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The 2-2-3 approach to shift work is an employment practice that provides around-the-clock service. Industrial and manufacturing companies implore this tactic to stay consistently staffed 24/7.
With 2-2-3 work schedule, employees work two or three consecutive shifts with two or three days off over the course of a four-week cycle.
This type of work schedule includes both early-morning shifts and shifts that take place late into the night. However, it also rewards employees with more consecutive days off than usual.
The 2-2-3 shift pattern (also known as the Panama schedule) typically requires four teams of employees to provide adequate 24-hour coverage. Each team works two consecutive day shifts, followed by two days off, followed by three more days of work.
This pattern repeats over the course of the 28-day rotation before it starts over. Every shift is 12 hours, so an employee's weekly hours typically remain the same (though their days off will fluctuate throughout the cycle).
For example, a typical two-week rotation may look like what’s described below (with W signifying a work shift and O signifying a day off):
As previously mentioned, the 2-2-3 schedule is used mostly by industries and businesses that need 24-hour coverage of business operations seven days a week.
Businesses like police stations, hospitals, and call centers are all in-demand 24/7 and require a work schedule that meets their customers’ needs. Similarly, industrial and manufacturing industries depend on employees at all hours of the day to meet quotas. This work calls for more working days and carefully crafted time schedules, so the 2-2-3 schedule comes in handy.
There are a variety of 24/7 shift patterns, but companies frequently select the 2-2-3 method because it's less grueling than other scheduling methods.
Since so many work environments depend on 24/7 shift schedules to ensure complete coverage at their business, multiple variations of the 2-2-3 method have emerged.
The Panama Plus schedule is similar to the 2-2-3 schedule, but it also features a series of eight-hour days.
The shift pattern uses five teams, two 12-hour shifts, and one eight-hour weekday shift. Teams will alternate between the two 12-hour slots and the one eight-hour slot. Ultimately, each team gets two weeks of eight-hour weekday shifts for every eight weeks of the shift cycle.
The main benefit of a Panama Plus schedule is the eight-hour shifts. These shorter shifts provide a break and serve as a stress relief after a stretch of consecutive twelve-hour days.
The 280-day rotation also ensures employees will not work more than two consecutive night shifts.
However, this shift pattern still includes two 12-hour days, and the alternation between day and night shifts can negatively affect employee health and well-being.
Like the 2-2-3 schedule, the Pitman Shift Schedule also utilizes four teams and 12-hour shifts. It’s commonly called the 2-3-2 pattern because employees will work two day shifts, have two days off, then work three more day shifts.
The following week, employees begin with two days off, then work two day shifts before their final three days off. This rotating shift schedule takes place over 14 days.
Employees enjoy the Pitman schedule because they are rewarded with a three-day weekend every two weeks and are will never be scheduled to work more than three consecutive days at a time.
The major downside to the Pitman shift schedule is that employee sleep schedules can suffer due to the slow rotation cycle of this shift pattern.
A DDNNOO schedule involves three teams rotating between two days of work, two nights, and two days off. Each shift in this six-day cycle is 12 hours.
Smaller teams have a huge advantage when it comes to the DDNNOO approach.
Unlike other methods on this list, you only need to fill out three full teams to be effective. It's also a pretty straightforward schedule that allows each team a two-day weekend at the end of each cycle.
The major downside to this method is that employees may need to work up to 32 hours of overtime on certain weeks. This can increase the likelihood of fatigue and burnout.
The DuPont Schedule is a more complex method that involves four teams working 12-hour shifts over a four-week cycle.
Since there are four teams and four weeks in a cycle, each team will take one of the four schedules:
Stage 1: Work four consecutive night shifts followed by three days off.
Stage 2: Work three day shifts, have one day off, then work three night shifts.
Stage 3: Have three days off, then work four consecutive day shifts.
Stage 4: Have seven consecutive days off.
No matter which stage your team starts on, you’ll progress through all four stages before the end of the cycle. Whether a team starts in stage 1 or stage 4, every team will work the full DuPont schedule by the end of the cycle.
The key advantage of the DuPont method is predictability. The cyclical schedule makes it easy for both employees and employers to predict.
The seven consecutive days off help employees plan vacations, doctor's appointments, and other personal matters around a fixed schedule. In turn, employers will spend less time on managing PTO and other administrative tasks.
With this shift pattern, employees end up working 72 hours some weeks. As you might imagine, this can lead to considerable fatigue and stress.
Additionally, it can be challenging to find a replacement for an employee who calls in sick. You run the risk of overworking employees and throwing off the shift cycle.
It’s not surprising that employee satisfaction is generally higher with a 2-2-3 shift schedule than with other schedules. This is primarily due to the amount of time off and a limited amount of consecutive shifts.
With this pattern, employees have a 3-day weekend every other weekend, allowing plenty of time for relaxation and recreational activities. Employees will never have to work more than three consecutive days and can easily plan around a fixed schedule months in advance.
There are a few strategies managers can utilize to assist with the success and satisfaction of employees who are transitioning to this shift pattern.
First, this shift pattern may be difficult to adjust to due to the long hours and drastic hours. Communicate and cooperate with employees to help ease them into shifts while monitoring for indicators of exhaustion. If an individual is particularly struggling to adjust, set up an area where they can take a 20-minute power nap to boost their energy.
In order to avoid fatigue mid-shift, encourage employees to be productive during breaks by taking a walk or calling a loved one. Keeping work stations brightly lit can also help you manage fatigue — especially during long or consecutive night shifts.
It is important to conduct routine check-ins with your employee. If they prefer day shifts, make an attempt to swap shifts with other employees that prefer nights.
Industries seeking a method for 24/7 staffing have a few options to consider, each with its respective pros and cons. The 2-2-3 schedule is a favorite among employees due to the frequent 3-day weekends and shorter workweeks.
The Panama Plus, Pitman, DuPont, and DDNNOO variations of the 2-2-3 schedule also provide adequate coverage for your business. No matter which scheduling method you use for your organization, be intentional with implementation and managing the transition, and ensure each employee works productively and efficiently in their shift schedule.
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