Shift Schedule Topic # 2 – 12-hour, 7-day

Maximize Asset Utilization

Production Managers and Human Resource Managers alike, often ask “What is the best 12-hour schedule?”  Our answer is always the same – “It Depends.”

As a general rule of thumb, if the workforce supports a schedule, the chances of it performing well go up dramatically.  The best way to get the workforce to support a schedule is to (1) educate them about the different types of schedule options out there and (2) allow them to participate in selecting schedule features (start times, overtime levels, shift length and patterns, etc.) In short, employee engagement is the key to finding that “Best 12-hour schedule.”

However, we know that many people are not looking for Employee Engagement at this time.  So, for them, we offer the following 12-hour schedule for their consideration:

Shift Schedule #2 is another 24/7 shift schedule that can maximize asset utilization. Like Shift Schedule #1, it is one of the more commonly implemented 24/7 shift schedules — this time the coverage is provided with 12-hour shifts. It is popular because the day-on, day-off pattern and the on-shift coverage are relatively easy to understand.

Like Shift Schedule #1, this traditional 12-hour shift schedule has advantages and disadvantages relative to alternative shift schedules. Most of these advantages and disadvantages are a direct result of the longer 12-hour shifts.

Four-Crew 12-Hour Shift Schedules

Many 12-hour shift schedules use four crews. Each crew works 42 hours/week (on average) to provide balanced coverage 168 hours/week. Ignoring vacations and holidays for a moment, all 12-hour 24/7-schedules will have 182 workdays and 182 days off in a 52-week period. In other words, half the days are workdays, and half of the days are days-off. The table below compares 12-hour shifts to other shift lengths providing equal coverage.

The advantage of 12-hour shifts relative to shorter shifts is clear. For the same hours worked each year, shift workers have to work fewer days and will have more days, weekends, and holidays off. The obvious price for these extra days off is that 12-hour days are long, and can be tiring. Twelve-hour shifts may also have an adverse impact on shift worker lifestyles on their actual workdays. (See our Shift Length bulletin for more information).

Shift Schedule Parameters:

Shift Schedule #2

D12 = 12-hour day shift, N12 = 12-hour night shift – = Day off (Full weekends are highlighted)

This shift schedule is a sixteen-week cycle staffed by four equal crews. Each crew is assigned to start their schedule in a different week in the cycle as shown above. At the end of each week, all crews move down to the next week in the cycle (or return to Week 1). Note that on any given day one crew is covering day shift, one crew is covering night shift, and two crews are on their day off.

Business Aspects ― Pros and Cons

  • Every day is covered by two crews working, with each working crew on a different shift (i.e. 24-hour coverage). The other two crews are off. This allows your operations to be covered continuously with full crews.
  • There are two shift handoffs each day. This often improves communication during the four days that the same crews are working–information is received from and passed on to the same person each day.
  • Pay and work policies usually must be modified to fit the schedule. Traditional policies are often based on 8-hour shifts worked Monday through Friday. If these policies are not adjusted, shift schedule administration is complex and may appear to be illogical.
  • Absence management systems must change. If personnel are not available on-shift to cover for illness and other unscheduled absences, personnel on their day off are needed to provide the proper coverage. While this is different than holding personnel over or calling them early on a workday, it usually does not reduce the actual number of days off significantly.
  • Half of the workweeks are 36 hours long, and the other half are 48 hours long. In the United States, this results in increased overtime premiums and costs relative to a schedule with balanced workweeks. In countries where workweeks can be averaged (like Canada and Australia), this is not a problem.

Employee Aspects ― Pros and Cons

  • Built-in overtime and shift premiums result in increased compensation relative to many day-workers.
  • There are 182 workdays each year (91-day shifts and 91-night shifts). There are 19-20 full weekends off each year (depending on the year), and 12-13 half weekends off. The weekends off are grouped together, with three consecutive weekends off followed by five weekends where at least one day must be worked.
  • All breaks are four days long. Shift workers tell us that this is one of the best features in this shift schedule.
  • The shift rotation between every cycle appears difficult, but it is practical given that most people try to get back to a day-shift type routine during their time off.
  • Working four consecutive 12-hour shifts in a row is tiring. However, the extra days off often allow shift workers to get more sleep overall.
  • Overtime is normally worked on a scheduled day off. This can lower schedule predictability if it is not properly managed.
  • Workweeks are unbalanced. This results in four consecutive weeks of pay for 36-hour weeks and four consecutive weeks of pay for 48-hour weeks. This normally results in unbalanced paychecks.

These are some of the issues that employers and employees with this schedule face. Other issues and variations on this schedule include:

  • Lunches may be paid or unpaid – unpaid lunches may result in idle time at shift change.
  • Start times may vary.
  • Shifts may be fixed or oscillating (three crews rotate, one works a fixed shift schedule) – this complicates skill balance issues
  • You may have variable staffing requirements.
  • Night shifts may be the first or last shift of the day

Call Us and We Can Help you investigate a full range of 12-hour schedule options.

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.

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