Category Archives: Shift Work Blog

How to engage our services

There is a book by Malcolm Gladwell called Blink, the Power of Thinking Without Thinking.

In a nutshell, he talks about how too much information is not always a good thing.  We often make better choices with less information rather than more.

I sometimes worry that our site offers too much.  We really want visitors to our site to be able to find answers to their questions.  We want them to know how we can help and we want them to contact us if they have questions.  To this end, we have packed this site with as much information about ourselves and shiftwork in general as we possibly can.

And still, when people call us the first question is nearly always, “What is it you guys do?”

This tells me that we have “too much” stuff to sort through to get to that bottom line issue.  In this blog, I’m going to talk about how to find the answer to that question.

If you call me needing help, and I don’t have to pick up a pencil, I will help you for as long as I have the time to spend, without any fee.  So, call with your questions and don’t worry about being on the clock.

Our core business is helping companies to change schedules.  Companies range in size from a couple of dozen shift workers at a single site to thousands of shift workers at sites around the world.

Most often, companies need to expand from a 3-crew, 5-day operation to a 4-crew 24/7 operation.  I would estimate that this makes up about 70% our our business.

We work with every type of industry including nuclear power, call centers, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, refining, packaging, distribution, semi-conductor, shipping and many, many more.

About 80% of our work is in the United States.

A typical engagement process begins with an initial call from the client to us.  On this call, we discuss our process, usually very briefly.

If the potential client is interested in learning more, we offer an on-site visit.  This is typically a 2-hour meeting with the local management team.  During this visit, we discuss our process in detail while addressing their current situation.  We do not charge a fee for this but the people that invite us out typically pay for travel expenses.

Once this initial meeting is over, we know a lot about the client’s needs and they know a lot about our services.  At this point, the client typically likes to have a few days to discuss what they have learned.  If they decide they want a proposal, we send them one and work typically begins within a few weeks.

I use the word “typically” a lot since there is quite a bit of variance.  Some companies that have several sites just call us up and say “We have another site.  When can you start?”

I will use a few more posts to discuss our services in a “broad stroke” type of view.  However, if you can’t wait for those posts, the information is in our site, amongst all of the other stuff you might be looking for.

And remember, you can always call and ask “What is it you guys do?”

Jim Dillingham

(415) 265-1621

6-day schedules (part 4)

This is the fourth and final post in a series of four posts regarding 6-day schedules.  Here are the links to 6-day schedules (part 1), 6-day  schedules (part 2) and 6-day schedules (part 3).

In this post, we will look at two extremes when it comes to covering 6 days.  One uses extra staffing to cover 6 days with 40-hour workweeks.  The other uses traditional staffing for a 48-hour workweek but has a few 12-hour shifts to give an occasional weekend off.

First, lets consider a schedule that covers 6 days with 40-hour work weeks.  This is more complicated than you might think.  Why?  Well, there are 144 hours in a 6-day period.  If a crew is worth 40 hours, then you would need 3.6 crews to provide coverage (144/40=3.6).

This is accomplished by having each of your three 8-hour crews being 20% larger than the number of people you expect to show up each day.  In this way, one out of every 6 people can be off on any given day (except Sunday when everyone is off).

Here is what the schedule looks like:

6 day 40 hourYou will notice that to have 5 people show up on any given day, you need to have 6 people assigned with one of those 6 being off on that day.

First, the good news about this schedule.  Everyone gets Sunday off plus one other day that week.  This should increase alertness (compared to the alternative of only getting Sunday off and no others during the week).  That’s about it as far as the good news goes.

There are several problems:

  • Supervisors cannot match their crews unless they work all 6 days.  If they also take a day off, then provisions must be made to cover for their open position.
  • People like two days off but generally prefer then to be two days off together.  Most shift workers will place a low value on having, for example, Tuesday off as their second day off that week.
  • The staffing requirement must be a multiple of 5.  This schedule works well if you need 15 or 375 people, but it will not work if you need 7 or 18 people.
  • Night shift alertness will suffer as night shift people lose some of their “night time adjustment” during their day off.
  • Cross training is required since every combination of 5 out of 6 must represent all of the skills needed to get the job done.
  • Twice every 6 weeks there are “split workdays”.  This is where they are off the day(s) before and the day(s) after a single day of work.  Shift workers will quickly recognize that these solitary days are good days to feel…maybe a little too sick to come into work.

Companies ofter go to this type of schedule in an attempt to avoid the “high cost” of overtime; failing to realize that overtime and straight time are generally “cost equal”.


