat shiftworkers like regular daytime employees, failing to account for the circadian factors associated with night work. This increases the chances that an operation will face issues involving safety, staffing levels, overtime, scheduling and communication, and potentially other issues.

When possible, hire applicants with direct experience in shiftwork operations, night shifts and handling employee fatigue. If you can’t hire someone with this expertise, then you will need to provide education and training on these topics.

TIP 4: Expose new managers to a shiftwork lifestyle for several shift cycles

The best way to raise managers’ awareness of the challenges of particular shiftwork operation is to have new managers experience rotating shiftwork or a fixed night shift for a sustained period of time.

By experiencing night work or shift rotations, they can understand the fatiguing effects of shiftwork, the problems that arise with daytime sleep, and the realities of working the night shift.

It’s important that managers are removed from their disciplinary roles during this process. In order to observe what takes place behind the scenes — the unofficial napping, the lowering of lights and the various ways that shiftworkers cover for each other to make the job manageable – managers need to be viewed as non-threatening to the shiftwork crews.

While managers can participate in this experience at any time, it’s ideal to have managers complete this activity when first training for their managerial position.

TIP 5: Develop your expertise in shiftwork management

Managers are responsible for a 24/7 operation where microsleeps and inattentive behaviors can be commonplace. It’s important to develop an understanding of human limitations and how to optimize work performance and safety around these limitations.

In addition to specialized training, managers of 9-5 businesses often have to have a general knowledge base on other subjects, but human sleep-wake physiology is rarely one of them!

Reading blogs like Shifting Work Perspectives, along with attending seminars and courses on shiftwork and fatigue management, are great ways to develop your own expertise on this important subject.

TIP 6: Spend some time with the night crew

When possible, try to find time for projects that give you the reason to work with night crews. This will reacquaint you with the challenges of 24/7 operations, and give you a chance to experience the working conditions that your shiftworkers face.

Of course, managerial presence will change the behavior of workers – however, completing a night shift periodically will provide management with useful information about the shiftworker’s challenges while simultaneously building relationships with workers that you may not frequently see.

Demonstrating concern for the challenges associated with shiftwork helps to build trust, loyalty and two-way communication between shiftworkers and managers.

TIP 7: Ensure human design specs are incorporated into company planning

During business planning, consideration must be taken for the unique nature of 24/7 operations.

This often requires a cultural change within an organization about worker fatigue and the biological limitations of humans. Cultural changes won’t be accomplished overnight – though it’s well worth the necessary effort to obtain them.

Changing an organization’s culture requires a systematic effort to bring new patterns of thinking into an organization.

Bringing in outside expertise can be quite helpful in establishing credibility behind the ideas being presented. This could include an expert in the application of human alertness technology to 24/7 operations to speak at company meetings and safety conferences.

You can send relevant articles to fellow managers and senior executives to encourage them to rethink some of their old ways of doing business. We suggest a few of the following articles:

TIP 8: Benchmark against the best shiftwork operations

In order to develop a level of excellence it is very helpful to understand how your operation compares with other non-stop environments.

It is helpful to find someone with extensive experience in shiftwork operations both inside and outside of your company, and to obtain the appropriate normative databases to help benchmark your operation against other comparable sites.

By doing so, you can set goals for improvement of your shiftwork operations that are attainable, and thus increase the overall excellence of your operation.

TIP 9: Avoid critical management decisions at 3 A.M.

Some of the most disastrous management decisions in history have been made late at night or early in the morning.

Notable examples include: the decision to switch off the safety systems at Chernobyl to accelerate the testing process; the decision to launch the Space Shuttle Challenger in record-low, gasket-cracking temperatures, and the decision to shoot down an unidentified aircraft over Soviet airspace, which turned out to be Korean Airlines Flight 007.

These disasters were each caused by fatigued managers who made decisions that seemed logical at the time.

The lesson is: when possible, avoid making decisions when you are fatigued, especially in the middle of the night. The old saying “sleep on it” is frequently the most sensible decision to make when fatigued. Trying to push through to a decision, no matter how urgent, often creates consequences far graver than the costs of delaying action.

