There is little academic research as to the advantage or disadvantages of a 4-day; 10-hour (4/10) shift versus a 5-day; 8-hour (5/8) shift. When determining the best shift schedule for your operation, there are multiple things that you should consider. These include things such as employee desire, customer demand, efficiencies, and safety.
Statistics from the Society for Human Resource Management indicate that 31 percent of employees were in a compressed workweek schedule such as a 4/10 shift and a wide majority find it favorable. Wadsworth & Facer (2008) show that more than 70% of employees favor 4/10 schedules. Additionally, 2008, researchers from Brigham Young University conducted a series of surveys and found that about four-fifths of the employees reported a positive experience working that type of schedule. Surveyed employees listed improved morale, work-family balance, more daylight for leisure, time for second jobs, reduced commute time, and lower cost for travel and child-care as 4/10 benefits.
Customers and Suppliers
The pace of customer demand must also be considered when changing shift schedules. Customers may need to adjust their ordering cycle to adjust to your new schedule. If you are shifting from a 5/8 to a 4/10 schedule, you must consider the additional 2-hours of work per day. Does your order flow or work schedule provide 10-hours of work per day at the current pace? If you are considering a switch from 4/10 to 5/8, can the work be spread across the additional day and still meet your customer’s order flow?
You must also consider when your suppliers make deliveries. If you are moving to a compressed workweek, Just-In-Time inventory policies may need to be adjusted to ensure a sufficient supply of materials. This may mean changing order quantities and delivery dates. Also, your warehousing requirements may increase by at least 20%. Ensure you have sufficient space for the additional materials, or you may need to schedule multiple daily deliveries. If you are considering a move from 4/10 to 5/8 you may have to schedule additional deliveries.
When evaluating productivity, few studies that overcome the problems of differences in the workforce or work practices. However, most of the data does not indicate productivity improvement differences between a 5/8 and 4/10 schedule. Companies must perform this analysis themselves over time to see how the different shift schedules affect the productivity of their workforce.
Employees can save money on transportation during a compressed work-week and companies may see a reduction in overhead such as electricity and water as the operation is maintained one fewer day per week.
An additional consideration is the condition of the equipment. Equipment that has been conditioned to run 8-hours a day would run 10 under a compressed 4/10 schedule. Maintenance plans and schedules may have to be adjusted along with the shift.
Smaller support groups such as cleaning crew, maintenance, and the warehouse have been shown to have a slight increase in productivity when shifting to a compressed scheduled. The off-day in a 4/10 schedule allows these groups to perform some of their activities during times the operation is not running.
There is little data to suggest increased safety concerns in a 5/8 versus a 4/10 schedule. However, Dembe (2017) points to a variety of studies on the potential dangers that can occur as the result of the additional risks created when work demands exceed a certain threshold. Most of these studies suggest that the dangers are most pronounced when people regularly work more than 12 hours per day or 60 hours per week. Dembe (2005) found that the risk of suffering an industrial accident is raised by 37 percent for employees working more than 12 hours in a day. The risk is 61 percent higher for people in “overtime” shifts. Working more than 60 hours in a week is related to an additional injury risk of 23 percent. As the hours worked in those schedules increase, the risks grow accordingly.
Considerations when changing a shift schedule
Before you change from a 5/8 to a 4/10 or from a 4/10 to a 5/8, the research suggests that there be a program worked out in advance by both managers and employees. All concerned parties must be involved in the decision-making process and that there must be clear explanations as to why things may need to change.
Try starting slowly and implement one four-day work-week a month or one five-day work work-week a month. That will allow time to solicit feedback from your employees and customers. It will also allow time to adjust schedules for shipments and deliveries. During this time, you should monitor employee productivity to make sure goals are still being met.
Considerations when adding a second or third shift
Before adding a second or third shift to an operation, please consider the fact that multiple shifts may result in higher overall costs that are required for shift premiums, nighttime lighting, quality control, and safety measures. Research has also identified that the utilization of evening and night shifts causes higher rates of labor turn-over and absenteeism that could lead to project delays and cost overruns.
In addition, productivity across different shifts can vary greatly. This reduction reflects on a number of underlying factors, including less experienced employees, a disturbed social life, shortened and disturbed sleep, and disrupted circadian rhythm.
Figure 1 below shows the relative performance across a 24-hour day with the worst efficiencies seen from midnight to 6am.
Figure 1: Industrial performance efficiency over the 24-hour day
Note. Reprinted from “Shift work, safety, and productivity”, by Folkard, Simon and Tucker, Philip., Occupational Medicine, Volume 53, p. 96.
Changing or adding shifts can have a great impact on employee morale, efficiency, and safety. By considering the factors mentioned in this report, you can make the transition smoother for your organization.
Dembe, A. (n.d.). No, we shouldn’t switch to a four-day Work-week. Slate Magazine. https://slate.com/business/2017/09/you-dont-want-a-four-day-workweek.html
Dembe, A. E. (2005). The impact of overtime and long work hours on occupational injuries and illnesses: New evidence from the United States. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 62(9), 588-597. https://doi.org/10.1136/oem.2004.016667
Facer, R. L., & Wadsworth, L. (2008). Alternative work schedules and work–family balance. Review of Public Personnel Administration, 28(2), 166-177.
Folkard, S. (2003). Shift work, safety and productivity. Occupational Medicine, 53(2), 95-101. https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqg047
By Ben Cheeks, with the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership