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Do you know what work schedule works best for your business? Considering the vast number of schedule types, each with its pros and cons, it's a challenging question.
Finding the right employee scheduling format is critical to your business' success and your employees' happiness. Whether you operate using a rotating or shift schedule, good schedules create a healthy work-life balance for each employee — regardless of their full-time or part-time status.
Efficient work schedules also allow employers to designate tasks for experienced and skilled employees who can tackle a difficult project more effectively. Employees should know their schedule weeks in advance, so there is no communication breakdown on the number of hours an employee puts in.
If you’re not sure which schedule works best for your team, we’ve identified ten different types of work schedules and the benefits and challenges of each.
A work schedule dictates the times and days of the week that an employee is expected to work. Work schedules take into account the number of hours each employee is scheduled for to make sure the business remains adequately staffed while avoiding overworking any one individual.
Schedules may reset weekly, monthly, or by a different length of time — just as long as these schedules are posted or made accessible to employees in advance.
Unfortunately, a set schedule isn't possible in all industries. Work schedules may vary depending on the business and an employee's position.
It's important that you make work schedule expectations clear before offering a role to a prospective employee. This is especially true for businesses that follow flexible work schedules or other less-popular work scheduling processes.
The most popular work schedule for non-exempt employees is the Monday through Friday, nine-to-five schedule. This schedule delivers a standard 40-hour workweek for employees to accomplish tasks in a predictable manner. Employees who work this schedule are typically considered full-time.
That said, there are various definitions of the term "full-time."
According to the IRS, any employee who works 30 or more hours per week is considered full-time. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) only designates the 'full-time' status to those who work a minimum of 35 hours per week.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) expects full-time employees working overtime to receive at least one and half times their regular rate per hour over 40 hours a week. Other perks and benefits of full-time work may include retirement benefits and health insurance — but only as employers see fit.
Every business has unique needs, and the nine-to-five schedule doesn't work for everyone. Businesses that need 24-hour staffing or have other priorities to address often use shifts to maximize output.
In no particular order, here are the ten most popular work schedules:
The Dupont shift schedule is a popular choice for police stations, healthcare facilities, and other establishments that run 24/7. In this schedule, you have four different teams working two 12-hour shifts. Day and night shifts are set on a four-week rotation cycle. Over the course of four weeks, employees on a Dupont schedule will work as follows:
Three days off
One day off
Three days off
Seven days off
This work schedule can see employees working over the standard 40 hours some weeks. However, the guarantee of seven days off after a cycle is something employees can look forward to.
Another popular option for industries that provide 24/7 staffing is the 2-2-3 schedule. This method utilizes a slow, 28-day rotation cycle where each employee works 12-hour shifts each day. A typical schedule involving four teams works as follows:
Two days shifts
Two days off
Three days shifts
Employees on a 2-2-3 schedule work for only 180 days a year, and they will never have more than three workdays consecutively. Plus, your employees also get 3-day weekends every other week.
Three-day weekend lovers rejoice! The 4-10 schedule is a way to provide 40 hours of work in a four-day workweek. Just like the name suggests, employees will work four 10-hour days and take Friday off.
10-hour days can be a bit grueling, but at least employees keep their full-time status by clocking 80 hours every two weeks. The extra day off is good for work-life balance and helps to offset any potential for burnout.
Like the name suggests, employees working a 9-80 schedule complete 80 hours of work in just nine days. Like the 4-10 schedule, this allows them an extra day off — but only every other week.
The goal of the 9-80 schedule is to keep employees working less than 10 hours a day. That said, some days are longer than others. Here’s how it breaks down:
Week 1: Employees will work a full five-day week. The first four days will be nine hours. That Friday, they’ll work an eight-hour day.
Week 2: Employees will work the same four nine-hour days and take Friday off.
Also known as flextime, this schedule variant is less rigid than the full-time work schedule. The employer and employees work together to define the number of hours and days an employee works.
Employers can set the minimum number of work hours expected, but shifts may vary to fulfill business needs and provide a work-life balance.
