What is the Worst Shift to Work? Night Shift? Afternoon Shift?

The night shift is difficult physically, but the afternoon shift can be hard on your family and social life.

In my last post, I talked about shift workers’ preferred shift, which is the day shift, and the implications of that preference on worker satisfaction levels.  An obvious follow-on question to the preferred shift assignment is to understand shift workers’ least-preferred shift.
Over the last 23 years working with shift work operations, I have observed that there is often one least preferred shift at a site, and it is either the night shift (also known as 3rd, graveyard, or sometimes the hoot-owl or hoot shift) or the afternoon shift (2nd or swing shift).  Which shift is least preferred at a particular site is typically driven by the demographics of the workgroup and the work environment.

Here are the overall results from our database of survey responses to the question “What is your least-preferred 8-hour shift?” : Least preferred 8-hour shift.

 

From a sleep management perspective, most shift workers have more trouble getting enough good-quality sleep on the night shift.  This makes it less desirable for facilitating high alertness.  On the other hand, it allows the people on night shift to meet other obligations in their lives like managing childcare, going to school, working a second job, and spending time with their families.

Afternoon shift allows many shift workers to manage their sleep patterns better (second shift workers get more sleep than either day shift or afternoon shift) so they often feel better on this schedule than on a night shift schedule.  The main downside to the second shift is that it requires work during the “prime-time” evening hours when family and friends are available.  For parents, this can be a deal-breaker since it may mean that they almost never see their families during the workweek.

This difference of opinion on the least desired shift is an opportunity when it comes to staffing your shift schedule.  On an 8-hour schedule, it is often possible to give an overwhelming majority of folks either their first or second choice of shift assignments and avoid the least desirable shift.  All it takes is some flexibility in the shift-bid system and sufficient cross-training of the workforce to meet the skill requirements on all shifts.

Call Us and We Can Help

Call or text us today at (415) 858-8585 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.

Safety Footnotes

At Shiftwork Solutions, safety concerns are definitely something we have to pay attention to.  We keep abreast of safety research as it applies to shiftwork and brings that knowledge to the table when working with companies.

Over the years, there are a few standard issues that come up.  I’d like to cover those now.  I also would like to bring up a few safety practices that I have seen at other sites that lent themselves well to the establishment of a strong safety program.

As they occur to me…

  1. As one ages, the ability to get enough sleep in one session diminishes.  The main sleep period will shorten and people will find the need to nap during the day goes up.
  2. Shift length plays a very small role in how much sleep one gets in a day.  A person on an 8-hour shift may get a few more minutes of sleep when compared to a person on a 12-hour shift.  However, people get a great deal more sleep on days they don’t come in to work: about 60 to 90 minutes more.  So, its better to work a shift with more days off.  This usually means longer shifts.
  3. The older one gets, the harder it is to work more days in a row.  It is also harder to adjust to different shifts – a problem that is growing smaller as more and more companies get away from rotating shifts.
  4. We need about 8-hours of sleep a day.
  5. When people become sleepy, they care less about doing a good job.  This will start to show up in small ways as people begin to take short-cuts in their work.  Short-cuts can lead to quality, production and safety problems if left unchecked.
  6. Naps are a great investment.  A short, 10-15 minute nap can make one alert for the next several hours.  The problem with napping at work is that we don’t fall asleep instantly and, we need to deal with sleep inertia – the grogginess we feel after waking.
  7. A workforce that starts its day shift at 7:00 am will get about 20 more minutes per night than a workforce that starts its day shift at 6:00 am.
  8. People learn by (1) doing the task or (2) reading about the task or (3) watching the task being done or (4) conceptually imagining how the task might be done.  Apply this to safety at your site.  Don’t just rely on one method of making people “safety aware.”
  9. At one site we worked at, every time a group of people got together for a meeting, the first thing they did was ask “Who wants to tell us about a task they have coming up?”  The volunteer might say, “I am going to the warehouse to pick up some spare parts.”  Next, every single member would have to point out a safety item dealing with that task.  For example: “Make sure to wear your safety belt on the drive over” or “When you get there, make sure you wear the proper protective equipment” or “Check the pressure on your tires before the drive.”  As you can see, no issue is too small and there are lots of issues.  This exercise forces everyone to “think” for a moment.  I really like this idea.
  10. At another site, we didn’t hear “good-bye” or “I’ll see you around.”  The parting comment was always, “Work Safe.”
  11. At one of the mines we helped with schedule design we saw nearly 100 huge trucks moving around the site at any one time.  As we were tracking accidents we could see which hour of the week had the most safety incidences.  When that hour came up the following week, we would go out on the general communication system and say, “You are now entering the most dangerous hour of the week.”  As a result of the repeated reminder that hour nearly always became one of the safest hours of that week.
  12. When I go to a site, I sometimes leave off my safety glasses or ear plugs and see how the workforce responds.  When I get stopped right away by an hourly guy telling me to put on glasses, I know I am at a well run plant.  A plant that has a strong safety program is typically strong at a lot of other things as well. How would your site do in this respect?
  13.  

Work safe.

Call Us and We Can Help

Call or text us today at (415) 858-8585 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.