Try Hubstaff for 14 days
No credit card required
Do you run a business that operates outside of the typical 9–5 work hours? If so, you might want to think about a rotating shift schedule for your team.
Rotating schedules are the norm for companies that provide 24/7 service. The idea is to protect sleep schedules, reduce burnout, and prioritize work-life balance for everyone on the team.
With rotating shifts, team members are split up across two shifts: day shift and night shift. Each team will work their shift for a predetermined period of time. At the conclusion of this period, teams will rotate positions.
Several industries use rotating shift workers. A few examples are:
Restaurants and bars
Hospitals and health care
Customer service centers
Police and fire departments
Transportation: airlines, trucking, and trains
In this guide, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about rotating shift schedules.
What is a rotating shift schedule?
How does a rotating schedule work?
Types of rotating schedules
What are the advantages and disadvantages of a rotating shift schedule?
How to create a rotating shift work schedule
Rotating shift schedules are employee shifts that change over time. The most common rotation schedule occurs when employees rotate between day and night shifts.
That said, some industries with 24/7 availability will go as far as to split their work days into 3 shifts. In addition to day and night shifts, there is a third shift rotation (also known as the swing shift) in the middle of the day.
This way, all your business hours are covered, and your employees still get regular time off.
A rotating shift often changes cyclically. Some teams will work morning to afternoon and others afternoon to night. You may have day, swing, and evening shifts within your rotation.
With a rotating schedule, employees work the same shift for a set period.
The more your schedule repeats, the easier it is for your employees to balance work and personal lives.
There are three standard shift lengths:
Eight-hour shift - Each eight-hour segment of the 24-hour workday is equal. Team members alternate shifts daily.
12-hour shifts - There are two 12-hour shifts in a 24-hour workday.
24-hour shift - In the medical profession and other industries, team members may even work a 24-hour shift.
The frequency of rotation varies based on industry, team size, and a variety of other factors. While some shifts are on a two-week cycle, others change every day, every week, or every three months.
Employers can set up a rotating schedule in four different ways:
Frequent rotation schedule
Every week, the team's schedule is different. A person might work day shifts and night shifts within the same week.
Slow rotation schedule
Business owners change teams shifts so infrequently that an employee may have the same shift for months.
Weekend rotation schedule
Employees take turns working weekends so they can be home with their families, travel, or simply relax on the weekends.
Partial rotation schedule
Some of your team members may be on a rotating shift while the others work fixed shifts.
There are many ways to divide shifts into rotating schedules. Each fits a different way of working.
Here are three examples of rotating shift schedules each with their own schedule template.
The DuPont schedule is a four-week cycle of 12-hour rotating shifts.
An employee works:
Three days off.
One day off.
Three days off.
Seven days off.
The flexibility to take vacation every month is something that many employees love about a DuPont schedule. Team members can travel and relax without vacation days when they have seven days off.
Unfortunately, there are some down sides to this method. Working 12 hour days and having some weeks with only one day off can lead to burnout. Your sleep schedule may also suffer.
The Pitman schedule uses four teams (or "crews") and two 12-hour shifts to ensure someone is always on duty.
Over four weeks (28 days), each team works:
Two-day shifts in a row.
Two days off.
Works three-day shifts in a row.
Two days off.
Works two-day shifts in a row.
Three days off.
Works two-night shifts in a row.
Two days off.
Works three-night shifts in a row.
Two days off.
Works two-night shifts.
Team members have every other weekend off and never work more than three days straight. This way, they have a consistent schedule that allows them to relax and recuperate.
The Pitman schedule usually requires team members to work day and night shifts the same week. As we saw with the Dupont shift schedule, this may affect your team's sleeping patterns.
The 24-48 system requires three teams that take turns working 24-hour shifts. After each 24-hour shift, each member of the team will have 48 hours off.
24-48 rotating shifts are popular with firefighters and medical team members. Fortunately, these roles require some downtime. For the vast majority of professions, 24-hour shifts are way too long and lead to burnout.
In the 24-48 schedule, each team works a three-day cycle that includes:
24 hours working
48 hours off
Team 1 works on Monday and has the rest of the week off.
Team 2 works on Tuesday and has the rest of the week off.
Team 3 works on Wednesday and has the rest of the week off.
An often-overlooked benefit of rotating shifts is that you can spread out your best employees. You’ll also be able to pair experienced employees with new hires to expedite training.
