The process of changing schedules can be daunting, especially for the workers; however, there are a number of processes that can be implement to ease the transitioned.

Based on interviews with shift work experts and 24-hour managers, CIRCADIAN suggests these 9 tips to help your workers manage a shift schedule transition.

1. Don’t over rely on overtime

Excessive overtime can be the downfall of an otherwise successful scheduling change. Avoid extending scheduled shifts and ensure that workers experience the primary benefit of 12s — increased days off.

To avoid overtime-related fatigue problems, here are a few guidelines to follow:

  • Prohibit overtime on scheduled work days, except in emergencies.
  • Even in emergencies, limit shifts to 14 hours unless the worker has the next day off — especially with shifts that include overnight hours.
  • Don’t call in workers on their days off more than two or three times per month.
  • Monitor overtime by individual so you can identify workers who are accruing excessive overtime.

Following these guidelines can help your company avoid being at risk for fatigue-related accidents and potentially reduce employee burnout and turnover rates.

2. Permit multiple short breaks

To maintain fairness for workers, along with avoiding fatigue and vigilance problems, the work-to-break ratio should remain the same after a schedule change.

Allowing additional short breaks – even as many as 4-5 breaks per shift – can be helpful in the transition from 8- to 12-hour shifts. Frequent, 10-15 minute breaks allow workers time for revitalizing activities (a short walk, a snack or a call home) that reduce feelings of monotony.

3. Cross train

Effective cross training can increase job satisfaction (reducing turnover in the long run) and make the physical and mental challenges of 12 hour shifts more manageable.

In physically demanding jobs, workers who use the same muscles for the entire shift are at risk for repetitive stress injuries. In less intense job positions, monotony can set the stage for boredom and an increase in fatigue-related incidents.

To avoid these risks, workers should be trained to responsibly to handle numerous tasks.

4. Focus on communication

There is a potential for communication breakdowns to occur when scheduling 12-hour shifts. Breakdowns in communication most frequently occur with schedules that provide workers with 6- or 7-day breaks within a given shift cycle.

To avoid this issue, consider developing a short debriefing process for workers that lights any changes that occurred while they were gone.

Have workers come to work 15 minutes following several days off. Another solution is to establish a message board for important updates or to use a computer messaging system.

5. Require managers to work 12s

Managers should regularly experience working a 12 hour shift schedule; however, it’s impractical to expect all managers to work the same 12-hour schedule as employees.

Requiring managers to work at least some 12s opens the lines of communication between management and workers; it also improves worker morale by demonstrating that management takes a genuine concern in the realities of their jobs.

One reasonable approach is to require daytime managers to work two 12-hour shifts per month, possibly in exchange for one 8-hour day off.

6. Establish an internal review team

An internal review team can service as an everyday liaison to other workers and meet formally every three months to identify trends.

To identify areas for improvement, create a team comprised of workers, with at least one representative from each job function. The team can pass on any insights to a senior-level management.

While there may be general satisfaction with a 12-hour schedule, there is always room for improvement.

7. Hold team-building social functions

Team building social functions boost team spirit among crews, and 12s make it easier to for workers to get together outside of work.

On any given day, half of your shift workers have the whole day off (whereas with 8s, three-quarters of your workforce is either on the job or working later that day).

Capitalize on this benefit by holding occasional morale-boosting events, such as dinners or softball games.

8. Encourage exercise

Workers who exercise frequently have improved morale, alertness, mood, health and sleep at home (provided the exercise isn’t too close to bedtime). Allowing for the opportunity to exercise at work is often incredibly well-received by workers.

Some companies allow people to exercise while they work, putting treadmills, rowing machines or stationary bikes in control rooms. If this isn’t feasible at your facility, consider furnishing a break room with exercise equipment, light weights, and a TV with aerobics DVDs, etc.

9. Seek out shiftwork-friendly products

Make 12-hour shifts easier for workers by installing shiftwork-friendly products designed to minimize fatigue and stress, such as: ergonomically-correct chairs, high-top stools for standing workers, computer screens that relieve eyestrain, and “anti-fatigue” floor mats.

Choose durable products, as they are used 24 hours a day. With office furniture, find products that reduce discomfort and backaches, yet aren’t so comfortable that they set the stage for falling asleep.

Want to learn more about 12-hour shifts?

Download our free white paper "Advantages & Disadvantages of 12-Hour Schedules: A Balanced Perspective"

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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

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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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