This next schedule is an attempt to keep things simple and yet, still give the employees a full weekend off once every three weeks.  “Keeping things simple” basically says, work everyone for 6 days in a row, all 8-hour shifts.  The workforce might not like this.  Alertness, safety and productivity will suffer; but its “simple.”

Now to get a full weekend off with the smallest departure from “simple” you must work 12-hour shifts on two out of every three weekends.  The third weekend is off.

Here is the schedule:

6 day 12 hour weekendsThis schedule is only popular among those that place a very high value on full weekends off.  Working 6 days in a row is hard enough.  This schedule not only calls for that, but it makes one of those 6 days, a 12-hour day.  The result is a full weekend off once every three weeks.

This is probably not a sustainable schedule for more work places.  However, in the short run, it may be just what you need.

That’s it for 6-days schedules.  I may return to this topic again sometime.  There is certainly a lot more to say about this subject.  If you have any questions, please give me a call.  My number is (415) 265-1621.  Ask for Jim Dillingham.

6-day schedules (part 3)

This is the third in a series about 6-day schedules.  I recommend you read 6-day schedules (part 1) and 6-day scheduled (part 2) before going forward with this one.

Today’s post will begin the focus on a 12-hour schedule pattern for covering 24 hours a day, six days a week.

The premise behind this schedule is that you still only want to use three crews to cover six days, but you would rather not hire more employees.  Because of this, everyone will still have to work 48 hours a week (changing schedules does not change total hours worked.  Only changing staffing or the workload does that).  This schedule allows people to get their weekly 48 hours in by only coming to work for four days a week.

Lets look at a quick comparison:

8-hour shifts: Work 6 days @ 8 hours and get one day off per week.  Total hours worked – 48

12-hour shifts: Work 4 days @ 12 hours and get three days off per week.  Total hours worked – 48


This pattern can be worked as either a fixed schedule, a rotating schedule or and oscillating schedule.  The way it is shown here is as an oscillating schedule.  This is a schedule that has both “fixed” and “rotating” features.  In this example, the crews labeled “Days” and “Nights” are working fixed shifts.  That means they are always on Days or Nights.  The crew labeled “Day-Night” actually rotates between Day shift and Night shift (Nights on Mondays and Tuesday and then Days on Fridays and Saturdays).

There are several benefits to this schedule over a traditional 6-day, 8-hour pattern.

Employees will like it for a variety of reasons.  All will appreciate the extra days off.  The Day shift people will like having every weekend off as a 3-day weekend.  The Night shift people will like having 3 days off in a row, even though they are Sunday through Tuesday.  The rotating crew will typically be the junior-most crew.  As the junior employees, they could be looking at years before they have enough seniority to get to the Day shift.  In this schedule, they work Night shift for 2 days and then do not have to return to nights for another five days.

On the downside, the nature of the work must always be considered when looking at 12-hour shifts.  In nearly all cases, if someone can do something for 8 hours at a time for 6 days in a row with a single day of rest in between, then they can do that same thing for 12 hours at a time for 4 days a week with three days off per week to rest.

Most companies that go to 12-hour shifts will find that they need to rework some of their pay policies.  For example, if you only pay up to 8 hours a day when someone goes on jury duty, you may want to rethink that policy.

In 6-day schedules (part 4) I will return to the 8-hour idea.  We will look at a way to add people in a less-than-full-crew increment to reduce overtime.

If you have any questions, you can email me at or call me at (415) 265-1621.

10-hour shifts – Part Four

This post is the fourth and final post in a series about 10-hour shifts.  If you have not already seen the first three posts in this series, I recommend you do so before viewing this post.

This is a link to 10-hour shifts – Part One.

This is a link to 10-hour shifts – Part Two.

This is a link to 10-hour shifts – Part Three.


Click on the schedule (below) to see 10-hour shifts – Part Four.

Capture 10's

Considerations for Multiple Schedules

Often, when we start on a project with a company, the question will be asked, “Can we put in more than one schedule?” The intent is to discern if such a thing is actually possible or too complicated to consider.

The answer is almost always, “Yes, in fact you already have multiple schedules being worked at this site.”

It would be a rare find indeed if a company was operating with its entire workforce on a single schedule. It would be even rarer if such a singular scheduling scenario was optimal from an efficiency perspective.

Consider your basic operation where there is a maintenance crew and a production crew. Quite often, these two disparate operations are on the same schedule in spite of the fact that one cannot do its job while the other is working. You can’t run a line that is taken apart for maintenance and you can fix a conveyor belt that is moving.

