Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Shift Work Design and the Responsibility of Analysis

Much has been written on the potential impact of Shift Work on Employee Wellness, especially when an overnight shift is required. The Human Species by nature is diurnal, as such we naturally organize our activity around a day-night 24-hour cycle called a Circadian Rhythm where most activity takes place during the day and sleep takes place during the night (some mammals are nocturnal and do the opposite). Within this 24-hour cycle are rhythms of our body’s alertness, temperature, and a variety of other physiological functions; central to the theory of Circadian Rhythm is the concept of an Anchor Period, or, a 3-4 hour period when our bodies demand for sleep is strongest in order to preserve the day-night cycle. Loss of anchor sleep potentially disrupts the natural 24-hour cycle and can lead to chronic fatigue, a variety of illness, and a loss of productivity. Preservation of sleep during the Anchor Period preserves the Circadian Rhythm and potentially offset the negative aspects of performing night shift work.

While an individual may develop over time their own unique Anchor Period, it is generally recognized that the period between 2:00 AM and 6:00 AM is when our body’s natural demand for sleep is at its strongest. Now contrast the 2:00 AM to 6:00 AM Anchor Period for sleep with the three classic shift design strategies:

Continental Shift – Most often used in Europe (although I have seen this shift used in some Table Game Departments), the Continental Shift sets up a 2:00 AM start of day.

Casino Shift – Developed originally to coincide with the Gaming Day (drop-to-drop), the Casino Shift normally sets up a 4:00AM start of day.

Production Shift – Designed around factory production schedules and set up to correspond with the 24-hour Pay Day, the Production Shift normally sets up either a 7:00AM or a 8:00AM start of day.

When reviewing the three basic night shift patterns the value of the Casino Shift becomes immediately apparent, as this design affords its participants the ability to sleep at some point within the 2:00 AM to 6:00 AM Anchor Period. Research has shown that the Casino Shift preserves more quality sleep and is preferred by a majority of participants. Cognitive impairment is reduced on this shift and work performance is generally improved.

Whenever possible I design labor standards which preserve the Anchor Period for sleep when there are employees in the Job Class who will be working night shifts. While Casino drop schedules can vary from one property to another, I believe that it is the responsibility of analysis to take into account not only the business aspects of labor management but to act in the best interest of employee wellness too.

Take a look at your Property’s night shift designs by Department and note those which allow for the preservation of Anchor Period sleep. Compare your findings to your Departmental Employee Feedback survey results, you may just find there is also a corresponding pattern of enhanced overall employee satisfaction when quality sleep is preserved.

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