Shift Scheduling

Shift Scheduling

The largest contributor to risks and costs in 24/7 and shift work operations is the shift schedule. With sub-optimal shift schedules, employee performance is impaired. This negatively impacts shift worker productivity, absenteeism, employee turnover, health, and safety. The process of finding the right shift scheduling solution can be tough, and this is where CIRCADIAN®’s experience and solutions are invaluable.

Determining The Best or Optimal Shift Pattern for your Operation

cvr 24 hour society cvrFree white paperThe optimal work schedule for any facility is one that balances operational requirements, employee preferences and lifestyle issues, and the human factors considerations that influence safety and employee performance.

Finding the ideal schedule for a particular facility—one that will minimize the costs, risks, and liabilities of the 24/7 operation—requires careful attention to the process of shift schedule design. In other words, who chooses the shift schedule and how they choose it is vital to its success. Read this white paper and learn about the key factors that impact the success of shift schedule. The optimal work schedule for any facility is one that balances operational requirements, employee preferences and lifestyle issues, and the human factors considerations that influence safety and employee performance.

Shift Schedule Optimization

What's the best shift schedule?

There are hundreds of different shift schedules in use today. But contrary to popular belief there is no one "golden schedule" that surpasses all others.

As it turns out, the best schedule varies from one location to the next. It is the schedule that works best for your specific operation - by balancing operational requirements, safety, and employee preferences.

How do you determine the best shift schedule for your operation?

You can only achieve the best shift schedule through a logical, systematic process that addresses your business needs and involves management, employees, and labor representatives (when applicable) in a positive and participatory selection process.

How CIRCADIAN® can help you

CIRCADIAN® has extensive experience in avoiding the pitfalls and achieving win-win shift schedule solutions even in challenging or contentious environments.

Our proven Shift Schedule Optimization Process helps you develop a plan that works for your business and your employees. We provide you with:

  • Creative shift schedule options that address your business needs, worker preferences, health, and safety requirements.
  • Neutral party assistance to work through obstacles to shift schedule implementation.
  • Consensus-building for a shift schedule based on management and employee input.
  • Cost neutrality for company and employees.
  • Reduced shift schedule-related fatigue caused by physiologically incompatible work schedules.

CIRCADIAN® can help you develop and implement a shift work schedule that leaves your employees with a better work and home life balance, better adaptation to night shift transitions, and reduced fatigue. This in turn, will allow you to:

  • Increase production quality.
  • Reduce absenteeism, fatigue, and employee turnover.
  • Operate more efficiently.
  • Achieve higher morale.
  • Improve health, safety, and alertness.

Expanding to Seven Day Operations

CIRCADIAN® provides specialized assistance to plan and facilitate 5- to 7-day plant expansions (or any initiatives where the working hours will change). These support services will help you realize the full benefits of the change and achieve the desired return-on-investment.

If this is your situation:

  • You are investigating the cost benefits of expanding your hours of operation versus capital expense of more equipment/machinery.
  • You have already determined that you need to expand work hours to 24/7.
  • You are analyzing your staffing levels to determine whether you have the resources to cover 24/7.
  • You want to reduce forced overtime by implementing a 24/7 schedule.
  • You are consolidating production lines from one or more plants to maximize efficiency and reduce unit cost.
  • You are rebalancing labor requirements to better align with workload demands.

How CIRCADIAN® can help you

We provide technical and facilitation support to management, unions, employees, and internal task teams on how to thoughtfully plan, develop and implement the new work schedules through a human involvement process, including:

Operational Analysis and Planning

CIRCADIAN® consultants review your operating policies, practices, and procedures, as well as labor contracts/employee agreements, to understand your business needs and to identify opportunities and problem areas. This includes assistance with:

  • Assessment, planning and strategy development.
  • Where to employ 7-day operations in your facility.
  • Determining the business justification.
  • Determining the employee justification.
  • How to present the change and involve the employees in the change process.
  • Resolving the numerous implementation issues.

We guide you through this planning process, challenge assumptions, and provide you with the benefits of our extensive experience. Why reinvent the wheel and expose the operation to avoidable mistakes, unnecessary costs, and potential alienation of the workforce? After 25 years of facilitating these complex changes, we work with you closely to ensure the smoothest possible transition and achieve the optimal 7-day schedule.

Education and Consensus Building

Politically or arbitrarily derived shift schedules are problematic: they adversely affect morale, employee relations, absenteeism, turnover, and plant performance. CIRCADIAN® can help you to avoid these problems by achieving consensus between managers, supervisors, union officials and shift workers as to:

  • The business needs for the change.
  • A proven method for determining the best alternative schedule.
  • Involvement of the employees in the selection process.

