What Is a Shift Work Schedule Tips & Examples (2024)

When your business operates 24/7 or for extended periods, it can be hard to structure employment. Shift schedules could be your solution. This is a common method utilized in industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, and hospitality.


There are different types of shift work and each has its advantages and challenges. In this article, we’ll discuss fixed, split, rotating, on-call, and part-time shifts with industry examples, and offer tips for creating and managing shift work schedules.

Shift Work Schedules Defined

Shift work involves employees working in rotations to cover extended working hours without interruptions. It’s a common tactic used in industries with round-the-clock operations.

The main advantage of shift work is optimizing staffing. Companies can ensure they have specific employees working at relevant times. They can also manage recovery times, ensuring that employees have enough time to rest between demanding shifts. It’s a useful way to remain compliant with time-off laws.

There are challenges, too. Shift work is an abnormal routine that can lead to employee burnout and decreased satisfaction. This type of scheduling can be draining and disruptive. Employers need to be more diligent in helping employees maintain a work-life balance and their well-being. Another drawback can be uneven or unfair shift distribution.

Types of Shift Work Schedules

There are many different types of shift work schedules. We’re going to discuss five – Fixed, Split, Rotating, On-Call, and Part-Time.

  1. Fixed Shifts – Fixed shift work schedules have employees working on set days and hours every week. This works in almost any industry with the main advantage being that employees have more stability and consistency to maintain work-life balance.
  1. Split Shifts - Split shift work schedules have the same employee work two or more shifts on the same day. Employees are not paid between shifts. A restaurant would use split shifts based on peak hours, helping to reduce labor costs but remaining covered when busy.
  1. Rotating Shifts – Rotating shift work schedules are where employees are rostered differently on a regular basis. They could work day, evening, or night shifts. As such, hospitals use rotating shifts to ensure 24/7 coverage.
  1. On-Call Shifts – On-call shift work schedules involve employees who are available to work depending on employer needs. They do not have a set schedule and work when called up. Good examples include paramedics and firefighters who respond in emergencies.
  1. Part-Time Shifts – Part-time shift work schedules are for employees who don’t work on a full-time basis. Often, they have other commitments, such as studying or family. Part-time shifts are common in customer service roles such as call centers, retail, and hospitality.

    Refer to this LinkedIn for a further breakdown, including first, second, and third shifts.

    Tips for Creating Shift Work Schedules

    Your shift work schedule will depend on the team, department, and organization's needs. Here are some tips to consider for creating the ideal shift work schedule.

    Start by identifying your needs. This will help you determine what type of shift work to utilize. Consider the volume of work, your typical staffing needs, and the business objectives. You’ll need to be mindful of fair scheduling and your employee preferences. Involve them in the process to ensure that you’re taking their needs into account.

    You can opt to manually schedule staff, use spreadsheet templates, or opt for software. This will likely depend on the size of your organization. Regardless, manually inputting information is time-consuming and prone to errors. Shift scheduling software is useful for organizing and monitoring data to avoid over or under-staffing.

    Tips for Managing Shift Work Schedules

    There is more to do once you’ve created your shift work schedules. Managing shift work schedules means monitoring, evaluating, and adjusting them regularly.

    Ensure that you track the impact of the shift work schedules. Be mindful of employee satisfaction and business objectives. Coordinate this conversation with the finance department, HR, and employees. You need to stay within budget, reach and exceed goals, and ensure that your team isn’t burning out. Employee wellbeing is vital.

    Adjust your shift scheduling along the way based on the data and feedback you receive. Circ*mstances in business are always changing. Customer behavior and trends mean that your needs won’t always be the same. Being open to testing different approaches and making changes means you can optimize your staffing choices.

    Final Comments

    Shift work schedules offer flexibility, increased productivity, and optimized customer service. They allow healthcare workers, emergency responders, and customer service operators to provide round-the-clock services.

    Some industries will benefit from this employment structure more than others. Is this the right choice for your organization? If so, always be mindful of employee well-being and align scheduling with company budgets and objectives. Done right, shift work will optimize the way your business operates.

