37.5 hour week and 12 hour shifts. Can it be done?

Well the short answer is YES!

We regularly get asked, especially by those working in the public sector, what is the answer to the 37.5 hour week and 12 hour shifts? Usually from people who have spent many weeks of frustration with spreadsheets.

What probably isn’t realised there is a neat side effect which spins off this kind of shift pattern that would be an interest to the public sector wanting the benefits the compressed working week has to offer – and without “killing” yourself with extended hours of fatigue. There is not much point packing all the hours in only to have that extended break where you are ‘fit to drop’. On the other hand no manager is likely to be interested in stripping an operation down to ‘bare bones’ with a risk of not delivering services.

Our Workforce Factors Team designed a series of shift patterns to meet the austerity about to break over the public sector landescape. We had three goals in mind:

1. A more imaginative alternative to the tedious traditional office hours;

2. Increased flexibility of service delivery without increasing the staff headcount;

3. Meet the growing demand for 24/7 and extended hours working.

The popularising of 12 hour shifts does not rest easy with the standard 37.5 hour week; and traditional office hours are not that flexible for both the people that work them, and for a society that continues to demand services beyond traditional working hours. We came up with the following and reckcon both employers and employees would be happy working this setup:

– An average 37.5 hour week;

– 12 hour shifts;

– Conforms to the EEC WTD;

– Low to average HSE Fatigue and Risk Index;

– Delivers a constant or variable staff supply;

– Regular 3 and 4 days off a week;

– Five continuous 9 day breaks a year;

– One continuous 17 day break a year;

It’s all in the shift pattern.

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Posted in Industry Spotlight, Shift Patterns Tagged with: ,
10 comments on “37.5 hour week and 12 hour shifts. Can it be done?
  1. Michael Fisk says:

    Thanks for the post. I have read with interest as we too are now rolling out something similar. I like “Increased flexibility of service delivery without increasing the staff headcount” as that was our main aim when we had to change over to 37.5 hour week.

  2. Dominik Mayer says:

    Could you explain how this was done with your scheduling software? We are looking into various new shift rosters but working out 37.5 hour week is not as straight forward as one would first thought – at least not for me. We will need staff scheduling software and from first impressions this looks ideal. Can you advise?

    • Admin says:

      Hi Dominik,

      I have arranged for a member of “Work Group Factors” team to contact you offline. They specialise in shift pattern design and creation with Schedule24 Resource Manager.

      Chris White
      Intellicate Team

  3. CHWANE says:

    I work in a government hospital laboratory. We are trying to device a 24-hr shift that inclide a 37.5wk.
    Most of our staff members are mothers with children & cannot do nightshifts.

    We are trying to come up with a rota that will aloow for maximum time off

  4. Admin says:

    Hi Chwane,

    There are quite a few variations on this theme. Someone will contact you offline with a pointer to the pattern mentioned in this blog.

    Chris White
    Intellicate Team

  5. ColG says:

    Hi currently working in a power station on a 5 shift 12hr rota (4 on 6 Off) which leaves us owing the company alot of spare hours to make up our 37.5 hour week. Would be interested in seeing your setup as mentioned above as most staff are keen to get more of their contracted hours rostered into the shift pattern.

    • Tec Support says:

      Hi Colin,

      That shift pattern you describe will be 3 hours and 54 mins short of a 37.5 each rolling (7 day) week. I guess it will soon add up – over 5 weeks worth of pay check in a year to be more precise. I think you can significantly improve on this but only if the power company would accept a variable staff supply at some point i.e. a drop in operative numbers e.g. where there could be a drop in demand. If you need a ‘Flat’ supply i.e. the same number of operatives 24/7 it’s a bit more difficult. Otherwise there is a 12 hour shift pattern that will deliver a 37.5 hour week average even for you guys. It delivers an unusual pattern (I mean interesting not weird) variation throughout an 8 week rotation cycle, generally made up of 4 off and 3 on followed by 3 off and 4 on with a nice 7 day break. You can check out the You Tube example I refer to here.

