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Pros and Cons of 12-Hour Work Schedules

written by: theMallorys•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 7/13/2010

12-hour work schedules can benefit you through longer weekends and more time off. Learn about the pros and cons of working a longer shift.

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    8-Hour vs. 12-Hour Schedules

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    It’s more traditional to work 12-hour work schedules in some industries than 8-hour schedules. For many nurses, law enforcement officers, dispatchers and power plant workers, it’s the norm. Other industries consider the issue from time to time and offer it to employees as a choice. Before you make a decision, weigh the pros and cons of a 12-hour shift carefully.

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    Pros of 12-Hour Work Schedules

    If you had the opportunity to work the same number of hours, but end up with more time off, you might take it. That’s the primary reason why employees prefer 12-hour work schedules. You have more weekends and days off than you would on a regular 8-hour schedule. Some of the other pros are:

    • Work fewer days during the week, which gives you more time to tend to family and even build a business on the side.
    • Cuts down the number of commutes, which reduces fuel costs, car maintenance and stress related to driving.
    • If you work in the medical field, a 12-hour work schedule provides continuity of care to the patient, which is beneficial.
    • Opportunity to accomplish more, as long as you remain productive throughout the shift.

    Some of the pros are only benefits if they apply to your personal situation. If you’re a single person, you may not be concerned about taking more time off. If you walk, car pool, bike or use some other mode of transportation to get to work, then the benefits of not using your own car to commute is a moot point.

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    Cons of 12-Hour Work Schedules

    While it’s appealing to many, 12-hour work schedules may not be right for you. Take into consideration these cons and weigh them against the pros of 12-hour shifts:

    • Develop poor sleep habits.
    • Not much energy to meet the needs of a family at the end of the shift, especially when you work in industries that are physically and mentally stressful, such as nursing and law enforcement.
    • More errors are made during longer shifts because your brain gets tired, and some errors are fatal in certain fields, such as in nursing.
    • Driving home at the end of a 12-hour work schedule can be dangerous if you’re exhausted.
    • Tough to work overtime and earn extra pay because of the already long hours.
    • Your children may not get to see you every day if the shift lasts long after their bedtime.
    • Not guaranteed a specific day off each week, which might make it hard to fit in other obligations.

    Family and health concerns are the primary areas of concern when it comes to the cons of 12-hour work schedules. When making your decision, put the needs of your family first, and then decide whether it’s wise choice.

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    Don’t rush into any decision about working this type of shift until you’ve carefully determined that the pros of 12-hour work schedules benefit your entire family. It’s not worth destroying your relationships, and there’s nothing wrong with an 8-hour work schedule.

    Image Credit: Laura Leavell