THE traditional nine-to-five, Monday-to-Friday working week is a cornerstone of the industrialised world. But it is gradually being dismantled in favour of longer shifts worked over fewer days. And it appears Australians are embracing the idea - especially if it gives them an extra long weekend. The 12-hour day has typically been used in mining and emergency services but is now appearing in other industries, said Dr Rebecca Loudoun, senior lecturer at Griffith business school at Griffith University. ''It's creeping into all industries. We see it now in hospitality, retailing and health services. I can't think of an industry where it's not happening,'' she said. ''Australia has one of the highest uses of extended shifts in the world.'' According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 16 per cent of employees said last year they had undertaken shift work in the four weeks before they were surveyed, although the bureau did not specify 12-hour shifts. In 2003, 14 per cent of employees said they usually worked shifts. Longer shifts are part of the move to extended trading hours, where shops and services are increasingly open for business at night and on weekends. Employers say longer shifts can improve productivity, and workers in a variety of fields who talked to The Sun-Herald spoke of enjoying greater flexibility than traditional nine-to-fivers. But researchers said there were drawbacks. ''If you are single and you can organise your life the way you want to organise it, then the 12-hour roster is the best thing since sliced bread,'' Dr Loudoun said. ''If you have children or a partner it can become a huge nightmare. The emotional energy that goes into juggling your commitments and organising other people to help care for the children really makes the 12-hour roster prohibitive.'' Dr Loudoun, author of a research paper, Balancing Shiftwork and Life Outside Work: Do 12-hour Shifts Make a Difference?, published in 2008, said the 12-hour, three-day-a-week model was also increasing because it suited a lot of employers. ''There are the reduced costs of rostering, there are only two changeovers in a 24-hour period as opposed to three,'' she said. The 12-hour shift could advantage both workers and businesses, said Garry Brack, chief executive of employers group the Australian Federation of Employers and Industries. ''Employees like it because they can do a week's work in three or four days, so they have more time off,'' Mr Brack said. ''Employers like it because they get better utilisation of their equipment. They can keep an operation running 24 hours a day with shift workers coming in and out.'' Nursing has long been associated with shift work. In the United States, a study by the University of Maryland in Baltimore published last year found that nurses who worked 12-hour shifts were more prone to sleep deprivation and had a higher risk of health problems and greater odds of making patient errors. It found that the average total sleep time between 12-hour shifts was about 5.5 hours. In NSW about 80 units out of 1500 in public and private hospitals gave nurses an option to work 12-hour shifts, the NSW Nurses Association said. Its general secretary, Brett Holmes, said the shifts were popular with some nurses but the rosters required strict monitoring, and employees needed to be given control over the type of shifts they worked. ''It is really important that staff on these 12-hour shifts are not expected to work overtime,'' he said. ''I would have major concerns about fatigue if that were the case. I would also have concerns about incursions into the rostered rest period if nurses were being asked to take on additional shifts.'' Professor Philip Bohle, the head of the University of Sydney's work and health research team, said fatigue increased and performance declined as people worked longer shifts. ''Long shifts can can also have a negative influence on the employee's life outside work,'' he said. ''There is an emotional carry-over which is another form of work-life conflict if you come home tired, fatigued and irritable.'' In 2005-06 Safe Work Australia found shift workers were over-represented among work-related injury cases. While 16 per cent of employees did shift work, they suffered 27 per cent of work-related injuries. Lapping up life Peta Johnstone, dog groomer, Paws Up Doggy Day Care and Grooming I work three 12-hour days and then I have four days off. I find this gives me more time to myself than working five eight-hour days. It means I get more time to do things around the house and do volunteer work as a telephone counsellor. My job is quite physically demanding, though, and by the end of my third 12-hour day I do feel pretty drained. But I think you can push yourself through knowing that you have four days off to look forward to. Hours eat away at you Maurizio Lombardo, restaurateur, La Spiaggia, Coogee I normally work from midday to midnight but my hours can vary. To be honest, there aren't that many advantages to working a 12-hour shift but it is the nature of the restaurant industry. Those are the hours that people work to survive in the trade. I haven't had a proper weekend in years and I don't have much of a social life because of the hours that I work. It does get tiring and stressful, which can make me a bit grumpy. It's just as well I really enjoy working with food. A shift from the norm Sarah Cohen, registered nurse, Prince of Wales Hospital intensive care unit I work three 12-hour shifts a week. The days I work vary and I can do straight day shifts or night shifts or a combination of both. There are quite a few advantages. I never have to drive in peak hour traffic because our shifts start at 7am or 7pm. I'm only doing it three times a week. I really like having four days off in a row. It's a long weekend every week. The main drawback would have to be fatigue … you do have to maintain your concentration levels when you are working with critically ill patients. The job is the driving force Richard Klein, vehicle fabricator, CustomWorks There is so much demand for the type of work I do I pretty much always end up working 12 hours. I normally start at 7am and I just work straight through the day. I often eat lunch while I'm working. The main advantage would have to be the money. The more work I do, the more money I get. The downside is I don't have much time to do anything else on the days I'm working.