      Chris White
      Intellicate Team

  6. Soupster says:

    You can meet any shift pattern and working hours as long as you have unlimited resources. For every pattern design you must follow the following steps:

    1. How many workers do you need per hour of each day?
    2. How many workers do you have available?
    (these top two will usually give you your starting shift numbers)
    3. What is your policy on maximum and/or minimum working hours per week. (this may also include machine operation limits e.g. lorry driving)
    4. Present your workers with at least 2 shift patterns for them to comment upon. No ‘new’ pattern will work without the workers opinions being considered.
    5. Innovative bit: Allow your workers to control their own hours. This may sound strange but I will try to explain. Say for instance you have worked out that you need 4 people on a shift and have worked out a shift pattern based on your available workers. If a worker wants to take a day off then they can either take a holiday (your problem to find cover) or let them arrange cover with another worker. I know this is very simplified but financally all you really want is 4 people. Which 4 is not a big concern (note: this will depend upon your own policies and hourly limitations)
    6. Appreciate that this will not suit everyone or anyone and your decisions should not be taken likely.
    7. Do not try to please everyone, but instead consider everyones comments and opinions equally.
    8. Let your workers select the prefered shift pattern. Remember you have already given them options which will suit your business needs.
    9. Last stage: monitor effectiveness and have a backup plan.

    • Admin says:

      Shift Pattern and staff scheduling fall into the category of np problem space. Put another way it can take a very long time to discover whether a shift pattern will succeed even with unlimited resources.

      You do need to make the distinction between a shift pattern and a staff schedule. They both do quite different jobs. For more about this distinction you can check out “Is there a differenece between shift patterns and staff schedules.” Many wish it was that easy to follow a bunch of steps and at the end have a “perfect” shift pattern; and while one may agree with the general advice here it falls largely in the realm of opinion. For example, knowing how many workers you need per hour each day is a good move and one we would support. Though in practice this is often “guestimates” given the overhead to carry out effective “Staff Supply Demand Match” analysis (SSDM) is a significant overhead. However once you know how many staff you ‘need’, how many staff you have available is a management issue not a scheduling one i.e. if you haven’t enough staff you either have to recruit, or change the business model to generate a demand the staff resource you do have can match. What you don’t do is ignore the SSDM analysis and end up short staffing.

      Even when you know how many staff you need and on each shift that doesn’t give you a shift pattern. What gives you a shift pattern is knowledge about the day-on day-of ratio and the juxtaposition of shifts. You can view the following where a West Coast Service Centre had this information, but a shift pattern eluded them until it could be configured correctly – a non-trivial task. In this case we used the Schedule24 Excel Add-in to generate the shift pattern.

      As for a structured approach toward creating a staff schedule we would offer the following as a “Second Opinion”:

          Carry out a SSDM analysis. Understand the only reason you design shift patterns, and create staff schedules is to plan a staff supply to match a business demand or service. Whatever “nice to have’s” there may be, they will be secondary to this.
          Identify scheduling constraints. These will fall into two categories “Soft” e.g. management policy; and “Hard” e.g. Legal requirements. These will impact what you can and can’t do, or change things to enable greater flexibility i.e. policy may be outdated or outmoded.
          Present alternatives. We agree wholeheartedly with this correspondent on this point and would recommend including some that do not work as well as those that do. This encourages a common framework of understanding to emerge between employer and employee who think differently about the same problem.
          Coordinate. Communicate, Control! Staff scheduling is a management skill and probably represents the most importamt task a manager will ever undertake. It is not so much about working faster as it is about doing it better. Adopt a structured scheduling approach and communicate a plan at least 6 months ahead if not longer.
          Feedback. Preferably automated throughout the staff scheduling process will enable you to improve staff schedules. Staff costs is probably the more obvious. However, make sure you can track working hours, rest periods and days off when they are about to breach thresholds so you can avoid issues. More advanced chronobio control that tune shift patterns to circadian rythms, or internal ‘body clock’, are no longer a ‘nice to have’ but essential for reducing fatigue and risk in the workplace – and the commute!
  7. max says:

    I enjoy reading this article. We have implemented 37.5 hour rota but not as efficient looking as yours. Can you help?
    Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!

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