a guide to work schedule types

Complete Guide: 14 Different Types of Work Schedules for Your Team

Do you know what work schedules work best for your business? Considering the vast number of schedule types, each with pros and cons, it's a challenging question.

Finding the correct 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 complex projects 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.

What is a work schedule?

A work schedule dictates the times and days of the week you expect an employee to work. Work schedules consider the number of hours each employee is scheduled for to ensure the business remains adequately staffed while avoiding overworking one individual.

Schedules may reset weekly, monthly, or by a different 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.

Whenever possible, you must set clear expectations for work schedules before offering a role to prospective employees. In some places, local or state laws may make this a requirement and ask you to give someone a predictable schedule for up to two weeks.

Defined hours and expectations are critical for companies with flexible schedules or other variable work scheduling processes.

What’s the most common full-time work schedule?

The most famous 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 predictably. 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 at least 35 hours per week.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) expects full-time employees working overtime to receive at least one and a half times their regular hourly rate 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.

The top 14 widely used work schedules

Every business has unique needs, and the nine-to-five schedule only works for some. 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 fourteen most popular types of work schedules:

1. Dupont shift schedule

The Dupont shift schedule is a popular choice for police stations, health care 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 four weeks, employees on a Dupont schedule will work as follows:

  • Four night shifts

  • Three days off

  • Three day shifts

  • One day off

  • Three night shifts

  • Three days off

  • Four day shifts

  • Seven days off

This work schedule allows employees to work over the standard 40 hours for some weeks, which may create overtime costs. However, employees can look forward to the guaranteed seven days off after a complete cycle.

2. 2-2-3 shift schedule

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 day shifts

  • Two days off

  • Three day shifts

In many cases, teams work either a day shift or a night shift instead of switching between those two options. This provides clarity and regularity in their schedule.

Employees on a 2-2-3 schedule work only 180 days a year and will only have up to three workdays consecutively. Plus, your employees also get 3-day weekends every other week.

3. 4-10 shift schedule

Three-day weekend lovers rejoice! The 4-10 schedule is a way to provide 40 hours of work in a four-day workweek. As the name suggests, employees will work four 10-hour days and take Friday off.

Some people may find 10-hour days 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.

4. 9-80 shift schedule

As the name suggests, employees working a 9-80 schedule complete 80 hours of work in just nine days. This is one style of compressed schedule. 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.

Employees get the weekends off, which maintains the feeling of a traditional work schedule.

5. Flexible schedules

Also known as flextime or a flex work schedule, this option is less rigid than a fixed 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.

In many cases, teams work asynchronously, and team members can move around hours at different times or even on additional days of the week as needed.

Flex scheduling gives employees a better work-life balance for job satisfaction and happiness. In-office businesses also offer approvals for remote work.

6. Full-time

A full-time work schedule means employees work between eight and 10 hours a day — from the standard 40 to a high of 50 hours weekly.

Considering their long hours, 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 weekly.

Non-exempt, full-time employees receive overtime pay when they work over 40 hours. While they often make more, salaried team members are exempt and ineligible for overtime.

7. Part-time schedule

Part-time employee work schedules don’t meet a location’s requirement for a full-time employee. In the US, the employee has 30 or fewer guaranteed hours each week. Their work schedule may periodically expand to include more or even overtime hours.

But, part-time employees must work fewer hours than full-time employees and usually make less. That said, there’s more flexibility with part-time work. Some businesses offer part-time work over the weekends instead of during the typical workweek.

Unfortunately, part-time schedules have some downsides, even if built with employee scheduling software.

First, part-time employees won’t have the same access to retirement, health care, and other benefits as full-time employees. Secondly, the working hours may be inconsistent in some industries. For example, part-time work may only be available during the holiday season in retail.

8. Split shifts

The split shift is an alternate work schedule agreement that allows employees to break their day into multiple shifts. They’ll have different work hours but not necessarily fewer hours compared to traditional full-time employees.

For example, split-shift employees 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 daily. When utilizing split shift schedules, you must 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. Working parents may also use split shifts to pick up their children from school.

9. Rotating shift schedule

If you run a 24/7 establishment, the rotating shift work 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 work schedule would be one where an employee:

  • Works the day shift one week

  • Works the swing shift the following week

  • Works the night shift the third week

If rotating shift work schedules are the optimal work schedule for your business, look for ways to support these team members. Ensure they have breaks, PTO time, and benefits for a good work-life balance.

Sometimes, employers combine split shifts and rotating shifts to create work schedules that provide longer employee breaks with consistent coverage.

10. On-call schedules

On-call employees agree to work as the employer demands. Most on-call staff receive compensation beyond work hours because they have no guaranteed time off.

Employees rotate on-call responsibilities to ensure that one person is not always working.