So different schedules are not only possible, but often necessary for the efficient operation of the facility.

Suppose that you have two different schedules but they are both in maintenance or both in production. It that feasible?

Certainly. If you have, for example, three identical production lines and you can only meet production demands if one of the lines is running 24/7, then it make sense to have one line run 24/7 while the others remain on a 5-day schedule.

While this is efficient, it can lead to complications when it comes to issues like overtime, absentee coverage and seniority. For example, if a 12-hour, 7-day schedule and an 8-hour, 5-day schedule both start at the same time and there is an absence on the 12-hour schedule, what do you do? Do you cover it by calling in a 12-hour person on their day off? Do you hold over an 8-hour person that is expecting to go home? If both options are available, who chooses which option will be used? Suppose there is a 12-hour person at home that wants to come in for the overtime but there is a more senior 8-hour person that wants to hold over; does seniority rule or does the person on the schedule get priority?

Suppose a person on a 12-hour schedule wants to take 2 weeks of vacation and an 8-hour person steps into the 12-hour schedule to fill the position, are there any policies that will be impacted? This seems like a simple issue until you understand that often pay and work policies for an 8-hour schedule do not work well for a 12-hour schedule.

The list of considerations goes on and on. Suppose there is a layoff on one product line on one schedule but not on another product line on a different schedule? If you lay off by seniority and a senior person stays but has to change lines and schedules and then wants to take vacation, will your policies work?

If you have one supervisor covering two lines and the lines are on different schedules, what schedule will the supervisor work? The more time he spends one one schedule with one crew, the less time he will spend with the crew on the different schedule.

Finally, different schedules have different levels of attraction. Are you willing to allow skilled employees to migrate to the more attractive schedule?

Multiple schedules not only work, they are often more beneficial to the company. However, be prepared for the complications that can arise from such a shift work structure.

A schedule is more than a day-on-day-off pattern

Most people that come to our site are thinking “I need a shift schedule so all I need to do is search the internet until I find a pattern that I like.”

There are several “Danger Will Robinson” issues associated with this idea. First of all, what you like may not be what everyone else likes. Secondly, what everyone else likes may not be what is best for your company.

Suppose you like to work the Day Shift and have all of your weekends off. It won’t be hard to find a schedule that provides this type of pattern. Now, suppose you work at a refinery that runs 24/7. If you have all day shifts, then others are having to work more non-day shifts. If you have all of your weekends off, then others will have to work the weekends more often. So you can see, satisfying your personal preference may not satisfy the preference of others.

Take this same refinery. Suppose everyone agrees that weekends off would be a good thing. You will have no problem finding a schedule that gives all of the weekends off and you will certainly have no problem getting a consensus that such a schedule is a good idea from a lifestyle point of view. However, a refinery must run on the weekends. Having a schedule that gives everyone the weekends off will not change that fact.

Here are a few ways that schedules differ:
amount of coverage
amount of overtime
scheduling maintenance
scheduling vacations
absentee coverage
product flow
health and alertness
shift length
number of days in a row
fixed or rotating shifts
fixed or rotating days
cross training
sanitizing schedule
shipping schedule
warehouse capacity and scheduling
discretionary work
overtime pay and policies

This list can go on and on. Different companies, even within the same industry often need different schedules.

Take the time to do the research and find out what you should be thinking about for your situation. We are here to help. Call our office to discuss your situation with one of our shift work experts. There is no charge for the call so if you have a question, there is no reason not to ask for help.

Getting the Workforce Involved

I recently received a telephone call from a company that was having problems with their shift schedule.  The problem, it seemed, was that people were complaining about the schedule.  The company could hear the complaints but was having a hard time interpreting what they were hearing.  Was it just a few “squeaky wheels” doing all of the complaining or was their a general rumbling throughout?  Was there a specific problem or were there several issues?

The obvious concern the company had was that they needed to qualify and quantify the problem before they could take action to fix it.

This is where we came in.  Our two-survey process accomplishes the following:

The entire workforce is involved.

One person, one survey eliminates the “squeaky wheel” issue.

The first survey finds the problem, the second survey narrows down the possible solutions

The surveys made sure everyone knows what is going on.

The results from the surveys are shared with the workforce making the process “transparent” and the results data-driven.

If you are planning a change to your shift schedule, regardless of how small and apparently inconsequential, get the workforce involved.  It is their schedule.  They have structured their lifestyles around it.  Any change will have an impact on them and their families.  Getting them involved helps them to understand what is happening, why it is happening and when it is happening.  It also lets them have some input into the final solution.