I have worked with many 24 x 7, Operations teams over the years. Almost every one of those teams were scheduled to work 8-hour shifts, when I initially took responsibility for them. While it may seem like 8-hour shifts are easier than 12-hour shifts, that really is not the case. If you run a 24 x 7, Operations team, I would highly recommend that you evaluate whether 12-hour shifts are a better fit for your organization.
Below is a list of Pro’s and Con’s for the two types of schedules that might help you make up your mind:
Pro’s for 8-hour shifts:
- People are used to working 8-hour shifts, so the management team doesn’t have to put any effort into making it work and the employees do not have to make an adjustment.
Con’s for 8-hour shifts:
- The 8-hour shifts do not divide evenly with a 24 x 7 operation. If you schedule even shifts around the clock, you will end up with 3 days worth of wasted time for half your people.
- There are 3 shift rotations between the 3 shifts each day. Each shift change is another opportunity to drop the ball. During shift changes, support tickets have to be passed from one engineer to another, monitoring alerts may be missed, assumptions may be made about what the previous shift has done.
- Scheduling 8-hour shifts is more complicated than 12-hour shifts. These schedules are made for organizations that work a 5 day week. Dealing with 3 shifts a day and maintaining coverage on the 2 extra days, while trying to minimize the overlap that occurs throughout the week, requires more of the manager’s time.
- Adjusting the schedule to cover for sick days and vacation time, is much more complicated and time consuming than with 12-hour schedules.
Pro’s for 12-Hour Shifts:
- The 12-hour shifts divide evenly with a 24 x 7 schedule so there is no wasted time.
- Since 12-hour shifts eliminate the days of mass employee overlap, more people are available for each shift. Instead of having 3 or 4 days with minimal staffing and then 3 or 4 days with many more people than you need, your shift remain evenly staffed. If there is a need for some extra headcount on a shift, there can always be additional people added for those peak times.
- 12-hour shifts require less time to setup and maintain. The shifts are divided into 4 sections, front and back of the week, and days and nights.
- 12-hour schedules only require 2 shift changes each day. This means fewer opportunities to drop the ball.
- If you schedule the 12-hour shift on a 3 by 4 schedule (working 3 days week 1 and 4 days week 2), employees get 7 days off, out of every 14 days. Employees become very attached to this amount of time off. Once they get used to it, it is harder for them to take a different job working 5 days a week. This helps lower employee churn.
Con’s for 12-Hour Shifts:
- On the days employees work, the employee’s day is primarily filled with work and sleep. The extra time off more than makes up for this for most employees.
- The shift is long. Some people believe the shifts are too long for their employees. At a previous company we moved over a hundred people to the new shifts, and then did a survey of everyone that worked 12-hour shifts. Almost 80% of the employees favored the 12-hour schedules.
- 12-Hour schedules for hourly employees require a little understanding by the Finance and Executive team. (See the “12-Hour Schedule for Hourly Employees” section below)
Example of a 24 x 7 team staffed with 8 hour shifts, trying to staff one person for every hour of the week.
Each number represents a headcount.
S M T W T F S
1 1 1 1 1 4 4 Days
2 2 2 2 2 5 5 Evenings
3 3 3 3 3 6 6 Nights
– The 4th, 5th and 6th headcount have 3 days worth of time that will need to overlap with other team members. Unless there is a business need to justify this overlap, this is generally a waste of resources.
Example of a 12-hour schedule covering the same schedule with only 4 people.
S M T W T F S
1 1 1 1 2 2 2 Days
3 3 3 3 4 4 4 Nights
The 12 hour schedules cover the entire week with 2 less headcount. If this same exercise is done for large teams, the benefit multiplies with the size of the organization.
12-Hour Schedules for Hourly Employees
- The standard schedule for 12-hour shifts, is based on a 2 week rotation, 3 days on in week 1 and 4 days on in week 2. This type of schedule causes some built-in overtime but it still works out to be more cost effective for the company.
- In the schedule above where we are covering 7 days a week, 24 hours a day with one person. The 8-hour shift requires 6 people. The same schedule with 12-hour shifts only requires 4 people. If your fully burdened cost per employee is 40K. That is a savings of 80K annually, simply by changing the schedule. This savings is multiplied as the size of the team rises.
- Schedule per employee
- Week 1 – 3 days x 12 hours = 36 hours – 3 hours (for lunch) = 33 hours
- Week 2 – 4 days x 12 hours = 48 hours – 4 hours (for lunch) = 44 hours
- Total Hours worked in a 2 week pay period is 77 hours. 4 hours are paid as overtime for a total of 6 hours.
- Total pay to each employee is 79 hours.
- With the 12-hour schedules, each employee only works 77 hours every 2 weeks, but is paid for 79 hours instead of 80 and the shift is covered with fewer people.
- The employees get a better result because they only work 77 hours in each 2 week period but get paid for 79.
- The company gets a better result because the shift is covered with fewer people and there is a one hour reduction per employee every 2 week period.
Unless your Operations team has a requirement for lots of employee overlap. 12-hour schedules will reduce your headcount, reduce total wages paid out (with the 1 hour reduction per employee) and simplify scheduling so there is less confusion for the employees and less wasted time by the management staff.
The benefits of 12 hour schedules are clear but any schedule change this drastic will not work if the management team doesn’t buy-in to the change.
As always, if you have any questions about setting up 12 hours schedules, please feel free to email me.