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Question: Occasionally I have to ask someone to work a double shift. What’s the best way to do this?


Frequent use of double shifts is a clear sign that you’re having trouble effectively managing job coverage. In the long run, you should conduct a staffing level analysis to ensure you are properly staffed and able to handle safely unexpected absences.

When someone calls in sick or does not show up for work, most managers tend to hold over a shiftworker for an extra shift. Usually this happens in facilities with 8-hour shifts, so that the shiftworkers works an unplanned 16-hour shift. But we have also seen this happen with 12-hour shift schedules, where workers end up pulling 24-hours shifts from time to time.

Sometime you can get away with it without doing much harm, especially when a 16-hour shift involves consecutive morning and evening shifts. But do a holdover at the end of an evening or a night shift, or let someone work 24-hour consecutive hours, and you can end up with a seriously impaired and dangerous person due to fatigue. Furthermore, the very nature of an unplanned absence means shiftworkers are unable to plan their sleep in order to manage such an extra-long shift.

Needless to say, avoid such emergency coverage whenever possible. When you do have to cover, try splitting the shift in two and hold over the shiftworker for no more than half a shift and bring the next person in early to cover.

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