Monday, 22 December 2014

Christmas Presents

Christmas is here again, and with it comes that inevitable question; “what presents to buy for your loved ones?”
Well here are some gift ideas for any shift worker. Shift workers tend to work nights and this can cause problems, problems staying awake and going to sleep at times against their natural inclinations.
Therefore you may wish to include:
  • A daylight alarm clock (I have a Lumie that slowly lowers the light when I want to go to sleep, simulating sunset and slowly raises the light when I want to wake up.)
  • A runaway alarm clock (so that you have to get up)
  • Blackout curtains (great for getting rid of that pesky daylight)
  • Sleep mask
  • Ear Plugs (so that your neighbour mowing the lawn doesn’t bother you)
  • “DO NOT DISTURB” sign
  • White noise CD (helps eliminate background noise)
  • Rainforest CD (or any soothing sounds that are restful)
  • BBC Radio Plays (I found Five Red Herrings the best, it took me two months before I'd heard the end of it)
  • Active noise cancelation headphones (not the most comfortable things to fall asleep with but very useful when you are trying to drift off)
  • Air Conditioner or fan (it is easier to fall asleep in a cool room and during the summer when it’s muggy these are a God send)
  • Lunch Pack (because the canteen is normally closed during the night)
  • Thermals (when you are trying to stay alert at night it is important to keep warm)
  • Wool socks (during the night your feet will be the first thing to get cold)
  • Relaxing drinks to promote sleep (Horlicks or hot chocolate made with milk)
  • Coffee or Tea (to help keep you alert at night)
  • Torch (so you can find your way to the car at 5am)
  • Car kits (when travelling during the winter, it is important to keep your car in tiptop shape and carry with you a blanket, de-icer, water and snacks)
  • Kindle (reading books is a nice way to help you fall asleep, especially one of our text books!)
  • Ebooks on shift work (we have a nice range available from Amazon)
  • A National Trust Membership (because shift workers tend to have more days off than the majority so you need something to do.)

If you are already organised, don't worry. These ideas will still work for Birthdays, Anniversaries, Father's Day, Mothering Sunday etc.
Merry Christmas

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Frosty Mornings

Frosty mornings are magical; the sunlight shines through our windows with extra strength because it is reflected off the frost. Even the drabbest of gardens looks like a magical foreign land, and the cobwebs we would normally despise look like Christmas decorations.

However for those of us who have to come into work, frosty mornings mean, an extra ten minutes to defrost the car, and driving extra slowly because of ice.

For shift workers the problems are exaggerated; frosty mornings affect not only the Early shift but also the night shift getting home. And while office workers can stroll in at 09:00 the 06:00 shift has to travel in the dark as well as ice. This means that when a sudden frost occurs shifts will evidently be late.

Tardiness can cost an organisation hundreds of pounds per day. Work doesn’t get done on time so delays have a knock on effect. Tardiness can also be dangerous, if key posts are not filled, e.g. health and safety officer, than people can be at risk.

So how can you reduce tardiness?

Firstly you need to plan for it. This week has been the first real frost of the year, so when a frost is expected tell people. Send out emails alerting people to the issue. Have the night shift text the morning shift if it starts to get frosty. Give people advice like set your alarms for half an hour earlier and use old duvets to cover your car windscreen.

Then for key skills or essential operations you need to have procedures in place. These could include handover periods so there is a 15 or 30 minute overlap of shifts. Hence is someone is late their post is not left unmanned. Or have a rule that your shift is not over until you are relieved at your post. Then if someone is late, the person doing their job on the previous shift has to wait behind until they arrive. You can then have a tit for tat system so that on the next shift they have to come in early so that the person on the shift previous can go home early to make up for staying late.

Any adversity can be overcome if you can foresee it and plan for it. So check the weather reports, find alternative routes to work when your primary route is blocked and just get up that little bit earlier so that you can drive safe.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Banked Hours

Do you want to reduce your absence levels down to zero? Have you ever considered Banked Hours?
Banked Hours are a great way to get rid of your absence problems. If you are a running a shift operation you can use Banked Hours. Sometimes called Reserved Hours, Banked Hours are pre paid for at the start of the year. Then if an absence occurs anyone on the Banked Hours system can be called in to cover the shift.

The best part is that when the staff realise what is happening they can manipulate the system. They can swap shifts when they are absent and claim the Banked Hours for work they have never done. Everyone is happy. The company has no absence problems, the staff "think" they are getting paid for hours they never work. And the shift managers can relax because the staff are doing all the hard work of absence management for them.

If you want to introduce Banked Hours, read our book Banked Hours available from amazon at

Banked Hours (Shift Pattern Tools & Techniques) available from amazon

For Managers of Operations that involve shift working, there are a number of essential tools that they need to know about and use if possible. Banked or Reserved Hours is one of them.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Absence Rate

Do you ever wonder what your absence rate really means?
We have a model which can take your absence rate and tell you what that means in the numbers that will be off each shift.


Let’s take an absence rate of 3.5%. If you had 12 people per shift on 8 hour shifts how many would be absence on any shift?
Well the average is 0.4 of a person. So how many should you have on shift to be sure you never go short?
Well with 8 hour shifts running 24/7 that’s 1095 shifts per year.
On 714 shifts my model shows that no one would be absent. On 311 shifts, one person would be absent. On 62 shifts, two people would be absent. On 7 shifts three people would be absent and about once a year four people would be absent from the shift.
To find out more and how to cover your absences effectively visit our

See how C-Desk Technology can help you solve all your problems. We can make you more efficient through better staffing.

