12-hour shifts are common in many industries, from healthcare and hospitality to transportation and retail. Are they better than standard 8-hour work shifts? Will your business benefit from implementing them?

Knowing the pros and cons of 12-hour shifts will help you decide the types of shifts and the optimal schedule plan for your business and employees.

Pros of 12-hour shifts

Simple scheduling for 24×7 coverage

12-hour shifts make scheduling much simpler for businesses with 24-hour coverage. Instead of trying to fit shorter shifts into a 24-hour time frame, you only need to plan for two shifts per day. That saves you lots of time spent on planning shifts and building schedules.

Fewer shift handovers

Shift handovers involve filling workers of the next shifts on important events, tasks, and information related to the previous shifts. Without proper communication, miscommunication and disruption in the workflow may occur. 12-hour shifts reduce shift handovers, which can minimize these risks.

Improved morale

Workers often have longer days off after working long hours. With these recovery days, they can have more time for rest and vacation. They can schedule more time for family and friends. Having enough time for themselves and socialization, employees can gain better morale.

Reduced absenteeism

Working longer shifts means employees lose more working hours or leave accruals if they take time off. Long shifts also come with more days off and more responsibilities, making absenteeism less likely to happen.

Saving time and money

Working longer shifts means employees work fewer days per week. They can save time and money on commuting to and from work.

Cons

Health risks for workers

Working longer hours isn’t only exhausting physically, but also emotionally. 12-hour shifts may disrupt sleep and affect employees’ health, especially those working night shifts.

Longer working hours are also linked with burnout and other mental issues. Workers have limited time for themselves, family, and friends on work days. Most schools or babysitters fit 8-hour work schedules, so arranging time for family can be difficult. Those frictions in daily life can affect employee morale in the long run.

Affected performance

The exhaustion caused by working long hours may affect employee performance, especially in service and physically demanding jobs. It can be risky to let exhausted nurses provide care for patients, fatigued servers serve guests, or drowsy factory workers work with machines. Research also shows there’s a correlation between working long hours with deterioration of task performance.

Higher labor costs

If there are overtime laws where you are, you need to be mindful when scheduling your employees. For example, if you schedule four 12-hour shifts for an employee, equaling 48 hours per week, you may have to pay overtime rate for that extra 8 hours.

Compliance issues

To stay compliant when scheduling longer shifts, keep in mind overtime laws, minimum wage laws, and laws related to breaks. For example, breaks from 5-25 mins have to be considered paid work time, while breaks longer than 30 mins can be unpaid.

Track overtime with a reliable system to make sure you pay employees correctly. Also, because laws vary in different locations, check them before implementing irregular shifts.

Talk to employees about working 12-hour shifts

12-hour shifts are irregular shifts, meaning not everyone is ready and available to work them.

If you’re considering whether to implement this type of shift for your business, don’t just weigh the pros and cons of 12-hour shifts. Talk to employees and find out if they can handle it. Use polls or surveys to find out their preferences. Hold meetings to discuss overtime, work days, leaves — all the possibilities and alternatives.

If your business is implementing 12-hour shifts already, try involving your employees more in the scheduling process. For example, let them choose what shifts to work. Conduct regular check-ins to discuss whether this shift is working well for everyone and the solutions.

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