    What Is a Shift Work Schedule Tips & Examples (2024)

    FAQs

    What Is a Shift Work Schedule Tips & Examples? ›

    Shift work refers to a work schedule that is performed in rotations. This can include overnight hours (graveyard shift), early morning hours or a rotating schedule that changes over a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis. Another common practice of shift work is longer hours over a shorter work week.

    What is a shift work schedule? ›

    The term shift work refers to any work schedule that falls outside the hours of 7 am and 6 pm . Shift work can include evening, night, and early morning shifts, as well as fixed or rotating schedules. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 16% of wage and salary employees.

    What is a work schedule example? ›

    A standard business schedule is one where employees work set days (usually Monday through Friday) and set hours (usually 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). This is often referred to as a “9-to-5 work schedule.” The standard work schedule is common enough that most employees will already be used to working those regular hours.

    What are shifts examples? ›

    Noun There will be a shift of responsibility when she takes the new position. a shift away from tradition a gradual shift toward more liberal policies a shift in voter opinion The day shift worked overtime. The restaurant needed only one shift for lunch. He works the day shift.

    How do you describe a work shift? ›

    Shift work takes place during times that exceed the traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule. Shift work may involve morning work (e.g., 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.), night work (e.g., 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.), or a rotating shift schedule that incorporates both.

    What is a schedule with examples? ›

    To plan an activity at a specific date or time in the future. I'll schedule you for three-o'clock then. The next elections are scheduled on the 20th of November.

    What is a good work day schedule? ›

    KEEP A RUNNING LIST OF SMALLER, LESS IMPORTANT TASKS. When you have a few minutes of free time throughout the day, you can make progress on this list. RELY ON THE 52-17 RULE. Schedule 52 minutes of work followed by 17 minutes of rest open_in_new to give your brain a break from constant output.

    What is shift and examples? ›

    : to move or to cause (something or someone) to move to a different place, position, etc. [+ object] I shifted the bag to my other shoulder. She shifted her position slightly so she could see the stage better.

    What is the most common work shift? ›

    The most common job shifts are first, second, and third. The first shift — a.k.a. the day shift — is the more “traditional” workday that typically runs from 7:00, 8:00, or 9:00 a.m. to 3:00, 4:00, or 5:00 p.m. (although, even those hours may vary).

    What defines a good shift for you? ›

    Expect that your shift won't be perfect, but have the mental outlook that you will move forward and do the best you can every day in spite of what may happen. This attitude will go a long way toward making your shift better, more rewarding, and less frustrating. Remember that “a good shift is a choice.”

    What is an example of a work schedule? ›

    A work schedule is a plan that outlines the hours and days employees are expected to be on the job. An example of a common work schedule is the traditional 9-to-5, Monday through Friday arrangement. This consists of eight-hour shifts with one hour for lunch, totaling 40 hours per week.

    What is a shift schedule? ›

    A shift schedule––or a shift worker's schedule––is just a way to schedule employees in different rotations. This means that your business has coverage for every hour it's open. A shift schedule helps you manage your resources, maintain good customer service, and increase efficiency in your business.

    What is your shift work? ›

    Shift work is an employment practice designed to keep a service or production line operational at all times. The practice typically sees the day divided into shifts, set periods of time during which different groups of workers perform their duties.

    What is considered a shift at work? ›

    These three shifts typically last 8 hours and are called, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd shift. 1st Shift usually takes place between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. 2nd Shift is worked between 5 p.m. and 1 a.m. 3rd Shift typically takes place between the hours of 12 a.m. and 8 a.m.

    Why is it called a shift at work? ›

    Work shifts refer to the various timings that split a 24-hour period into distinct working periods for different groups of employees. A work shift typically lasts from four to twelve hours, with "full-time" often construed as working the same shift regularly.

    What is shift work disorder? ›

    Shift work sleep disorder (SWSD) is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder that can affect people who work nontraditional hours. It causes issues with falling asleep, staying asleep and sleepiness at unwanted times. It's treatable with lifestyle changes, light therapy and/or medication.

    What is a day shift schedule? ›

    The first shift often starts between 8 and 9 a.m. and ends between 5 and 6 p.m. It's sometimes called the day, morning, or early shift.

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