The History (and Future) of Shift Work - Wageloch


The History (and Future) of Shift Work

You loved learning how the time clock changed the way we work. So this time around, we’re taking a closer look at shift work through the ages — and how automated timesheet template and rostering software makes managing shifts easier than ever before.

The start of shift work

It’s a cold, dark night and you’re on watch. With just a flickering candle for company and comfort, it’s getting harder to stay awake and alert to what might be lurking in the shadows…

It’s 512 BCE and you are one of the world’s first shift workers.

You see, shift work has been around for a lot longer than most of us realise. The Ancient Greeks and Romans used candles and torches to keep on guard and prevent enemy attacks in the wee hours. And at sea, sailors worked night shifts to avoid shipwrecking.

Shifting the workday

Fast-forward to the 1880s, when the invention of the lightbulb allowed mills and factories to run around the clock and pocket more profit.

This worked well for employers but not so much for employees, who typically worked long 12-hour shifts for 13 days straight before doing another staggering 24-hour stint, and then back to 13 night shifts in a row before having a day off. Talk about exhausting! Unsurprisingly, this led to a spike in workplace incidents and injuries (and no doubt sleep disorders!).

While unions and workers protested conditions from as early as the 1860s, it took until the 1930s for companies to finally bow to pressure and change to an eight-hour workday (as well as start offering better pay and conditions).

Fun fact: Welsh textile mill owner Robert Owen, who vocally advocated for better conditions for workers in the early 19th Century, is credited with ‘inventing’ the new workday after calling for “eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, and eight hours rest.”

And the rest, as they say, is history. The shorter workday attracted more shift workers, while globalisation and technology has seen shift work boom again in recent times.

A smarter way to work

Like everything, managing shifts in those early days was done with paper and pencil. That probably worked fine in simpler times, but our fast-paced, always-on modern world means manual timesheet templates and rosters are more of a hindrance than a help.

Thankfully, technology has changed all that!

Automated rosters and timesheet templates through software like Wageloch make it easier than ever to:

● See staff availability
● Assign shifts
● Swap shifts
● Change shift start and end times
● See automatically calculated shift costs in real time
● See your rosters and timesheets side-by-side

With Wageloch, this helps you prevent budget blowouts, as well as make more accurate forecasting and budgeting decisions. And of course, you save bucketloads of time, money and stress compared to doing it all manually!

The future of shift work

It’s exciting to wonder what shift work management will look like in the future. Until then, why not join the right side of history and take all your rostering, staffing, time and attendance tasks and timesheet templates online. Not only will it make work easier for you, it also makes life easier for your staff. And that’s something that would surely make those pioneering shift workers proud.
To get started, book a demo today with our friendly team in Australia.

The information in this article is intended as a guide only, providing an overview of general information available. It’s not intended to be an exhaustive source of information and should not be seen to constitute legal or tax advice. You should, where necessary, seek a second professional opinion for any legal or tax issues raised in your business affairs.

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