Everyone Wants to Work Day Shift, Right? Think again!

We all know that shift work, and especially night shift, is difficult. For some folks, it can lead to disrupted sleep patterns and non-traditional social interactions with friends and family members. As a result, it is a common perception that, when it comes to shift work, everyone would prefer to work the day shift.

Over the last 20+ years, we have asked thousands of shift workers what their preferred shift assignment is. In an 8-hour, three-shift situation, you can see in the graphic that it is true that most people want to work day shift (71%), but there are also 15% that want to work the afternoon shift and 14% that want to work the night shift. In other words, in typical three-shift operation, you have a majority of people (33% on days + 15% on afternoons + 14% on nights =62%) satisfied with their shift assignment instead of dissatisfied with their shift assignment.
8-hour shift preference

A similar situation exists with 12-hour shift schedules.  When we asked shift workers whether they prefer a 12-hour day shift or a 12-hour night shift, 80% prefer the day shift and 20% prefer the night shift.  So like 8-hour shift schedules, you have a majority of people (50% on days + 20% on nights = 70%) satisfied with their shift schedule assignment.
12-hour shift preference

With these results, we can see that the majority of people do prefer day shift, but far from all of them. And, given that the typical 24-hour shiftwork operation is usually equally staffed on all shifts, or staffed more heavily on day shift than other shifts, we see that the majority of people get their preferred shift assignments even though the majority prefer day shift.

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Call or text us today at (415) 763-5005 to discuss your operations and how we can help you solve your shift work problems. You can also complete our contact form and we will call you.

How many people does it take to staff your schedule? (Part 2)

There is a short answer and a long answer to this question.  Here is a link to the short answer.

As for the long answer:

Take a look at the “short answer” in the previous blog post.  That is a good place to start.

The following should be considered to refine the number you get using the “short answer”:

  1. The cost of full-time labor matters.  How much does it cost you to pay someone for an hour of straight time?  How much does it cost you to pay for an hour of overtime?  I am not talking about “how much an employee receives.”  I’m talking about cost-to-the-company.  If you do the analysis correctly, you should find that the two costs (overtime and straight time) are within 10% of each other.  This is important because the amount of overtime you use will play a big factor in staffing levels.  For a fixed workload, the higher the overtime, the lower the staffing level you need.
  2. How much training does it take to qualify an employee for a position?  It is likely that there is a wide variance in this with regard to different positions.  Do Not use and “average”.  If you need an astrophysicist and a box stacker, an average will give you a bad number (4 years of post-graduate study for the physicist and 5 minutes for the stacker = about 2 years, on average, to train an employee).  Long training times lead to increased use of overtime and less reliance on other labor options such as temporary help.  If your workforce is staffed with highly skilled people, whose skills are easily transferable to another nearby company, then you will have to bend a more towards compensation scheduling and employee preferences for overtime so as to not lose these people.
  3. How variable is your workload?  If your workload level is flat, you will still have some fluctuations in staffing as people are on vacation or FMLA, etc.  When staffing fluctuates, you have extra staffing available or you can use overtime or you can reduce production.  Cost, degree of variability, employee preference and the nature of your operations will all play a role in determining how you staff for variability.   It’s worth noting here that the most expensive option is to over-staff or staff for peak production as this leads to frequent over-staffing which is costly. A highly variable workload tends to mean lower staffing and higher overtime.
  4. How available are alternative sources of labor? Is your workforce pro-overtime or overtime-adverse?  Is temporary or part-time labor available? If you are in Memphis and need temporary, highly skill forklift drivers, there are temp. agencies that can give you all this type of labor that you want.  However, if you need those same temporary skills in San Francisco, you may need to “grow your own.”  Can you scale back with seasonality by using shorter workweeks or voluntary layoffs?  Note: If the answer is no, the staff to the lower end and use overtime when things get busy.
  5. What about support activities?  Things like maintenance, engineering, quality shipping/receiving and administration all need to be staffed appropriately as you grow (or shrink).  There is no simple formula for how to staff these as there is often not a “straight line” relationship between staffing numbers in operations and staffing numbers for support areas.  For example, a 30% increase in operation staffing does not mean you need 30% more CFO’s.  In some areas, you may actually find that you need less support staff.  For example, maintenance struggles to fix everything on the weekend but if you go to a 24/7 schedule, maintenance can now take place any time in the week; including weekdays where it can be performed more efficiently.
  6. Are you LEAN?  It’s “old school” to think you should stockpile between cells in a value stream to ensure you never run out of product either upstream or downstream.  Instead, just-in-time is what modern operations strive for.  Many companies can maximize or throttle production using staffing alone.   This may mean you staff an area below its maximum capacity to ensure it does not outrun its value stream neighbors.
  7. What is the opportunity cost of lost time?  This must be a consideration if you are going to staff with as few people as possible.  You may save a lot of money by having fewer maintenance specialists but then you might lose even more money if you suffer downtime because you are understaffed.

Call Us and We Can Help

Call or text us today at (415) 763-5005 to discuss your operations and how we can help you solve your shift work problems. You can also complete our contact form and we will call you.

