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Workdays in residential care?

Hello,

I have a question for those who are experienced in the residential sector. I work for a mental health agency and we are attempting to help reduce stress for front-line workers by identifying stressors and then problem-solving solutions to those stressors. One possibility is to go from an 8-hour day to a 12-hour day. Staff at this round table seem to be supportive of this idea, as it would increase time for them to have with their own families. I have read a few studies that seem to be mixed but include mostly nursing, which is a significantly different role than what at CYC/CYW.

My question is more qualitative and open to those who may have experience working both 8 hour days vs. 12 hour days. What are the advantages to each and which do you prefer and why? In addition, our head of finance spoke up immediately indicating that the research clearly states that this will increase sick time for employees? Any managers/staff that have maybe seen their own homes transition from 8-hour day to 12 and can comment on whether the financial manager is correct?

I do not want to ignore the request from front-line staff, as this is a problem-solving forum. To brush off their issues would simply cause more stress making them feel invalidated and having lack of control in the process. Any advice or research will be very helpful. Even if it is just a show of hands to say Yes/No , I then could bring this back to the table.

Respectfully;
Jason
Niagara Falls, Canada

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Hi Jason

I do not have specific knowledge regarding a change from an eight hour to a 12 hour shift decreasing stress in residential workers. The studies indicate that supervisor and team support, a balance of job demands and resources, self awareness and emotional intelligence development can be affective interventions to deal with stress.

Thanks and good luck,

Charlene Snell-Pickrem
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I find that 12hr shifts are far more manageable in trying to juggle the responsibilities of my personal life, Although, these longer shifts allow for more days off the transitions form nights to days definitely increases sick time.

Amy Armstrong
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My concern - always - is what might it mean for the kids - 3, 12 hour shifts a week, for example, means that the kids will encounter the staff only 3 days a week - hardly conducive, I think to relational practice. I have worked in programmes where staff do a couple of 12 hour shifts in a 2 week period, and that seems to work okay - but really, I always come back to this 'for whom is the schedule created - the kids or the staff'?' Because ultimately there is only one question, I think, about what should drive the schedule - the needs of the kids, or the desire of the staff?

Thom Garfat
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While I've never had a schedule of all 8 hour shifts, I definitely like the 12 hour day set up. You essentially work 7 days out of 14, which as you said leaves more days free to be with family, go to school, nap, etc. I can't speak to whether we would call in sick more or less, but perhaps the increased amount of sick time is due to the fact that 12 hours will be taken off instead of 8.

So basically, all I can add is it works for me.

Evelyn Downie
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Hi Jason

At our work, we have eliminated 12 hour shifts during the day. Employees were more likely to mistakes and were exhausted, especially by the third 12 hour shift, which made them less present with the clients. The only 12 hours shift is an overnight.

Hope this helps

Eric Douville
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Hi there Jason;

I have been a residential counselor for 9 years. I work 5 days a week, 8 hours a day. I too have questioned the 12 hour work day to have more time for self care and family, but at the same time I wonder about the consistency of the program if that were to happen. At my agency, our program runs from Sunday afternoons to Friday days and with that said groups would have to be facilitated by several different staff if the time changed from 8 to 12. I think that this would stress the youth out more with the change in group facilitators and regular day to day routines. Unless, it is possible to ensure that the same staff are running the groups and all the major programming then it could possibly work. But what about those who are scheduled to work weekends? People are often conflicted with change, however, if done right, it could work.

Good luck to you.

Georgina Tsitas
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When given the option my staff always voted for the 12 hour shifts and it worked fine for all the years I was a director.

Lorraine Fox
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I worked at two Children’s Homes where the 12 hour shifts approach was taken. I have one issue which I wish to mention around the issue of sick time. Obviously the programme could not run on less staff (at the time there were no “back-up” or “floating/supervisory” staff members), meaning that some staff members had to come back on or stay on duty. Here the exhaustion factor set in – being on duty for x amount of days proved to be very hard on staff and their ability to work consistently, positively and proactively did suffer sometimes. Though I have to say they tried to do their best!

Just one more point on personal time. The 12 hour shift system needs to be worked out carefully if it is to allow staff members to attend personal classes/meetings on a regular basis. In other words, is the person going to have every Tuesday off? This is especially important in self-care.

Interesting discussion!

Alex Botha
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Good day Jason

If I may respond, for me the 12 hour shifts work well, because you get a lot of time to work with the youth in your care. Also the 8 hour shift is just like working in the office and our aim is to meet the needs of the youth/children holisticaly. It's up to an individual how to structure your days of work.

On my Department, CYCW are working 3 days, 3 nights and 3 offs, and this is working, for Child Care Workers. But I think you can try 12 hour shift and see how it is sorting the children's needs.

Good luck

M. Mntwana
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Hi Jason

Nice point Thom! There are other options.

I wanted to re-visit your question with a focus on stress strategies that individuals and the agency may want to talk about. A unified approach is the most effective way to deal with stress. Although individual factors play a role, situational factors, within ones work environment, have the greater significance. Individual strategies involve; lifelong investment in education, practicing holistic self care, being open to constructive feedback, reflection on practice, and asking for help. As care providers we are aware that if someone is not invested in the process of change and development the likelihood of success is minimal. We need to be invested in ourselves, as role models, and trust enough in someone to help us.

Organizationally there are four core areas of focus; leadership and management style; Interpersonal relationships; training issues and organizational factors. I will share a few. Support by supervisors, through their presence, role modelling of professional ethics, mission statements, and code of ethics, is key, self care training (I would suggest) holistic care strategies, a culture of safety and trust, debriefing, and a balanced workload.

Tthere are many approaches for the team to deal with their stress, an individual and organizational intervention, based on the input of your employees could be effective.

Good luck,

Charlene Snell-Pickrem
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Unlike Thom (my wonderful friend) I do not find 12 hour shifts “better” for staff than kids. Our CYC’s worked 7-7. The person who got them up and had breakfast with them also had supper with them and were there when they returned from school or other activities. The person who came in at 7PM did not come in and say good-night – as I did when I worked nights while in college – but rather spent the evening activities with them before getting ready for bed. I believe the longer shifts actually enhance relationships rather than detract. There’s something to be said for all configurations, but I believe the most important ingredient for staff morale is their buy-in and input to whatever arrangement is made.

Lorraine Fox
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