Tag Archives: staffing

5 Signs that you may need a new shift schedule


Shift schedules rarely fail overnight.  Typically, there are plenty of warning signs; signs that tell you to take action before it’s too late.  Here are the 5 biggest warning signs.

#1: You have idle equipment while still not producing enough to meet customer demands.  There can be a lot of reasons for this; nearly all of which point to a schedule that does not have the right people in the right place at the right time.  Product flow, staffing, maintenance and production order variability can all be addressed with the right shiftwork structure.

#2: Maintenance is blaming equipment availability for a downward trend in equipment up-time.  You can’t fix something while it’s running.  The result is often and solution like “We’ll wait until the weekend to fix it.”  This is fine until you find that leaving too much to the weekend ends up with an overly fatigued maintenance group with not enough hours on the weekend to fix everything.  Scheduling equipment, like scheduling people, can improve maintenance accomplishment while still getting the production hours you need.

#3: Absenteeism is going up as overtime starts to wear down your workforce.  As overtime goes up, two things will happen.  First of all, your workforce will start to get tired.  Secondly, they will notice that they are now making a lot of money and can afford to take time off.  This is a “death spiral”  situation in that it is self-perpetuating and will only get worse.  Staffing will impact overtime but to do so effectively, you must have a shiftwork structure to support the newly resized workforce.

#4: Local competition for labor is causing problems with recruitment and retention.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard something like “Amazon just opened a mega-facility down the street and is hiring all of our employees away from us.”  The right schedule, one that is a good fit for your workforce as well as your business can help with this.  If wages are a concern, look for ways to get overtime to that 20% of your workforce that wants all they can get.  Overtime costs your company about the same as fully loaded straight time.  This means when you pay overtime, your employees make 50% more but your cost per hour is virtually unaffected.  Don’t lose your workforce because of wage pressures or quality of life issues.  The right shiftwork structure can help.

#5: Productivity metrics are dropping as equipment runtime-hours are on the rise.  If you are running more an more hours with the same old schedule, then you are probably seeing an increase in overtime.  While overtime is not a bad idea in many instances, it can eventually lead to worker fatigue.  This is especially true if you spread it evenly across all shifts.  Remember, not all employees want the same amount of overtime.  As fatigue goes up, so will accidents, quality issues and absenteeism.  You make find, for example, that running 6 days a week yields more output than running 5 days.  However, if you didn’t change schedules, a 20% increase in runtime will yield significantly less than a 20% increase in output.

In summary, don’t underestimate the impact of having the right shiftwork structure.  Fixing this issue is often the most expeditious and cost effective way of improving your overall operations.

For more information, call me, Jim Dillingham, at (415) 265-1621 or drop me a line at Jim@shift-work.com

Staffing and Scheduling – The Compressed Work Week



This posting is the first in a series of posts that will examine the relationship between the schedule your employees are working and the number of people it takes to staff your operation.  Today, I will focus only on a scheduling practice commonly referred to as a Compressed Work Week.

A Compressed Work Week (CWW) schedule is one in which people work more hours on the days that they work so they can have more days off.

I’m going to look at this several different ways because the impact of a CWW changes, depending on your situation.

Scenario #1: I have one employee and he trims trees for 8 hours a day, five days a week.

In this case, we can be almost indifferent about our employee’s schedule.  He probably shouldn’t work at night but, so long as he spends 40 hours a week trimming trees, we don’t care if he does it in 10-hour or 8-hour chunks.  We do care about 12-hour chunks because in order to average 40 hours a week, he would have to work ten 12-hour shifts in a 3-week period. This means that at least one of those weeks will have 4 days of work in it.  This means 48 hours of work in a single week which will increase costs when you pay overtime for all hours worked over 40 in a week.  Note: No extra staffing is needed in this case.

Scenario #2: I have one employee and he is a receptionist for my office which is open for 8-hours a day, five days a week.