The best way to accomplish this is to provide scheduling education so that all parties have the same facts. CIRCADIAN® provides seminars, training workshops, and diagnostic instruments for just this purpose, so that your people can make informed decisions rather than emotional or irrational ones.

Developing and Implementing the Optimal 7-Day Work Schedule

CIRCADIAN® serves as a neutral, third-party expert to facilitate a proven process that will yield the optimal work schedule every time. It turns out that the best shift schedules are site-specific phenomena, as each workforce has a unique demographic composition and local culture. As a technical specialist, CIRCADIAN® brings the expertise to help both labor and management sort through these issues. Given that we have no vested interest in the outcome, CIRCADIAN® is well positioned to objectively facilitate such joint initiatives and help you achieve win-win resolutions.

Determining and maintaining optimal staffing and crewing levels is critical to efficiency. Overstaffing is obviously costly -- not just to payroll costs and benefits. It manifests in lackluster performance by under-used employees not fully occupied or engaged by continuous operation. Conversely, understaffing creates excessive overtime, difficulty with relief coverage and training requirements, and dramatic increases in safety risks from fatigue, absenteeism, and even burnout.

If this is your situation:

  • Regularly experience elevated levels of overtime.
  • Have fluctuating demands with widely changeable production requirements.
  • Have employees with lots of idle or down time.

This is how CIRCADIAN® can help you:

Having the proper number of personnel in each unit by skill set as determined over a full range of demand variables is critical to the integrity and efficiency of all entities having proportional staffing needs. Utilization of CIRCADIAN® Proportional Staffing technologies can help you to:

  • Minimize unnecessary overtime and reduce wasteful idle time.
  • Cut time lost trying to fill positions that result from unscheduled absences.
  • Schedule vacation and holiday time and minimize overtime.
  • Ensure covering the right number and type of skill positions.

In many industries such as Public Safety (Police, Fire, EMS), Call Centers and numerous types of production environments, calculating the optimal staffing is complicated by every changing demand that can vary by hour of day, day of week, week of month, season and by other parameters. 

By analyzing historical data and sales and marketing forecasts with CIRCADIAN® proprietary algorithms, we find and utilize trends that accurately predict future demand. The process starts by calculating the efficiency of the current schedule. Efficiency is defined as the percentage of time that the client has exactly the right amount of personnel by skill set to perform the required functions. Alternatively, inefficiency is defined as the percent of time that the client has either too many or too few personnel to handle the work load. 

Next, a 100% efficient schedule is developed. Inevitably, completely efficient schedules are not very “employee friendly.”  Therefore, the final step of the process entails meshing the completely efficient schedule with employee and management scheduling requirements regarding factors such as length of shift, time of shifts, on/off patterns, number of consecutive shifts to be worked, fixed or rotating shift preferences and the number of hours to be worked per week, month, year etc. The algorithm also provides for shift relief factors (by job classification and/or department) to accommodate vacations, holidays, and other scheduled absences.

In addition, we extrapolate projections for unscheduled absences and for emergency requirements from historical data; we factor these into the proportional staffing level calculations. Periodic reanalysis by adding  recent historical demand and new sales and marking forecasts keeps the information fresh and dependable and provides the ability to revise schedules as necessary to maintain your efficiency requirements.

By incorporating employee preferences with historical trends and forecasts, we can substantially increase schedule efficiency while providing the types of schedules that employees want to work, thus creating a true win-win outcome.

There are inherent necessities and considerable business advantages to running your operation at times outside of just the day shift. However, there are also significant downsides and hidden costs that accompany these extended hour operations.

The hidden costs of shiftwork are the result of human physiology and social patterns that are disrupted when employees are asked to work nights, evenings, long, or irregular hours on a regular basis. These social and physiological disruptions are manifested as increased absenteeism, turnover, health care costs, accidents and injuries, and decreased quality and productivity.

Using a deep analysis of key performance indicators, CIRCADIAN® can:

  • Evaluate the extent of excess costs due to shiftwork in your operation (help you cut costs in your operation).
  • Identify solutions for reclaiming the excess costs.
  • Propose solutions to existing policies and procedures, union agreements and regulations to promote cost savings.
  • Determine the ROI for implementing countermeasures to reduce the costs.


CIRCADIAN® can also help you:

  • Determine the cost benefits of implementing a fatigue risk management system (FRMS) and help with design and implementation.
  • Assess the impact that certain policy changes or schedule changes may have on your operating budget.
  • Evaluate your current work schedule and benchmark it against your industry.

CIRCADIAN® delivers workforce solutions for business that work around the clock.

Find out how our performance and safety experience can help you.