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T: 01636 816 466

The Old Vicarage
Station Road, Rolleston
NG23 5SE                              

Operational Research

You can always be more efficient

Operational Research is all about using analysis to improve decision making. Dr Angela Moore uses mathematical modeling, statistical analysis, optimisation, sequencing and scheduling techniques to create simple heuristics you can employ to run your operation more efficiently.

Should You Work Less Hours?

During the course of a shift, you will inevitably get fatigued and your work will suffer. We all make mistakes and the rate of making the mistakes can be measured. At the start of the shift for the first few hours, research has shown that the error rate is stable. This is what we could expect, and employers expect this to continue throughout the whole shift. We have yet to find an employer that says it is ok to make more mistakes at the end of the shift than at the start, they expect consistency throughout the shift but that is not what happens unfortunately. After a few hours of working, the error rate between breaks increases dramatically. Whilst this is not what an employer would like to see from their workers, there is a comparable situation to this experienced by everyone, that is: taking exams! Exams involve the usual set of skills we expect from employees, vigilance, memory, deductive reasoning and accuracy. Hence we often employ staff based on the exams they have passed and their grades. Many exams are set at the 75 minute level (plus the advice to spend 15 minutes correcting the answers) for the simple reason that longer exams involving more questions produce worse results. At work however, we often find breaks set at long intervals, say after 3 or 4 hours.

Working less hours is a good idea depending on the type of work you are doing. If you are doing original mental work e.g. learning a new skill, creating a new product or process, you need short days. From a mental fatigue point of view you need to limit your employees to about 5 hours. After 5 hours their mental processes start to slow down and they make mistakes or can't retain information as well. Therefore any work they do after the 5 hours just has to be repeated the following day. Which eats into the five hours of the following day and create a vicious circle.

I always tell my clients that you have to match the length of the shift to the type of work you are doing. If you are doing creative, original work then you need to limit their days. There is a reason why the school day is 5-hours!

If you are doing repetitive mental work then you just need regular breaks to reduce your fatigue. Think of Air Traffic Controllers, they have to have a break after 2 hours. This is to keep them mentally alert and then they are less prone to make mistakes and it keeps their reaction times up. Then there is TV presenters on live shows. No show goes on for more than 2 hours, because even with advert breaks the presenters get fatigued. Films and plays are also limited to about 2 hours. This is because the audience stops engaging after this time.

So it is not just about the length of the shift, but also the breaks on a shift and the type of work you are asking people to do.