Many industries and businesses operate around the clock to meet the demands of a 24/7/365 economy. It can be challenging for business owners to both keep the workflow smooth and maintain employees’ wellbeing.

Some employers use a rotating schedule to keep up with the market’s needs. With this schedule, staff work day shifts for a few days/weeks, and then switch to night shifts, and rotate the cycle. This allows employees to have more time off and employers to maintain the operation of their business.

In this post, Camelo will cover everything you need to know about rotating schedule and walk you through the whole process of creating one.

What is a rotating schedule?

A rotating schedule is a scheduling strategy in which a group of employees cover day shifts for a few days/weeks, then switch to night shifts for a few days/weeks. For some businesses, the staff may switch to a third shift. The cycle continues, hence the name rotating schedule.

A rotating schedule is totally opposite to a fixed schedule. It constantly changes, while a fixed schedule stays the same. We’ll compare the 2 types of schedules in detail later in this post.

Types of rotating schedules

Simple rotating schedule

  • 2 teams

This is the simplest form of a rotating schedule. And it’s more suitable for small businesses with not many employees.

You divide your employees into 2 teams: Team A and Team B. Team A work day shifts for 2 weeks, and then switch to night shifts for 2 weeks. Team B work night shifts for 2 weeks, and then switch to day shifts for 2 weeks.

Pitman shift schedule

  • 4 teams
  • 12-hour shifts
  • 4-week cycles

This is how a Pitman schedule looks like:

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Team A: DDOODDD-OODDOOO
Team B: NNOONNN-OONNOOO
Team C: OODDOOO-NNOONNN
Team D: OONNOOO-DDOODDD

an example of rotating schedule: Pitman shift schedule

Pros:

  • 3 days off every other weekend
  • not work more than 3 days in a row

Cons:

  • long 12-hour shifts

Dupont shift schedule

  • 4 teams
  • 12-hour shifts
  • 8-part cycles

This is how a Dupont schedule looks like:

Dupont Schedule

4 night shifts 3 days off 3 day shifts 1 day off 3 night shifts 3 days off 4 day shifts 7 days off
NNNN OOO DDD O NNN OOO DDDD OOOOOOO

Team A: NNNN-OOO-DDD-O-NNN-OOO-DDDD-OOOOOOO

Team B: DDD-O-NNN-OOO-DDDD-OOOOOOO-NNNN-OOO

Team C: OOO-DDDD-OOOOOOO-NNNN-OOO-DDD-O-NNN

Team D: OOOOOOO-NNNN-OOO-DDD-O-NNN-OOO-DDDD

Pros:

  • 1 week off each month

Cons:

  • long 12-hour shifts
  • only 1 day break during the month
  • may result in unplanned overtime if not planned carefully

2-2, 3-2, 2-3 shift schedule

This type of schedule is quite easy to understand. The first number indicates days on, and the second number indicates days off.

  • 4 teams
  • 12-hour shifts
  • two-week cycle

This is how a 2-2, 3-2, 2-3 schedule looks like:

2-2, 3-2, 2-3 Schedule

2 day shifts 2 days off 3 day shifts 2 days off 2 day shifts 3 days off
DD OO DDD OO DD OOO

Team A: DD-OO-DDD-OO-DD-OOO

Team 2: NN-OO-NNN-OO-NN-OOO

Team 3: OO-DD-OOO-NN-OO-NNN

Team 4: OO-NN-OOO-DD-OO-DDD

an example of rotating schedule: 2-2 shift schedule

Pros:

  • 3 days off every other weekend
  • not work over 3 days in a row

Cons:

  • long shifts

Other variations of this schedule include: 2-2-3, 3-2-2-3, and 3-2-2.

Below are some other types of rotating schedule that are more suitable for businesses that require more staff on peak hours.

24-48 shift schedule

  • 3 teams
  • 24-hour shifts
  • 3-day cycle: 24 hours ON; 48 hours OFF

This is how a 24-48 schedule looks like:

24-48 shift schedule for rotating schedule

Pros:

  • only work 3 days a week
  • not work an entire weekend

Cons:

  • 24-hour shifts are too long and will cause fatigue. You may need to divide the team on each shift so that employees can have some break time.

