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Extended-hours operations: Where's the support?

Only 21 percent of U.S. companies with extended-hours operations reported that they provided human resource coverage to evening, night and weekend shifts, according to the new Shiftwork Practices Survey by Circadian Technologies, Inc.

With human resource managers in most companies absent, uncovering the hidden costs of extended-hours operations and developing effective programs to reduce these costs is impeded, according to Acacia Aguirre, M.D., Ph.D., Circadian medical director and a principal author of Human Resources Management in the Extended Hours Workplace. “Since human resource managers are not usually on duty during the evening, nighttime or weekend shifts, impacting these excess costs is challenging,” said Aguirre.

Other support services, such as medical services and employee assistance programs, were also reportedly provided only to a limited degree to extended-hours workers in 2003, according to the survey, in which over 1,000 companies representing more than 150,000 extended-hours employees were questioned. If workers are unaware of or have limited access to these support services, then the benefits of providing the services, such as healthier workers and higher morale, are not fully realized.

The percentage of extended-hours companies that offer services to all shifts, according to Circadian’s 2004 Shiftwork Practices Survey, include:

  • Human resources: 21%
  • Medical services: 18%
  • Senior management: 18%
  • Employee assistance programs: 15%
  • Other services: 15%

Critical problems that extended-hours operations managers face include:

  • The aging workforce creates challenges in managing healthcare costs and requires companies to consider the use of flextime/job-sharing.

  • The increase of women working in extended-hours operations and the need for quality extended-hours child care has been largely unaddressed by U.S. employers.

  • Increased ethnic and racial diversity leads to challenges such as the need for bilingual communication and training.

  • Extended-hours operations take a toll on employees, affecting their health and well-being and costing the company more than it needs to.

    To help workers cope with the specific challenges presented by their extended hours work schedules, interventions such as medical surveillance of workers, implementation of health promotion programs, and disease management programs have proven to be efficient and to present a good return on investment.

    An executive summary of Human Resources Management in the Extended Hours Workplace can be obtained by contacting Circadian Media Relations Coordinator Tracy Maddaloni at (781) 676-6900 or tmaddaloni@circadian.com.

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