Employers use this employee schedule to prepare for staffing emergencies or non-predictable work scenarios. Physicians, for example, have one on-call day a month for emergencies.

11. Compressed work schedule

Compressed schedules allow employees to reach their required full-time hours in only four days. Under a compressed schedule, employees typically work ten hours daily for four days. Although daily shifts are longer, the employee enjoys three days off every week.

The core difference between a compressed schedule and a 4-10 shift schedule is that compressed schedules aren’t restricted to weekdays. That said, compressed schedules should be fixed schedules when possible for the health and well-being of team members.

12. Irregular shift schedule

An irregular shift schedule is just that: irregular. 

Under this work schedule type, employees' work hours and days off change weekly. Days and hours scheduled will likely vary based on business needs, seasonal workload, and employee obligations outside of work. Fast food companies and many chain restaurants will use this type of schedule.

With the rise of asynchronous work, many companies are experimenting with flexible hours or even an irregular work schedule.

13. Freelance schedule

Freelance work schedules are used for contract or freelance employees. These employees typically have no set schedule and work until their projects are complete.

In some areas, governments prohibit companies from dictating when or where a freelancer works. 

14. Seasonal schedule

Businesses use a seasonal work schedule when they require employees for only part of the year — for example, snow plow operators, lifeguards, or holiday entertainers.

Seasonal workers may have any of the other shifts mentioned above for their week, but they do not get the guarantee of long-term employment. Usually, seasonal workers have set end dates, but these can change at any moment.

Honorable mention: Overtime schedules

In an overtime work schedule, employees work overtime hours that exceed their regular working hours. Companies must pay an overtime rate, which is usually one and a half times the typical hourly wage. Sometimes, overtime rates can be double the standard rate.

Overtime schedules are added onto other types of work schedules, so we’re not counting them separately. However, we feel it’s worth mentioning because of how much overtime impacts work, employee engagement, and burnout risks.

How to choose the ideal work schedule for your employees

Every industry and organization works differently, but here are some critical tips for setting employee work schedules that fit best with your team.

  • Assess your needs and expectations: The first step is to assess the needs of your business. Do you need 24/7 coverage? Can employees swap shifts when needed? How will you determine employee availability? Will you have an on-call schedule?

  • Set core hours: Determine what hours you will be open and fill in the work schedule from there based on labor costs and employee availability. Ask if you will need to include an overtime schedule and early or late shifts.

  • Request employee feedback: Often, your team knows how they work best. Before setting fixed schedules, ask your team for their input on what work schedules are best for them. Look at typical options and rotating shift work, no matter your business type.

  • Learn from your industry: Every industry uses different work schedules based on how their business is run. From food service to medical teams, you must create a work schedule that fits your employee preferences and business requirements.

Best practices when choosing a work schedule

  • Involve your team in the process: Ask your team for feedback before picking a work schedule to ensure buy-in. Feedback can help you find a work schedule that improves productivity while meeting your business needs.

  • Use employee scheduling software: Find time tracking and employee scheduling software that will help you keep track of hours and work schedules once your new shift schedules are in place. Give your team access to an employee scheduling app and time tracking software to automate team management.

  • Set clear expectations: Your team should know what you expect of them before introducing a new work schedule. Setting clear expectations helps meet goals and makes the scheduling process more manageable.

Create rules: Once you select an employee work schedule, team management must start. Ask yourself questions like, are employees allowed to trade shifts? Will you allow flexible work schedules? Does everyone need to take an hour’s lunch break? Are people limited to a certain number of working hours each week

Why is work scheduling so important?

Creating and maintaining a consistent work schedule is critical to running a successful business – big or small.

This way, everyone on your team knows when they’re expected to work. Your team members can then predict their work schedule or trade employee shifts ahead of time to avoid missed work and understaffed shifts.

The best work 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. Planning is crucial when you use an irregular work schedule.

  • 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 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. Needs may change, such as relying on seasonal schedules. Without precise work schedules, 24/7 coverage can’t happen reliably.

  • Effective payroll management: Work schedules are critical for handling payroll. Schedules also ensure you comply with FLSA record-keeping standards. Integrate with a time tracking tool to protect operations when you need to add an overtime schedule or deviate from a fixed work schedule.

  • Reduced stress: Keeping a set work schedule helps reduce stress for managers and employees. Work 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. Whether your team operates on a flexible work schedule or a fixed work schedule, you need to set clear expectations and ensure you have employee buy-in.

Your business must 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.

No matter which work schedule your team uses, time tracking software and employee scheduling tools are critical for maintaining and automating employee’s work schedules. Hubstaff works if you use a fixed schedule operation or rely on a flexible work schedule, seasonal schedules, and much more. Let us help you take care of your team.

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