However, remaining competitive and keeping employees happy requires doing something differently. Typically, employees can accept new options supportive of better work/life balance and productivity. With this in mind, changing your operations from eight-hour to 10 or 12-hour shifts makes sense. This type of move could demonstrate advantages of new work options. The right answer should be explored with your staff.
Switching to longer shifts will also entail scheduling adequate break times, which will differ from the ones during the standard eight-hour work schedule. State and federal laws, as well as the needs of your operation will guide decisions about the frequency and length of breaks.
Employment Law Requirements for Break Times
Breaks for meals and rest periods are not requirements in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). However, federal law considers it paid time when employers offer short breaks. The point to remember is counting breaks as paid time may factor into whether you must pay overtime.
State laws vary. Most require giving employees a 10 minute break when their shift lasts longer than four hours.
If you operate in a state that does not require breaks for meals or rest, anything you decide is an agreement between you and your employees. For shifts over six hours, employees should get 30 minutes for meals.
Extending shifts to 10 or 12 hours should include more time for breaks. Spacing allotted break times throughout the work day is ideal if you want to maintain good productivity levels.
Break Considerations for 10 and 12-Hour Shifts
As longer shifts become more popular, concerns about safety and productivity are top of mind for managers. It is understandable that these valid issues make you reluctant to adopt 10 and 12-hour shifts.
Alertness and productivity may decline after employees work eight hours. Yet, studies show that providing adequate breaks within longer shifts makes easier to transition. Still, there are things to consider:
- Adverse impact on safety, quality and productivity after working 10 or 12 hours – Some tasks are best for short shifts; others can be performed equally well during shifts that are eight hours or longer.
- Environmental conditions dictate the frequency of breaks – Employees exposed to toxins, loud noises, extreme heat or tasks requiring heavy physical labor can benefit from frequent breaks. Typically, longer shifts come with more days off, so this will also help.
- Engage employees’ preferences on shift lengths – The acceptance of long hours is not unanimous for everyone who works shifts. Take this into consideration if productivity begins to wane. Give employees a clear understanding of what to expect from longer shifts.
When it makes good business sense to switch to longer shifts, your next step is to create schedule formats. Careful analysis of your business needs can help you understand which alternatives are the right fit.
Schedule Formats to Maximize Break Times
Generally, you can have fixed or rotating shifts. Inclusive with either format are regular break times to keep employees fresh.
Fixed shift schedules are as the name implies: employees will work the same 10 or 12-hour shift on each scheduled work day. Employees switch between days, nights and afternoons on rotating schedules. Both have advantages.
With fixed schedules, employees typically have their preferences. Most people want the stability of knowing when they have to work. They can plan better for family and social obligations.
Managers can easily match unbalanced workloads and set consistent break times. Changing the composition of a work crew is easier when you have specific conditions or needs.
Rotating shifts also have advantages. Employees gain equal exposure to different shift times. They also take equal turns covering undesirable shifts.
Scheduled breaks occur depending on the type of work performed during each shift. With either format, however, managers can build in short and long breaks at the same times during each shift.
Consistency helps employees who may initially struggle with longer work days.
The Future of Shift Workers
Moving forward, complacency with labor strategies is not the best approach. Being open to change that actually improves performance is a winning strategy.
Maintain work schedules that include break times consistent with the length of your employees’ workdays. Doing so does not require more than a commitment and the right tools to keep employees safe and productive.
Although the eight-hour shift remains the most common schedule for most workplaces, switching to 10 and 12-hour shifts have gained traction. Strategically thinking about partially or fully switching may prove to be the right choice for your company.