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”.

Onward…

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.

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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.

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.

Let’s 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

Picture2

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 the 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.

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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.

Covering a 12-hour Vacancy

There is no doubt that shift workers prefer 12-hour shifts over 8-hour shifts. It’s not that they like being at work for an extra four hours. They like the additional 91 days off a year.

Therein lies the problem.

With so many days off, it seems that the crew you need to get in touch with for absentee coverage is always gone.

8-hour shifts offer the following two conveniences: First, you can always ask an 8-hour person to stay over. They are already at work so contacting them simply means walking out to their work station and tapping them on the shoulder. Secondly, they are at work on 75% of the days of the year. If you need to change their schedule on a specific day, the chances are good that you just go out onto the work floor and tell them. They are probably there.

12-hour shifts have neither of these advantages. You don’t want to ask a 12-hour person to stay over for 4, 8 or even 12 hours. Also, they only work 50% of the days in the year. So, if you want to go out on the floor to tell them their schedule is changed, there is a 50/50 chance that they are on a day off and not on the floor.

The single biggest reason, by far, that companies on 12-hour schedules contact us is because of problems with absentee coverage.

People are on their days off when you need them. Your supervisor makes one call after another until someone answers their phone and is willing to come in. This is a time-consuming process that takes your most expensive asset and turns it into a telemarketer.

There is a solution.

Shiftwork Solutions and Shifthound have partnered together to develop software that greatly simplifies absentee coverage on 12-hour shifts. While it works with all types of shifts, the 12-hour schedule tends to have the biggest problem and would thus have the biggest benefit.

The program takes advantage of the overwhelming prevalence of cell phones, text messages, and the internet.

For example, if there is a last-minute opening, a supervisor can send out an overtime request to an entire crew that is scheduled off. Instead of making one call after another, everyone is notified in moments.

We know that about 20% of all shift workers will work all of the overtime they can get. If an entire crew is notified of an overtime opportunity, the positive responses should come in quickly. They can accept overtime via text messages, email or online through the Open Shift Management program.

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

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 β€œwhen” 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 β€œwhen” 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 β€œquantity” of overtime – When you have the wrong schedule to begin with.

The wrong schedule can cause you to take the β€œperfect” 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 understaffed 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.

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

How will a new schedule impact your Employee Handbook?

Measure twice, cut once.

This adage is as applicable to a schedule change as it is for those in the carpentry trade.

Make one mistake and either be prepared to live with it or face the uphill battle of yet making another major change to your workplace.

There are all types of pitfalls.  You can put in the wrong schedule (yes, not all schedules are the same).  You can alienate a section of your workforce.  You can use the wrong staffing model.  You can overlook an opportunity.  Or you can put in the wrong policies.

This last mistake, the “policy” mistake is a big one.

Let’s take a look at a going from a 5-day schedule to a 7-day schedule.

To begin with, you will need “process” policies. The workforce will want to know “how” you are going to do things.  How will you decide who goes to what shift?  How will you pick the shift times?  How will you pick the schedule?  Does seniority count more than skills?  Should temporary employees participate?  Will there be a trial period?  This is a list that can seemingly go on forever.

Once the schedule is in place, will you have policies ready to support it?

If your answer is “Yes, our 5-day policies will work on a 7-day schedule,” then the answer is “No” your policies are not ready to go.

You will need to look at the following, at a minimum:

  • Overtime pay
  • Holiday pay, Holiday premiums, Recognized Holidays
  • Shift Differentials
  • Breaks
  • Jury Duty
  • Partial vacations
  • Vacations
  • Overtime coverage
  • Training
  • Shift Swaps
  • Absentee coverage
  • Attendance policy
  • Pay week hours
  • Payroll system settings

Let’s just take a look at vacation; possibly the simplest policy to address.  If you go to a 12-hour schedule, will employees still be able to take off full weeks or will they change to blocks of days?  Will they be able to take single days off and how much will their account be charged when they do and how much will they be paid?  Will vacation count towards hours worked for overtime calculations?  Can they carry over or sell back time at the end of the year?  Suppose they have some vacation left but not enough to take a week or even a full day off, what do they do?  Can they combine vacation time with other types of PTO?  Suppose I am on vacation (12-hour shifts) and a holiday falls during my time off, will I get 8 hours or 12 hours of pay?

Be ready to address your policies ahead of time if you want to have a successful transition.  They should be ready to go before the change takes place.  Remember to get your IT people involved as well.

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

Alertness on 12-hour night shifts

The problem with all night shifts, regardless of shift length, is that they don’t match up with the lifestyles of the rest of the world. On nights, you are expected to be awake when everyone else is asleep and then you are to sleep when everyone else is awake. A pretty tall order.

Most shift workers on nights report getting less sleep than on any other shift. There are several reasons for this. First of all, if your circadian rhythms are set to keep you awake during the days and asleep at night, they will actually be working against you. Secondly, we don’t like to sleep during daylight hours because we have family and social opportunities that we don’t want to miss. Finally, there is the sleep environment itself. It is hard to completely isolate yourself from the lights and sounds of the day when you are trying to sleep.

All of this means we sleep less when working nights. The problem with 8-hour shifts is that there are a lot of them. This generally means that the more shifts in a row you work, the farther you fall behind in your sleep. At the same time, the more shifts in a row you work, the abler your body is to match your circadian rhythms to your new sleep pattern, thus improving sleep. So, on the one hand, more days in a row means more fatigue while, on the other hand, more shifts in a row means better sleep – eventually.

Now let’s consider 12-hour shifts. There are a lot fewer shifts to work if you switch from 8-hour shifts to 12’s. This generally means that you will only be working 2-4 night shifts in a row instead of 5-7 8-hour shifts in a row.

One popular schedule pattern is the 2-3-2. On this schedule, you work 2 or 3 nights in a row before getting a 2 or 3-day break. The good news is that you don’t work too many nights in a row so you never fall too far behind in your sleep. The bad news is that since you work fewer nights in a row, you never get a chance to adjust to the shift. Additionally, you only have a few days off between shifts (on some patterns) which means you may have trouble readjusting to days (on your days off) as well.

If you go to a 4-on-4-off pattern, you will work more nights in a row and thus, fall farther behind in your sleep. However, the more nights in a row means (1) your body will adjust better to the night shift than if you worked fewer nights in a row and (2) more in a row means fewer times that you need to readjust to nights when you return to work and finally (3) you have 4 days off in a row which gives you a chance to adjust to days on your days off.

A 2-3-2 pattern means that you have to adjust to night shifts 78 times a year. A 4-on-4-off pattern only has 46 adjustments to nights in a year.

So, what is best for you? It comes down to your own behavior. If you find that you cannot adjust to nights at all, it is better to work fewer night shifts in a row to limit your accumulated sleep debt. If you adjust easily to nights, work more of them in a row to minimize those difficult first couple of days that we all go through when making the adjustment.

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