Monday, February 2, 2004

'Early Riser' shift next trend?

Daily Grind

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A new form of the old 8-to-5 may soon be headed to an office or workplace near you.

Principals at Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based outplacement firm, believe that older Americans are ready to embrace a 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. shift - particularly aging baby boomers who cling to their jobs but still have wistful visions of a full retirement.

The headhunters at Challenger are so sure that the trend is coming, in fact, that they've given it a name.

They call it the ER shift - as in Early Riser, not Emergency Room.

"Companies today operate on a 24/7 basis of one kind or another," says John Challenger, principal and founder of the company that employs 200.

"While there are surges in activity throughout the day, more and more companies are dealing in an international environment. Getting up at 3 a.m. is what you have to do for Asian customers or suppliers."

Shifting the starting times to earlier in the morning offers an opportunity for older workers to start on their workday earlier and go home earlier, too.

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the greatest job growth since 2001 has been in the 55-year-old demographic. Employment for that group grew by 3.2 million workers, while employment among 25- to 34-year-olds fell by 893,000 jobs during that same time frame.

An earlier starting time appeals to Russ Mims, owner of Hess Copy Cats Reprographic Services on West Third Street downtown.

He's up early in the morning anyhow - walking the dog, reading newspapers - and if he's up and about, he figures, then there are thousands of folks his age doing the same thing.

"Leaving by 2:30 p.m. or 3 p.m. gives you time to get things done in the afternoon," Mims says.

"I just hit the double-nickel myself. I personally think people are ready for a four-day workweek."

Paul Ziegler, a 54-year-old Westwood resident and supervisor at Cinergy, thought that younger workers would appreciate the earlier starting time.

Companies should offer the earlier shift for their own benefit, Ziegler said.

"They like the flexible hour benefit," Ziegler said. "It's not just folks 55 or older."

Challenger said the notion for an ER shift came out of a recent brainstorming session of Challenger executives, who meet to discuss trends and concerns of human resource professionals.

The ER shift, he said, could also bring savings to a company, particularly in offices where work stations are shared because offices could be smaller, if only marginally.

Less floor space means cheaper rent or lease payments, he said.

"But the biggest gain is that companies no longer have to offer a one-size-fits-all schedule," Challenger said.

The new shift should be optional, however. Nobody will want to be forced to get up that early, he said, and if they are, resentment is sure to follow.



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