A full-time work schedule means employees work between eight and 10 hours a day—which equates to about 40 to 50 hours weekly.
Considering the long hours they put in, full-time employees usually collect various benefits from their place of business. These often include health insurance, sick days, and retirement options.
Most full-time schedules involve the same shift each day. Shifts can vary, but employees usually average around 34 to 40 hours a week.
Non-exempt, full-time employees receive overtime pay when they work over 40 hours. While they often make more, salaried workers are exempt and ineligible for overtime.
Part-time employees work fewer hours than full-time employees and usually make less. That said, there’s obviously more flexibility with part-time work. In fact, some businesses choose to offer part-time work over the weekends instead of during the normal workweek.
Unfortunately, there are some downsides to the part-time approach.
First off, part-time workers won’t have the same access to retirement, healthcare, and other benefits that full-time workers get. Secondly, the working hours may be inconsistent in some industries. In retail, for example, part-time work may only be available during the holiday season.
The split shift is an alternate work schedule agreement that allows employees to break their day into multiple shifts.
For example, an employee working a split shift may come in from 7:00 AM to 11:00 AM and from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM.
There is a substantial break between the shifts, but employees still cover their eight hours of work daily. When utilizing a split shift schedule, it's important to be aware of state labor laws for your area, which may require a certain number of hours between shifts.
An excellent example of a split shift position is the school bus driver working a few hours in the morning to take kids to school and a few in the afternoon taking the kids home. You may also see working parents use split shifts to pick up their children from school.
If you run a 24/7 establishment, the rotating schedule is an excellent option that cycles employees through the day, swing, and night shifts. This distribution between employees ensures no one works less desirable hours each shift.
An example of a rotating shift would be one where an employee:
Works a day shift one week
Works a swing shift the next week
Works a night shift the following week
On-call employees agree to work as the employer demands. Most on-call staff receive compensation beyond their work hours because employees don't have any guaranteed time off.
Employees rotate on-call responsibilities to ensure that one person is not working all the time. Employers use this schedule to prepare for staffing emergencies or non-predictable work scenarios. Physicians, for example, have one on-call day a month for emergencies.
A compressed schedule allows employees to reach their required full-time hours in only four days. Under a compressed work schedule, employees typically work ten hours a day for four days. Although daily shifts are longer, the employee enjoys three days off every week.
An irregular shift schedule is just that: irregular.
Under this schedule type, employees' work hours and days off change from week to week. Days and hours scheduled will likely vary based on business needs, seasonal workload, and employee obligations outside of work.
With the rise of asynchronous work, many companies are experimenting with flexible hours and irregular shifts.
Creating and maintaining a consistent work schedule is critical to running a successful business – no matter how big or small.
This way, everyone on your team knows when they’re expected to work. The best set schedule offers your business several benefits, such as:
Reduced employee turnover - Employees know when they're expected to work and can plan their finances and personal lives accordingly.
Improved productivity - Employees reach more goals with a clear, structured timeframe for accomplishing tasks. Work schedules also make it easy to spot health issues and problems with employees turning up late.
Preserved work-life balance - An unpredictable work schedule often causes employees to work too much and neglect their personal lives. With better scheduling techniques, employees won’t have to think about work at all when they’re off the clock.
Guaranteed 24/7 staffing - Businesses that run around the clock can be confident that someone is always available to lend a helping hand. Without proper scheduling, this isn’t the case.
Effective payroll management - Work schedules are critical for handling payroll. Schedules also ensure you comply with FLSA record-keeping standards.
Reduced stress - Keeping a set work schedule helps reduce stress for managers and employees alike. Schedules are also an effective way to recognize and reference past shift patterns to prepare for holidays and events in advance.
For many employers, a standard nine-to-five work schedule works just fine. For others, a more flexible work schedule gets the job done.
Your business will need to select the best fit based on industry and business needs. If your line of work allows, consider the positive effects of flexible scheduling. It could be the key factor to better work-life balance and retention.
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