Also, team members with special skills may be in high demand. Having them rotate into different shifts can prevent unnecessary hiring.
Around-the-clock employment keeps your business operating smoothly. With rotating shifts, your business is covered at all hours. This also helps you give your team a lot of time off.
24-hour coverage also helps to eliminate production delays that occur when team members switch shifts.
Rotating shifts allow restaurant employees to work high-paying dinner and low-paying day shifts like lunch service.
Giving everyone frequent access to high-paying shifts serves two purposes.
Increases staff morale by keeping team members motivated
Teaches team members how to handle busy periods
Rotating shifts give your team more chances to learn and build chemistry with one another. By cycling through every conceivable combination of talent, new hires will meet all of their teammates faster and develop new skills.
Even working at a different time of day is a learning opportunity. For instance, opening a restaurant is different than closing one down for the night.
Variable work hours help employees understand the responsibilities that are unique to each shift. This way, all of your teams can more easily empathize with one another.
The biggest problem with the rotating shift is that team members may prefer a set schedule (or fixed shift). When your employees work the same shift daily, it's much easier for them to plan the rest of their lives and master their role.
One way to help your employees’ work-life balance is to give them their rotating schedules ahead of time. Even though their work schedules may change, they’ll notice your efforts to foster a healthy work-life balance.
Rotating shifts can be stressful for your employees' bodies. Drastic scheduling changes can disrupt a person’s circadian rhythm.
Outside of sleep, there are other health risks linked to rotating shifts:
High blood pressure
Low immune system
If you’re worried about your team’s mental and physical health, it’s worth exploring ideal shift rotations before building a schedule.
Shift changes might also affect hourly team members' earnings. Night shifts may pay extra. Employers usually pay extra to get employees to work outside of typical hours.
Because team members on a rotating schedule don't always work specific shifts, these incentives can affect their income.
Keep pay period rotations the same to reduce these fluctuations. All employees could theoretically work the same hours per shift and pay period. This technique helps them obtain the same pay each time.
Time spent on rotating shift schedules is worthwhile because it helps you save on labor costs and keeps customers satisfied. However, it's essential to think of your team members first.
As you create your rotating schedule, keep in mind that:
In an ideal rotating schedule, there shouldn't be more than three-night shifts in a row, followed by three consecutive days off
Most people would prefer to work eight-hour shifts instead of 12-hour shifts
Circadian physiology says that morning shifts shouldn't start before 8:00 a.m.
It is important to spread talent evenly to make sure the same people aren’t always working night shifts
To create a rotating schedule, simply follow these five steps:
Split your working hours into shifts
What are your business hours? If you're open for 16 hours a day, you could have two shifts of eight hours each.
If you are open 24 hours a day, you would need four eight-hour shifts, two 12-hour shifts, or one 24-hour shift.
Find out how many team members you need for each shift.
Each shift has its own unique needs. What are the staffing needs for each shift? Do they need to have any special skills?
Don’t forget that you’ll need more people during peak hours.
Build the teams
Now that you know how many team members you need for each shift, you can start building out your teams.
Of course, there are a few other factors to consider:
Is there a good balance of new and experienced employees?
Have you considered each employee’s preferred shift times?
Do you need to hire more talent to fill out shifts properly?
Once you’ve answered these questions, it’s time to determine the rotation.
Determine the rotation
What type of rotation do you want to use?
When making the decision, consider your team, culture, and business. What works in a hospital might not work in a restaurant. Do some research of your own before you decide on a rotation.
Create the schedule
Now that you’ve created teams and determined a rotation, it’s time to create a schedule. While you could manually create your own schedule, this becomes increasingly difficult as your team grows.
You’ll also have to handle requests for time off. This time off will then lead to employees switching shifts.
To make things easier, you can use employee scheduling software. With Hubstaff, you can:
Schedule your employees' work hours
Set up weekly shifts for everyone on your team
Get alerts and reminders for late, missed, or left unattended shifts
Automatically add employee shifts to Google Calendar when you connect Hubstaff to Zapier
Get daily summaries of accurate timesheets
Manage your team's holiday work schedule with ease
See how Hubstaff's employee scheduling software can help your business by booking a demo now.
Automated timesheets. Intuitive scheduling features. Notifications and reminders so your employees never miss a shift.