The assessment of the merits of 12- vs. 8-hour shift schedules is a complex issue that does not have a simple answer. Clearly, there are compelling advantages for 12-hour schedules such as more time off and more weekend days off, but these are balanced by the longer working days and the questions of mental and physical fatigue. Nevertheless, the growing trend towards conversion to 12-hour schedules in most continuous, round-the-clock operations has had positive results. In fact, 12-hour shift schedules have proven to be safe, productive, and agreeable to most shiftworkers who have made the conversion from conventional 8-hour shifts.
Nevertheless, 12-hour shift schedules are not for everybody and not for every situation. Jobs that require heavy physical labor may not be desirable due to the possibility of fatigue and ergonomic injuries. There are certain types of 12-hour schedules that are extremely difficult to adapt to in terms of circadian (sleep/ wake) physiology. All 12-hour schedules are not created equal, so it is extremely important to take the time and effort necessary to determine the best possible schedule for your given shiftwork population.
By Martin Moore-Ede, MD, PhD / Acacia Aguirre, MD, PhD, and William Davis
Ed. Andrew Moore-Ede
PDF 22 pp