Due to technology, commerce interactions transcending continents and the relentless desire to get ahead, businesses compete in a world where the economy is active 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This has created a need for employees to work a nonstandard or "shift" work schedule, hours worked outside the standard 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday thru Friday. Although shift workers are still the exception, it may be more common than you think.
Shift Statistics (1997)
- Service oriented jobs have the highest percentage of shift hour work.
- 27.6% of workers have a flexible work schedule.
- 19.1% of men and 13.7% of women have a nontraditional work schedule.
- 4.6% work evening shifts (swings).
- 3.9% work employer-arranged irregular schedules.
- 3.5% work night shifts (graves).
- 2.9% work rotating shifts.
An employer profits if the employees are happy and healthy-happy and healthy employees are productive employees. At first look, undesirable work schedules may appear to be nothing more than undesirable, and that's the bottom line. Nevertheless, there are things employers can do to help shift-working employees stay happy and healthy.
Minimize Night Shifts
No one fully adjusts to graveyard or swing shifts. This is mainly because people have obligations during the day to spend time with friends, family and run errands. Keeping a nocturnal schedule can exhaust employees and lead to low productivity. If night shifts are necessary, try to find people that can adjust their life to unusual hours and maintain adequate rest.
Try Temporary Changes and Ask for Feedback
When you make a change in employees' schedules, start out with a trial period. Afterwards, ask for employees' input so you can come up with the best schedule to fit their and the company's needs.
Keep Regular and Predictable Schedules
Once an optimal schedule is established, keep it regular and predictable. This will not only benefit the employees but will also benefit the company. Employees will enjoy being able to plan vacations and family functions in advance, and the company won't have to juggle schedules every couple of weeks.
Use Time Tracking Computer Software
Time tracking and management software can easily track all of your employees' schedules making it easy to regulate shift hours. The software can also provide valuable reports so you can make informed executive decisions when it comes to employee scheduling.
Avoid Changing Employees Schedules Without a Break in Between
Changing an employee from a night shift to a day shift or visa versa can be challenging, both physically and mentally. Consider giving employees an adjustment period of at least 48 hours in between drastic schedule changes.
Allow Employees One or Two Free Weekends Each Month
Everyone needs time to spend with their families, to get out of town for the weekend or to catch up on household chores. Employees who generally work weekends should be given a weekend off occasionally. They will value the time off, ask for less time off and come back ready to work without feeling as if they have been denied the opportunity to have a 'normal' life.
Having happy and healthy shift workers is essential to running a profitable, productive business. The employees, after all, not only affect profit margin but also ultimately determine productivity.
Banwell, Wilson. Vitality: Working Around the Clock.  Oct. 17, 2005
PMPA: Alternative Work Schedules Oct. 17, 2005
Schmitt, John. Baker, Dean. cepr: Bad Times: The Impact of Changes in Work Schedules on Productivity Growth.  Oct. 17, 2005