Issue: The night-shift population is rising, and shift workers are logging more overtime hours.
Risk: Those dual trends damage productivity, causing more accidents and hurting employees' health, all of which cost employers.
Action: Take a fresh look at your shift schedules using these five strategies as a starting point.
Many employers stick with the same shift-work schedule because of tradition. Instead, use these strategies:
1. Rethink the "direction" of your shifts. That is, whether they're really working best as either a fixed or rotating system. If shifts rotate, re-examine whether the direction should be "backward" (nights, afternoons, mornings) or "forward" (mornings, afternoons, nights). If possible, take their preferences into account.
2. Consider alternatives to permanent night shifts. Most people never acclimate to the night shift because they go back to a day-shift schedule on their days off. They also lose touch with. If the job allows, consider a rotating night shift.
3. Keep consecutive night shifts to a minimum. Require people to work only up to four nights in a row before giving them a couple days off.
4. Vary shift lengths to the workload. Heavy physical, mental or monotonous work is tough to do for long periods at night. If possible, move heavy work to shorter shifts and lighter work to longer shifts.
5. Plan some free weekends. Even if your schedule requires seven days a week, offer one or two weekends off per month.