Question: Scheduling people to work second an and third shifts evening

Scheduling people to work second an and third shifts (evening and “graveyard”) is a problem in almost every 24-hour company. The OM in Action box “Scheduling Workers Who Fall Asleep Is a Killer-Literally,” on page 619, describes potentially dangerous issues on the night shift at FedEx and a nuclear power plant. Perhaps even more significantly, ergonomic data indicate the body does not respond well to significant shifts in its natural circadian rhythm of sleep. There are also significant long-run health issues with frequent changes in work and sleep cycles.
Consider yourself the manager of a nonunion steel mill that must operate 24-hour days, and where the physical demands are such that 8-hour days are preferable to 10-or 12-hour days. Your empowered employees have decided that they want to work weekly rotating shifts. That is, they want a repeating work cycle of 1 week, 7 A.M. to 3 P.M., followed by a second week from 3 P.M. to 11 P.M., and the third week from 11 P.M. to 7 A.M. you are sure this is not a good idea in terms of both productivity and the long-term health of the employees. If you do not accept their decision, you undermine the work empowerment program, generate a morale issue, and perhaps, more significantly, generate few more votes for a union. What is the ethical position and what do you do?

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  • CreatedJuly 23, 2013
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