The Take-Away

Being a better manager means being the voice for both the needs of workers and the logic of corporate management. By understanding the challenges that workers face on a daily basis, corporate management can make informed decisions that effectively optimize the workforce.

This is a long term campaign — not just a single task — that will ultimately result in a substantial pay off, not only in terms of the increased profitability and competitiveness of the company, but also in terms of the improved health, safety and lifestyle of the key employees on whom you rely to give their best 24 hours a day.


Of course, learning the details behind the circadian rhythms of sleep and alertness is no easy task. That’s why CIRCADIAN consulting experts provide specialized training for both managers and workers to optimize 24/7 operations in a variety of ways. Interested in learning more about CIRCADIAN expertise and services?

CIRCADIAN 24/7 Workforce Solutions

Tuesday, 09 September 2014 14:54

6 Signs of a Needed Shift Schedule Redesign

“We’ve always done it this way, so why should we change?”

24/7 operations managers are often aware that a poorly designed schedule can cause serious problems for their workers. However, many companies stick with their current shift schedules out of comfort and familiarity.

Best practices suggest periodically reviewing shift schedules to determine if they still best serve your employees, operations and most importantly – your bottom line.

Over 300 shift schedule variations have been implemented in 24/7 operations, each with varying degrees of success; however, there are thousands of mathematical scheduling possibilities – many of which are based on 8-hour, 12-hour and combined 8- and 12-hour shifts.


Two Problematic Schedules

  1. Shifts that rotate counter-clockwise

    Counter-clockwise (also known as anti-clockwise) shift rotations — working nights, then evenings, then days — fight the human body’s innate circadian rhythm (i.e. our 24-hour internal clock) which naturally drifts forward to later hours each day.

    On a counter-clockwise rotation, adjusting to the night shift is challenging and often results in reduced alertness and performance – known as “industrial jet lag”, since the sensation mimics the feeling of constantly crossing time zones from west to east.
  2. 3 crew, 8-hour shifts for 7-day operations

Having three crews cover seven days of work — a schedule common at plants that have converted from 5-day to 7-day operations — can cause fatigue-related problems. On these schedules, employees frequently work overtime and struggle to develop normal sleep habits.  

The result? Employees become increasingly fatigued and prone to human error, often leading to costly accidents, injuries and poor-quality production.

Weekend warrior crews – while less fatigued – typically cost more, have unacceptably high turnover rates and lowered productivity due to lack of skills and experience.

Signs of Trouble

How do you know if your scheduling system is a lemon? Some of the most obvious signs include:

  1. Workers show up late for work, arrive at work tired, or fall asleep on the job
  2. Increase in accident rates occurring on overnight shifts, especially with rotating crews
  3. A significant change in the proportion of younger vs. older employees
  4. High absenteeism or rising health care costs

Investigating a New Shift Schedule?

One key to a successful shift change – make sure to involve employees when making any new scheduling decisions!

CIRCADIAN data shows that facilities with mandated schedules on average have the highest absenteeism and turnover rates and the poorest employee morale across all schedule selection methods.

Similarly, task team and benchmarking approaches often fail to achieve consensus and frequently overlook critical – and potentially costly – issues that arise from implementing the schedule change.

The Perfect Schedule?

Changing schedules isn’t simply a matter of researching some alternatives and putting them to a vote. Here’s the reality – a schedule change is a complex and volatile issue that can easily become disputed and counterproductive if not developed and implemented properly.

Many companies look for a perfect schedule, but it doesn’t exist. In fact, the best schedule for any workforce is a site-specific phenomenon – derived from management, employee and biomedical criteria.

Win-Win Scheduling

Instead of risking more arbitrary approaches, hundreds of 24/7 operations have turned to CIRCADIAN for assistance.

By working together with employees, unions, and management, CIRCADIAN develops shift schedule plans that meet the business needs, satisfy worker preferences, and are compatible with human physiology to promote health and safety.

The result is a healthier, happier and more productive workforce.


