The Patterns of Shift Work
Shift work is very versatile and can be implemented in many different ways. It is often used by businesses that need to stay open and operational for twenty-four hours a day such many manufacturing facilities and law enforcement.
One way to schedule shift work, and by far the most common way is known as the 'three-shift system'. This way of organizing shift work is often spread over a five-day workweek. This ensures twenty-four hour coverage and allows employees to have their days off on different days. In this system the twenty-four hours of the day is split into three shifts, 'first', 'second', and 'third'. The 'first shift' is most commonly place from the hours of 06:00 to 14:00 and is generally the most desirable shift of the three. The 'second shift' then goes from 14:00 to 22:00 leaving the 'third shift' and least desirable from 22:00 to 06:00. Each of these shifts have more and less attractive qualities. The 'first' shift requires the employee to wake up early consequently needing to go to bed early as well and loosing much of their evening. The 'second' shift is placed during the time the majority of people working non-shift work jobs would get off work and socialize, and the 'third' or 'graveyard' shift makes the employee stay up all night and into the early morning which only leaves them with the normal productive hours of the day to sleep.
The second most common shift work schedule is known as the 'four on, four off' system. It is often used in the United Kingdom and is starting to be adopted in some parts of the United States and in Canada. In this system of managing shift work the employee works for straight days, usually twelve-hours in length, then has four days off. This type of shift work is sometimes preferred, even though it creates a 48-hour week, it cuts the workweek down to four days and extends the 'weekend' to four days, double the norm.
A slight variation of the 'four on, four off' shift work system is referred to as 'two days, two nights, four off'. This way of managing a shift work schedule is often used by law enforcement. As with 'four on, four off' employees generally work twelve-hour shifts from 07:00 to 19:00 on day shifts and 19:00 to 07:00 on night shifts. For full twenty-four hour coverage four separate teams are needed. This type of shift work is sometimes said to be unhealthy and have affects on the long-term health of the employee. It can often mess up sleep patterns and create insomnia and other sleep deprivation issues.
Another way to organize your shift work schedule is by having employees work twelve hours, take a full twenty-four hours off, work another twelve-hour shift, finishing with a forty-eight hour rest. This is known as '12/24/12/48' or more simply '12/24'. As with 'two days, two nights, four off' four teams are needed for full coverage.
Although shift work has a lot of benefits, it can be very hard on the workers. Shift work has been directly correlated to many sleep disorders and various other health concerns. Losses of concentration, fatigue, chronic headaches and poor sexual performance are all short-term consequences and have all been connected to people working shift work. More long-term consequences include disrupted circadian rhythms, or sleep patterns, are common among people who worked shift work for an extended period of time. A study has shown that people who worked shifts for fifteen years or more were 300% more likely to have ischaemic heart disease later in their lives. Working night shifts reduces the amount of melatonin that the body releases, and in females, this has been found to increase the risk of breast cancer.
As you can see shift work is very versatile and can be applied in many different ways to fit any business' needs. From staying open for twenty-four hours a day to just wanting to stay open a little longer than the normal eight-hour day, shift work is certainly the way to go.
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Ryan Fyfe is the owner of http://www.schedule-management.info/ - an information resource for all things related to Schedule Management including articles, news, movies and more.