4-3 shift schedule

  • 6 teams
  • overlapping 10-hour shifts
  • 3-week cycles

The 4-3 schedule includes:

  • 4 days on
  • 3 days off
  • 4 days on
  • 3 days off
  • 4 days on

Make sure to use the overlapping hours for busy hours.

Pros:

  • Staff work on the same days every week.
  • 3 days off

Cons:

  • long 10-hour shifts
  • 3 teams always work on weekends.

6-4 6-4 6-4 shift schedule

  • 5 teams
  • overlapping 10-hour shifts
  • 30-day cycles

The 6-4 6-4 6-4 schedule includes:

  • 6 days on
  • 4 days off
  • 6 days on
  • 4 days off
  • 6 days on
  • 4 days off

5-3 5-4 5-3 shift schedule

  • 5 teams
  • overlapping shifts
  • 25-day cycles

The 5-3 5-4 5-3 schedule includes:

  • 5 days on
  • 3 days off
  • 5 days on
  • 4 days off
  • 5 days on
  • 3 days off

This schedule allows some flexibility for business owners. You can let teams switch different shifts every week so that each team doesn’t work the same shifts all the time.

4-2 4-3 4-3 shift schedule

  • 5 teams
  • Overlapping shifts. You can adjust the length of each shift depending on the working hours of your business.
  • 20-day cycles

The 4-2 4-3 4-3 schedule includes:

  • 4 days on
  • 2 days off
  • 4 days on
  • 3 days off
  • 4 days on
  • 3 days off

These are the most common types of rotating schedules. But what are their benefits and challenges?

Benefits of a rotating schedule

Fairness

In certain industries such as F&B, night shifts are often busier than day shifts. This means staff working night shifts work more and receive more tips.

A rotating schedule allows staff to have a fair share of tips and workload. More tips help boost employee morale, and the equal workload makes staff feel fair.

Another factor that may affect your staff is commuting time. It may take longer to go to work during rush hours, and those who stuck in traffic jams all the time may feel annoyed. Flexible rotating shifts can solve this problem.

Flexibility

A rotating schedule allows your employees to schedule appointments with government agencies and companies that only open 9-5. They can have time for parent meetings or go to the bank without being limited by a fixed 9-5 schedule.

Experience

A rotational schedule helps your staff understand the ins and outs of your business and their jobs. They have the chance to be trained and gain experience in different situations. It’s easier for them to step in when needed and adapt well for busy hours.

Meet the market demands

Businesses operating around the clock can meet the demands of the market better. Different departments can work more effectively in certain hours. For instance, cleaning can be faster if employees are not present in the office.

Skilled workers can rotate shifts, and you can make sure every shift has well-qualified staff on-hand.

More days off combined

As staff work longer shifts, they have more days off combined every week or every other week. For example, the Dupont schedule allows your staff to have up to 7 days off. They can even go on a short vacation with all those free time.

Challenges of a rotating schedule

While the benefits of a rotating schedule are obvious, it also brings many challenges to both employers and employees.

Maintain work-life balance

Some employees still prefer a consistent schedule because it’s easier to maintain their work-life balance. Some courses and schools open on a fixed schedule, so a rotating schedule makes it difficult to attend additional educational trainings.

Scheduling appointments, spending time with family, visiting 9-5 agencies, etc. may also be harder for your staff.

Long and exhausting shifts

Rotating schedules often consist of longer shifts, which can be overwhelming and exhausting to some staff. Although some may love to work extra hours for more days off combined, others won’t be very fond of this.

Health problems

Constantly switching between day and night shifts can mess with your staff’s natural circadian rhythm, resulting in multiple disorders and diseases. That’s why you shouldn’t switch their shifts too often. Extend the duration of each shift to weeks instead of days so that your staff’s body can have time to adjust.

