Working 24/7: What Employees Want from their Shift Schedules

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What do people who work around-the-clock want from their shift schedules? An article recently posted on the Industry Week web site answers that question, drawing conclusions from surveys of more than 20,000 shift workers. To learn what the employees at your facility want, a consulting firm now offers a comprehensive evaluation process specially aimed at shiftwork operations.

According to an article recently posted on Industry Week's web site, time-off is the shift worker's primary consideration when comparing alternative shift schedules. The full article can be found at http://www.industryweek.com/ReadArticle.aspx?ArticleID=15407.

Having adequate time-off allows employees to have a life outside of work, i.e. the ability to balance their lives at work with their lives away from work. There are four types of time-off that employees consider when evaluating a shift schedule: (1) weekends off, (2) total days off, (3) daily time off and (4) consecutive days off.

One of the article's authors, Dan Capshaw, a partner at Shiftwork Solutions LLC, says the key question is: "Which type of time-off should the schedule emphasize? Should the schedule have 12-hour shifts to provide more weekends off and more total days off? Should it mix 8-hour and 12-hour shifts to satisfy both those who want more weekends off and those who want more time off each day of work? Should it have longer stretches of days worked in a row to provide more consecutive days off?"

Capshaw explains that there are two ways to decide which type of time-off to emphasize. One way is to look at what hundreds of his firm's clients have done when shown various 8-hour, 8 and 12-hour, and 12-hour shift schedules. The results of this approach are discussed in the Industry Week article.

The other way is to conduct a survey of the shiftworkers at your site. Capshaw's firm, Shiftwork Solutions, offers a comprehensive assessment process that includes an employee survey. The major advantage is that this evaluation is specifically designed for shiftwork operations and it covers topics not addressed by traditional employee surveys, such as shift length, fixed vs. rotating shifts, various schedule features, sleep and alertness, communication between shifts, or shift selection and overtime policies. The process is called a Shiftwork Environment Evaluation or SEE for short.

The SEE is designed to: (1) identify the real problems, (2) find out what the workforce thinks, (3) identify the organization's weaknesses and strengths, and (4) follow-up to ensure continuous improvement. If you manage a shiftwork operation, you can use this tool to address: (1) employee-related issues, such as poor morale, absenteeism, alertness/health and hiring/retention difficulty; (2) operations-related issues, such as productivity, cost concerns, excessive overtime or idle time, skill imbalance and workload variability; or (3) program-related issues, such as lean manufacturing, safety, quality or other management initiatives.

Consultants from Shiftwork Solutions LLC have helped hundreds of companies in a variety of industries to develop shiftwork solutions that satisfy business requirements, employee preferences and health/safety considerations. The company's two partners, Dan Capshaw and Jim Dillingham, have worked as consultants in this specialized field for more than 16 years apiece.

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BRUCE OLIVER
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