The Debate is On: Eight Hour Shifts vs. Twelve Hour Shifts; Who Really Wins and Who Loses?
Off shift work
There are certain jobs that require 24 hour surveillance, such as service driven community careers-police, fire and EMT’s, as well as medical personnel-doctors, nurses, radiologist, respiratory technicians, and phlebotomists. Then, there are food service people who stay open around the clock. What all of these examples have in common is that someone has to take the night shift.
I happen to fall into that category and I have to be honest-I prefer an eight hour day shift. For the majority of my nursing career I have worked in hospitals. I have been on every shift there was: eight and 12 hour shifts; days, afternoons and midnights. I liked afternoon shift when my kids were young. I was there to get them off to school in the morning and to peak in on them when I returned. I had my mornings for appointments and exercise. But, that was in the days of eight hour shifts.
In today’s economy most hospital floor work comes in two shifts: day or night. In my opinion, management sells the 12 hour shifts as a real boon to increase the employee’s free time. However, I feel this is not accurate or honest. To me it is all about saving the corporation money-do more with less staff by eliminating one whole shift.
Quality of Life
Let me do the math here. On a typical week of work, in which I am scheduled three 12 hour shifts, I may get up at 6 a.m. to get my body into the second shift mode. I will exercise, houseclean, do laundry, grocery shop and take care of appointments during the hours of 7 and 2 pm. I sleep for an hour or two before I start my first shift, (now 4 pm). I then, prepare for my shift, which includes showering, eating my supper, and driving the hour to the hospital.
When I arrive to the rental house I use while I have my three or four day stretches, I take another 30 minutes to unpack my car and grab my nursing bag and evening snack. My shift starts at 6:45 pm and goes until 7:15 a.m. which takes another 12.5 hours of the day.
Okay-I counted six hours from 6 a.m. to 2 pm that I have ‘my time’. When I work multiple days in a row I get home by 7:30 a.m. and eat breakfast, shower and go to sleep. I’m in bed by 8:30 am and sleep until 4:30 pm at which time I repeat the work process.
When or how do I fit in the necessary or important ‘other’ things in life such as exercise, doctor and dentist appointments, or getting a haircut? Well, that will have to wait until my official day off. And, for those experiencing an off shift, the first ‘day off’ isn’t really that because you have to go to sleep for at least three hours before getting up to enjoy the rest of ‘your day off’.
Which is better-eight or twelve hour shifts
Getting back to my original premise-how does a 12 hour shift increase quality and contentment of living, or increase productivity? Given a 36 hour work week one only has to experience a midnight shift schedule to know that those alluring four days off are just a fantasy…one of the four is spent recuperating from the exhaustion of staying awake in the marathon, while the last day off is spent moving into the preparation for the marathon mode. That leaves the two middle days as true ‘free days’.
If that is the case, we are right back to square one: an eight hour shift allows for a person to do what has to be done during the part of the day that is available and work during the other hours, while still having two solid days to enjoy.
The other factor in this has to be the safety of what one is doing on the job while experiencing the body’s tendency to follow the natural flow and circadian rhythm for sleep. What manager would want to risk the company’s integrity through the stress of prompting employees to ‘wake up and smell the coffee…or drink the coffee, if you will?
Have you ever worked the midnight shift?
Have you ever worked a 12 hour shift?
Which do you feel is a safer shift?
Sleep Aids in a Natural Way
Which shift do you feel is more productive?
Which shift better enhances the quality of life for the employee?
With all my configurations and analysis here…all be it whining and complaining, I will emphasize here that I am grateful that I have a job and that my job is a healthy work environment. Please do not measure my information here as a disregard for what I have been given.