More complicated scheduling

Using a rotating schedule is more complicated than a fixed one because you have to set up teams, divide shifts, and make changes constantly to the schedule. Scheduling can take hours of your days, so you’d better seek support from a trusted employee scheduling app like Camelo.

As you can see, the challenges of a rotating schedule can be…challenging. So make sure to get feedback from your staff and see if they are willing to work with a rotating schedule. And make sure you can handle the scheduling effectively.

How to make a rotating schedule

Here’s a step-by-step guide to making a rotating schedule for your business:

1. Choose a rotating method

Depending on your business, industry, and staff preferences, you can choose one rotating method above and adjust it to suit your scheduling strategy.

For example, you choose the Dupont method for your coffee shop. Other information about your shop include:

  • Opening hours: 8 am – 12 am, 7 days a week
  • Day shifts: 8 am – 4 pm
  • Night shifts: 4 pm – 12 am

2. Divide your employees into teams

Count the total number of your employees. Then divide them into teams. Remember to include all the roles necessary for each shift. Label the teams so that you can easily arrange the shifts

For example:

Your coffee shop has 20 employees. Each shift requires a barista, a waiter/waitress, a cashier, a dishwasher, and an assistant manager. Divide employees into 4 teams of 5 people.  Label each team A, B, C, and D.

3. Assign each team to a shift

Now that you’ve chosen the method and divided teams, it’s time to assign shifts to certain teams.

Your final schedule may look something like this:

Rotating schedule example

You can download our templates, adjust them a little bit, and create schedules for your business quickly. Or you can use employee scheduling software such as Camelo to assign shifts and copy schedules of previous weeks so you don’t have to do things manually every time.

Fixed vs. rotating schedules

What is a fixed schedule?

A fixed schedule is when the employee schedule doesn’t change. One team always work day shifts, another team always work night shifts, and the third team always work wing shifts.

Why should you use a fixed schedule?

A fixed schedule is predictable and consistent. Many employees prefer this type of schedule because they can easily plan ahead appointments and personal events. It allows them to maintain a better work-life balance and better health. Employees tend to be happier, so the turnover rate is lower.

Because a fixed schedule doesn’t change much, managers don’t have to spend excessive time on employee scheduling. A flexible schedule requires lots of adjustments to make it work for everybody.

Which schedule type is best for your business?

Talk to your staff

Different businesses and industries may require you to adapt your schedule accordingly. However, the most important thing you need to do is to talk to your staff.

Your staff are the ones in charge of the shifts, so make sure that they’re willing and consent to follow a rotating schedule. It’s best to discuss the benefits and challenges of this type of schedule so that they can make a choice for themselves.

Sometimes, your staff can’t always pick the perfect schedules for themselves. Sometimes, it’s the nature of the job. Without people working around the clock, the economy’s and society’s demands can’t be met.

Don’t try to force your staff. Slowly explain and have a polite discussion. Present a positive and constructive attitude, and most of them will understand they’re contributing to society.

Inform your future candidates

If you’ve decided to use a rotating schedule for your business, you can tell your candidates beforehand during the interview process. Ask if they’re willing to change shifts every few days/weeks.

In case your employees don’t want to keep switching between day shifts and night shifts, but are forced to, chances of turnover and dissatisfaction are much higher. This can be a big hidden cost of money and time for your business.

Use an employee scheduling software

Using a rotating schedule can be difficult for both employers and employees. Managing a schedule that requires constant adjustments is no easy feat. A poorly-arranged schedule can harm your staff’s mental and physcial health.

One simple way to make it easier for both of you is to use good employee scheduling software like Camelo. Managers don’t have to keep adjusting shifts manually, and employees can always view their work hours and be prepared for their shifts.

Conclusion

Without a rotating schedule, your chances of meeting the market demands are impossible. And when you create one the right way, you can quickly leapfrog your business operation.

Now you have everything you need to get started with creating a rotating schedule. Don’t forget to download our templates or try out the Camelo scheduling app, and make great schedules for your employees.

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