Eight Major Disadvantages of 12-Hour Shifts: A Manager’s Perspective

Eight Major Disadvantages of 12-Hour Shifts: A Manager’s Perspective

So you’ve read about the benefits of 12-hour shifts and now you’re ready to move forward? Hold your breath, because there are a few DISADVANTAGES that you might want to take into consideration before you move forward with any scheduling change initiatives.

After all, nothing is 100% beneficial, especially in terms of shift scheduling. To give you a comprehensive perspective into 12-hour shifts, here’s a list of eight major disadvantages commonly associated with 12-hour shifts.

1. Greater challenge of sustaining vigilance

Twelve hours may simply be too long for someone on monitoring duty to maintain constant vigilance. A machine or console operator whose sole responsibility is to monitor a process for 12 hours may be approaching or exceeding the limits of his or her ability to maintain complete effectiveness.

2. Extended exposure to work-related stress

For certain shiftworkers on control room duty, the day shift often provides high demands for work-related activity and distraction, and involves a high number of interactions with maintenance, instrumentation engineers, contractors and other support staff who work consecutive day shifts. This is especially true on week days. Twelve continuous hours may be a long time for a control room operator to deal with the stress associated with these conditions.

3. Diminished communication and/or personal interaction

Management personnel may have less opportunity for interaction with crews working 12-hour shifts. Rotating 12-hour shiftworkers may only have daytime shift duty for seven days during each 28 day cycle, thus decreasing exposure to daytime management. Shiftworkers’ may have reduced contacts with training staff and limited availability for meetings involving management, human resources, medical and other personnel.

4. Unequal distribution of work hours

Over each 7-day pay period, 12-hour schedules may vary between 48-and-36-hour work weeks. Since Federal Law requires overtime pay for more than 40 hours work in a week, an adjustment in payroll structure and base pay rates may be required to maintain cost neutrality. Existing collective bargaining agreements can complicate this process, although this has been readily resolved with provisionary letters of agreement.

5. Increased risk of getting out of touch

Long breaks or too many consecutive days off may result in decreased familiarity with changes in the operation, and shiftworkers may need a period of readjustment after returning from a long break. They may need to re-familiarize themselves more often with the “big picture” of plant operations after long breaks to ensure operational “continuity.”

6. Increased “moonlighting”

The concern exists that some shiftworkers will use the extra days off provided by 12-hour shifts to take second jobs, especially physically demanding construction and farming jobs. Moonlighting can potentially hurt a worker’s productivity at the plant and undermine the advantage of recovery days.

7. Increased ergonomic risk

Potential injury problems may occur with shiftworkers who have physically demanding jobs. The strain of working such jobs on a 12-hour shift instead of an 8-hour shift could potentially increase physical complaints, such as back problems and carpal tunnel syndrome. Job processes, job rotation, and engineering solutions might have to be reexamined and altered in order to reduce the physical strain on employees.

8. More challenging to cover absences

Since it is not advisable to assign shiftworkers overtime hours on scheduled work days, and thereby lengthen the work days beyond 12 hours, it is necessary to establish call-out procedures to cover unexpected absences. Depending upon the effectiveness of methods such as a volunteer overtime list supported with a scheduled (annual) call-out list, coverage for vacations and absences can become more difficult, as can be scheduling for training and planned overtime.

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