Fatigue and Shift Work

Shift work can contribute to fatigue because it limits the amount of sleep the worker can have. However lack of sleep is not the only contributing factor to fatigue. By understanding what factors influence fatigue you can try to minimise the effect.
To this end we have created a short video on fatigue:
For more information on fatigue and shift work please visit our webpage

Loss of Earnings

One of the reasons for having a review of shift working is when an organisation is paying out a lot for overtime. This is usually because they are understaffed, or the staffing is not arranged to fit in with the work. For instance, there can be an 8hr 3-shift system in place, operating Sunday Night to Friday evening, but the work is dependent on orders that build up through the week. Hence, on paper, there might be enough staffing, but it is not aligned with the work and this results in weekend working, at overtime rates to finish each week's workload.
Other causes might be absences during the week, or holidays, all of which have a cumulative effect requiring weekend working to make up the time.
If we were to advise on a shift pattern review, we would strongly advise that your aim is to rectify the problem and reduce, or eliminate, weekend overtime working. However it is often the case that the overtime is seen by the staff as part of their basic earnings and resist any changes unless they are compensated for the loss of earnings.  The problem is; how much compensation and how much will it cost? Whether compensation should be paid at all is for another time, this article is about calculating the compensation, not the principle.
When asked the question; how much did you earn? It is an amazing fact, but in our experience no one knows how much they earned or will earn. Don’t forget, this is about compensation for ‘loss of earnings’ so the first thing we need to do is establish what this loss is. They have a vague idea, of course, and it is usually on the very high side of their actual earnings. A typical method is to take their current earnings and add a very good year of overtime earnings. When analysed the reality is somewhat different .
Compensation often takes the form of using the average earnings over the last 3 calendar years and comparing that with anticipated earnings in the future. If we were to take just one year, there could be vast differences between individuals and circumstances, such as a recent ban on overtime or the processing of a large unexpected order. Analysis over 3 years will balance out most anomalies.  Inflation will also have a cumulative effect, and this will also occur in the future. Consider basic earnings of £20,000 this year and 2.5% inflation increases in each of the last 3 years and in the future. Then, 3 years ago, the basic earnings would have been £18,571 and in 2 years time will be £21,012, a difference of £2,441. This is equivalent to 13% of £18,571. Thus their ‘loss of earnings’ in 2 years time would need to be greater than £2,441 to receive any compensation. Put another way, if 3 years ago they earned less than £21,012 then in 2 years time they will not have any loss or earnings. We can take the last 3 years of earnings, compare them with anticipated future earnings and calculate at what point in the future the normal increase in pay will exceed their past earnings causing there to be no net loss of earnings. It is also unusual to eliminate overtime altogether and thus an element of the future earnings will be overtime and this needs to be taken into account. We usually do a statistical analysis of future overtime that will be needed to offset any compensation.
Being more efficient and correctly coping with the workload without overtime means that there will be annual savings which will more than cover the cost of any compensation payout.
If you would like any help in reviewing your shift pattern or calculating loss of earnings please email us This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

10-hour shifts

10-hour shifts are a great way to organise your operation. They are half way between 8 and 12 hours, so if the work is partially fatiguing and you feel 12 hours would be too long, but 8 hours are too tiring because of commuting and lack of days off, you may consider 10 hours. The important part is of course balancing the start times with the finish times of all of the shifts.

Here is an example of a 10-hour shift pattern, holidays included, where there are five shifts; M (Morning Shift), E (Early Shift), D (Day Shift), L (Late Shift) and N (Night Shift). The shift pattern has been set up for one year. The Summer holiday has been extended so that they have a 19 day break. The holidays have been highlighted with an orange line. They are working no more than five consecutive shifts and have breaks of at least two days between consecutive shifts. Training Shifts (T) have also been included.
Can you imagine working on this shift schedule? The shifts are all working in nice easy blocks. Lots of good quality time off. Nice long holidays just when you want them.
With 10-hour shifts you can limit the shift rota to five consecutive shifts and still maintain adequate breaks between consecutive shifts. If you go for a holidays included shift pattern then you would expect to have a 12 day break every 10 weeks. During the Summer this can be extended to a, 19 day break, that’s one 19 day break and three 12 day breaks every year (55 days off).
With 10 hour shifts you would have to work more weekends than on 12 hour shifts but less than on 8 hours. In a 24/7 operation you would expect to be working between 50% and 60% of weekends. However since on 8-hour shifts you would be working approximately 75% of weekends that’s about 8 extra weekends off per year.
One of the main reasons for using 8-hours shifts is that mangers get to observe two shifts per day (Early and Late shift).  On 12-hours however, they would only observe the Day shift. On 10 hour shifts, they could observe four of the five shifts. Thus providing better visibility and control over the operation.
If you would like us to design your shift pattern, please email us This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it today and find out more.

Time is Our Most Precious Commodity

We can save you time
Time you would have spent analysing your workload,
Time you would have spent creating a shift pattern,
Time you would have spent managing holidays,
Time you would have spent arranging cover.
We can’t turn back time, but we can help you plan for the future.
Contact C-Desk Technology This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to find out how!