In this case, a CWW will actually hurt you.  If you only need a person for 8 hours in a day and they are there for 10 hours, you are paying for 2 hours that you don’t need.  Furthermore, this person is now only working 4 days a week while your office is open for 5 days.  This means you will have to use overtime for the fifth day or hire a part-time employee or do without a receptionist for 1 day a week.

Scenario #3: I have five employees working 8 hours a day for five days a week.  My business only needs four employees at a time and I need them for 10 hours a day.

No problem here.  Put everyone on 10-hour shifts.  They each work four days a week and they each get a different day off.  In this way, four show up every day for 10 hours and no overtime is incurred.  This example is made to work out perfectly.  However, imagine that you have 7 people and need only five to show up – the number just won’t work out.  Basically, if you are 20% overstaffed on a daily basis and your daily coverage is 20% less than it needs to be, you can change your schedule from 8’s to 10’s without a cost.  Anything else will be problematic.

A few notes about compressed work week schedules…

  • As you can see by the three examples above, your conditions will determine if this is a good idea or not.
  • Even though they might not realize it, your employees will love a CWW schedule after they have been on it for a few weeks.  The might not like the longer days but they will love the extra days off.  There are two things that result from this: (1) Retention will go up as schedule satisfaction goes up and (2) Retention will go down if you take away their new schedule which they have come to love – so be sure it will work for you before you implement it.
  • Although it may seem counter-intuitive, your employees will average more sleep on a CWW schedule than on one with 8-hour shifts.  The reason for this is that people sleep slightly less on days they are working longer shifts AND they are sleeping significantly more on days that they don’t have to work.
  • In the United States, we see CWW schedules implemented most often in operations that run 24/7. There are two reasons for this.  The first is that people love the extra days off. The second is that an 8-hour schedule that covers 24/7 must rotate (Trust me on this one.  Give me a call if you want more details as to why.)



Staffing, overtime and your schedule


One of the most common and misunderstood issues surrounding schedules is the relationship between staffing, overtime and the schedule itself.

The reality is that a schedule has no impact on the quantity of overtime your site is experiencing.

Overtime is a function of (1) How much work is there to do and (2) How many people do you have to do that work.

Your schedule only tells you “when” the overtime will occur.

If you take a look at all the hours it takes to get a job done, and then look at how many people you have to do the work, you will know how many hours per person will be needed.

If you have 4,200 hours of work to be done next week and 100 employees to do it, then everyone will average 42 hours of work for an overtime rate of 5%.  Notice that the schedule played no role in determining this figure.

So where does a schedule come into play?

In most cases, a schedule will tell you “when” the overtime will occur.

For example, if your schedule has short shifts (i.e. 8 hours or less), the overtime is typically worked before or after a regular shift.  There are two reasons for this.  First, the shift is short enough that you can add hours to it without adversely impacting safety or productivity.  Secondly, the shorter the shift, the more days of work your schedule will have.  This means you have fewer days off.  The fewer days you have off, the more you want to protect them.  Therefore, if you have to work overtime, you’d rather do it on a day when you are already at work rather than giving up one of your preciously few days off.

If you have longer shifts (i.e. 10-hour or 12-hour shifts) then overtime is much more likely to occur on a regularly scheduled day off.  There are two reasons for this.  First, the longer the shift, the fewer hours you can add before the shift become too long and begin to adversely impact alertness, safety and productivity.  Secondly, longer shifts have many more days off.  More days off has the impact of lessening the value of a day off, (In much the same way that diamonds would be less valuable if they were laying around everywhere.)  This means that it is less painful to give up a day off, when you have a lot of them.

There is one condition where the schedule can play a role in the “quantity” of overtime – When you have the wrong schedule to begin with.

The wrong schedule can cause you to take the “perfect” number of people and put them in less than perfect locations.  For example, if you have the right number of people but your schedule causes you to be overstaffed during some time periods; you will then be under staffed during other time periods. This will cause overtime.  More importantly, they will cause Idle Time when you are overstaffed along with the Overtime for when you are understaffed.  Both of these conditions create high avoidable costs that can be eliminated with the right schedule.