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Study reveals hidden costs of shiftwork

July 25, 2003
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Company bottom lines will bleed more as extended-hours operations become more prevalent, predicts a new study by Circadian Technologies, Inc.

Approximately 24 million Americans — half working in professional or white-collar occupations — routinely work irregular schedules, night shifts or extended hours positions.

Extended-hours operations enable companies to attain lower unit costs, shorter supply chains, and better asset utilization and customer service. But they also incur higher costs than traditional daytime operations. Primary factors: lower productivity ($79.4 billion), higher absenteeism ($50.4 billion), greater employee turnover ($39.1 billion), increased healthcare costs ($28.2 billion) and more job-related accidents ($8.5 billion), the study reports.

Employees staffing extended hours operations suffer from significantly higher rates of obesity, gastrointestinal disorders, cancer, sleep disorders, and fatigue-related car accidents. The study estimates that health problems exacerbated by continuous operations cost U.S. employers an additional $28.1 billion annually in higher health insurance costs.

Proven measures that ease problems and reduce costs associated with an extended-hours work force include:

1) Analyze rates for overtime, absenteeism, turnover/recruiting, accidents, health problems, and property/casualty insurance costs to identify high-risk extended hours facilities.

2) Reallocate human resources, training, health and safety budgets to provide additional resources for extended-hours operations.

3) Adjust employee work schedules and staffing distribution to minimize excess overtime, absenteeism, turnover and replacement costs.

4) Legal counsel and risk managers should identify specific areas of legal risk within extended-hours operations.

5) Design interventions that reduce the excess healthcare costs and accident rates inherent in many extended-hours operations.

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