Knowing the Unknown

For the last 5 years, much of the work that we, at Shiftwork Solutions, have been asked to perform, has been centered around Work-Life Balance.

The reason for this is clear – Low Unemployment.

Shiftwork operations tend to have a lot of employees.   Since this particular resource is scarce during periods of low unemployment, companies are scrambling to find ways to attract and retain a quality workforce.  There is always a sense of urgency to this effort as companies want to “Get new employees on board before they start somewhere else.”  The reason for this is that it takes an order of magnitude greater effort to recruit from another company than it does to recruit from the ranks of the unemployed.

Companies are getting very creative.  They have job fairs.  They have signing bonuses.  They implement multiple schedules so they can offer a “menu” for prospective employees to choose from.  They are increasing wages.  They are implementing employee empowerment programs.

What strikes me is that many companies are making decisions about their workforce with less information than they need in this regard.

As an example, let me talk about a company I worked with recently.

They are a successful and rapidly growing company with about 400 hourly workers at their site.  They were having a lot of trouble hiring enough employees.  Orders were falling behind and market share was at risk.

I was brought in to install a shift schedule that would fix this.

My first questions were: (1) What does the workforce not like about the current schedule? (2) Where is your pay with regards to nearby companies seeking a similar quality of worker? (3) What are your current production needs as well as what will they be going forward? (4) What is the difference in productivity between a new hire and a seasoned employee?

Of course, there were several more questions, but these were the ones I want to use in this example.

Understandably, the company knew that it could only speculate about how the workforce felt about their schedule.  At Shiftwork Solutions, we are equipped to gather this type of information through a program of employee education and participation.

The pay was middle of the road.  Some nearby companies paid more and some paid less.

Production demands were going to slow to a 10% growth rate; still significant but lower than the 30% growth rate from previous years.

And here is the biggie: A seasoned employee could perform an assembly step in 8 minutes where a new employee, after weeks of training, would do the same step in 12 minutes.

After a few weeks, I presented my results.

Overall, they were very positive.  The employees viewed the company in a very positive light in nearly every examine category.

The exception was pay.  The workforce felt underpaid.  At this point, it’s important to remember that “perception is everything.”  By this I mean, it doesn’t matter if the workforce is underpaid or overpaid.  What matters is what the workforce perceives to be the case.

There were some schedule issues to be fixed that would improve the work-life balance of the workforce.  However, these fixes were not a major finding.  They would help with recruitment and retention but they wouldn’t solve everything.

To do that, the company would need to go after the elephant in the room – pay.

Using intuition, most people felt that increases in pay would increase costs.  This was a major concern as some competitors were from low-wage countries and were seen to have a cost advantage as a result.

So, during my presentation, I asked the following 2 questions to the management group:  (1) How much would you have to increase wages in order to stop attrition and ease recruitment? and (2) If you had a stable, skilled workforce, how much of an improvement would you expect in the “step time” per assembly station?

The answers were: (1) We would need to increase the hourly rate by 30% and (2) A stable workforce would give a 30% increase in productivity.

Using a sensitivity analysis prepared in advance, I first increase pay by 30% and showed that this would increase per-unit costs by 3-4%.  Next, instead of increasing productivity by 30%, I increased it by a modest 10%.  When I did this, the per-unit cost dropped by more than 25%!

This was a surprising result.  It showed that a huge rise in pay combined with a modest increase in productivity would have a tremendous impact on lowering per unit production costs.

Now we had the information we needed.  By getting the workforce involved and doing the math with regards to the business, we were able to make decisions that would produce the outcomes we expected.

Call Us and We Can Help

Call or text us today at (415) 763-5005 to discuss your operations and how we can help you solve your shift work problems. You can also complete our contact form and we will call you.

How many people does it take to staff your schedule? (Part 1)

As with most shiftwork related issues, the question of “How Many?” has a short and a long answer.
Here is a link to the long answer.

Let’s start with the short answer.

Add up all of the man-hours that need to be covered and divide by 40.  For example, if you need 30 people for 8 hours a day, Monday – Friday and 20 people for 12 hours on Saturday and Sunday, you would do the following math:

(30 people * 8 hours * 5 days) plus (20 people * 12 hours * 2 days) to get 1,680

Now, divide 1,680 by 40 to get 42.

This means you should use 42 people on some type of schedule to provide the coverage.  With that number (42), you should expect to see an overtime rate around 10% once you take into account things like vacation, sickness, extra work and such.

That’s the short answer and as such, it could be perfect or it could be wildly inaccurate based on your operation.

Part 2 of this post gets into the longer answer.

Call Us and We Can Help

Call or text us today at (415) 763-5005 to discuss your operations and how we can help you solve your shift work problems. You can also complete our contact form and we will call you.

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, let’s consider a schedule that covers 6 days with 40-hour workweeks.  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 it’s “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 workplaces.  However, in the short run, it may be just what you need.

Call Us and We Can Help

Call or text us today at (415) 763-5005 to discuss your operations and how we can help you solve your shift work problems. You can also complete our contact form and we will call you.