CIRCADIAN® is the global leader in providing 24/7 workforce performance and safety solutions for businesses that operate around the clock.  Through a unique combination of consulting expertise, research and technology, software tools and informative publications, CIRCADIAN helps organizations with traditional and/or extended operating hours optimize employee performance and reduce the inherent risks and costs of sleep deprivation and fatigue.

Have you considered changing your workplace schedule? Uncertain about the benefits of a 12-hour shift? Are you trying to rationalize the change with the workforce and upper management? Here are a few key insights that might help with your decision regarding a shift schedule change.

With companies searching for ways to increase productivity and reduce costs, many managers are working with their employees to evaluate alternative shift scheduling practices. There are a variety of scheduling systems available, and there is an endless array of opinions supporting and refuting each one.

Click here to read: 8 Major Disadvantages of 12-Hour Shifts

While there are mixed opinions regarding different shift lengths, 12-hour shift schedules are continuing to grow in popularity. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Increased productivity, reduced errors

With a 12-hour shift schedule, there are only two shift turnovers per day, resulting in fewer opportunities for miscommunications and production disruptions that may occur during shift changeover periods. This can translate into increased productivity, along with lower error and accident rates.

2. Increased continuity and accountability

On most days, crew A turns the plant over to crew B at night, and then crew B turns the plant back to crew A the next morning. No one finding a problem can “pass the buck” to a third crew, as may occur with 8-hour shifts. Crews are motivated to hand over and receive their jobs with the problems fixed or at least identified and communicated.

3. Reduced adaptation time

Many shift workers need a ramp-up period to get adjusted to each shift, i.e., adjusting monitors and organizing tools, etc. Many state that they are “in the groove” at the 8-hour point, and would rather continue because it’s easier and because 12-hour shifts provide more days off.

4. Higher project completion rate

On 12-hour shifts, a greater number of long tasks and projects can be completed within a shift, such as extended maintenance tasks. Considering that most maintenance tasks require extensive lock out/tag out procedures, substantial time can be lost in preparing for a safe crew change-over that involves uncompleted tasks.

5. Reduced absenteeism

Shift workers often “think twice” about taking a shift off, because doing so uses 12 hours of leave time and/or can result in a smaller paycheck. They also tend to feel more accountable to their crew or to the person who may need to be called in on a day off for 12 hours of relief coverage.

6. Lower attrition and turnover

The increased number of days and weekends off is too compelling an incentive to encourage a return to 8-hour workdays, as 12-hour shifts result in 91 fewer shifts per year and double the weekend time off (26 vs 13 days) in 24/7 operations. In an industry-wide survey of chemical plants, 96.5% of employees working 12-hour shifts reported no interest in changing back to an 8-hour schedule.

7. Improved morale

Twelve-hour shifts typically prove more popular with both shiftworkers and their families. Stress is reduced, and the quality of work and home life is improved greatly.

8. More dedicated employees

During their three to four consecutive days on duty (with 12-hour shifts), shiftworkers tend to concentrate more on their jobs. On 12-hour workdays, employees are more likely to avoid major social events, excessive alcohol consumption or physically taxing activities in their fewer hours of free time.

The multitude of benefits associated with 12-hour shift scheduling has gained the attention of shiftwork managers, many of whom have switched their scheduling practices to improve employee performance and operational efficiency.

Of course, there are a variety complex factors that influence which schedule is best for your workplace, such as: number of employees, industry type, and 5 vs 7 day operation schedules – not the least of which are the labor relations issues associated with scheduling changes. These factors, along with others, should be taken into serious consideration whenever contemplating shift scheduling decisions.

Premium Content

Advant Disadvant 12hrshft thumb lores

Advantages & Disadvantages of 12-Hour Shifts: A Balanced Perspective.

To learn about the practices, policies, results and impacts of 12-hour shifts, download this white paper. 

Twelve-hour shifts are still one of the most frequently debated topics in shift work management. Managers, shiftworkers, union representatives, federal regulators, corporate policy-makers, and academic experts continue to question and debate how 12-hour shifts compare to 8-hour shifts.

• What is the impact on performance productivity and quality?

• What effects do they have on shift worker alertness, health and family life?

• Do they cause problems for management or shift workers?



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