How Expensive Is Your Shift Pattern?

All shift patterns have a cost. None are cheap. Some offer good value. And others are downright expensive. A shift pattern determines your staff deployment strategy, or put another way it controls your staff supply. You don’t want too many, or too few, and certainly you don’t want no staff at all when they are most needed.

You do not normally calculate the cost of a shift pattern in stark cash terms alone. There are two factors you need to take account of when it comes to working out the expense or cost of a shift pattern:

  1. The actual staff cost incurred – probably as close to cash as you will get; and
  2. The measure of fatigue the pattern induces for those working it, thereby reducing output or quality – invariably both over time; as well as increasing risk.

Lesson 1
A shift pattern that increases costs (we’re not talking about staff compensation here but a pattern of working) without increasing production hours needs a second opinion at least;

Lesson 2
A shift pattern that increases fatigue and reduces effectiveness is bordering on stupid; and

Lesson 3
A shift pattern that does both is already too expensive in more ways than one.

If you think I am talking about extremes, you can jump to here and hear about physiological ‘burn out’ within 4 years;  depressed immune system disorders, and working yourself to death in three straight ‘sets’ in a row – because that’s all it may take.

I will use a simple example of the ubiquitous 12 hour shift pattern to illustrate what I mean from a ‘hard’ cost perspective. Here we have the analytics of two 12 hour shift patterns broken down into practical outcomes:

Comparative Analysis between two 12 hour shift patterns.

Comparative Analysis between two 12 hour shift patterns.

Note production hours stay the same, the number of day and night shifts are not altered. Staff costs increase 14% £37,600 ($60,160). The proposed shift pattern added no value and was significantly more expensive.

When we take a look at the Pattern #2 Fatigue index it goes off the scale. Normal levels of fatigue around 20 is comfortable, around an index of 45 you need to keep an eye on - sustain that over any period and your exposure to risk increases fourfold. What kind of risk – well no one really knows for certain, but at these levels it will almost certainly not be pleasant.

An index over 40 is unsustainable except for short periods of time.

An index over 40 is unsustainable except for short periods of time.

£37,600 may not be  that much in a banking system but if the editorial is to be believed it would currently buy around 14 ‘ambitious’ young interns for a month in the City.

Further Reading:

Bring Back the 40 hour week. Sara Robinson is a trained social futurist and the editor of AlterNet’s Vision page.

The neuroscience of sleep. Russell Foster at TEDGlobal 2013

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  1. […] Getting it wrong – an ill-thought out shift pattern can incur significant expense for your business. […]

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