What are the different types of shift patterns?


10 min read

What are the different types of shift patterns?


    What are the different types of shift patterns?

    Staff rotas don’t just keep your business running smoothly. They’re key to making The Single Biggest Shift, and keeping your team happy, healthy, motivated and productive, too. The trick is to find the right shift pattern that works for you, your team and your business.

    But that can be easier said than done. Especially if you don’t know all the shift patterns available.

    To help ease the headache, we’ve pulled together the most popular shift patterns, and tips on how you could implement them yourself. We’ve even highlighted the ones that are best suited to the hospitality industry.

    The different shift pattern options

    There are lots of shift patterns you could incorporate into your schedule, including:

    • 5 over 7 shift pattern
    • Split shifts
    • Staggered day shift pattern
    • 12-hour shift patterns
    • 4 on 4 off shifts
    • Double days
    • Rotating shifts
    • Panama shift pattern
    • Earlies and lates
    • Continental shift pattern

    But which shift patterns work best for hospitality businesses? Glad you asked.

    Shift patterns in the hospitality industry

    5 over 7 shift pattern

    The 5 over 7 shift pattern is one of the most popular, as it mimics the typical working week. That means employees work five days out of seven, but those days aren't necessarily Monday to Friday.

    Instead, you could schedule someone to work Saturday and Sunday but give them Thursday and Friday off work.

    Employers usually rotate weekend shifts to ensure each worker can enjoy some weekends off work every month.

    Split shifts

    Split shifts are ideal solutions for hospitality and social care businesses because they allow employers to schedule shift working during busy periods. For example, an employee might work from 12 pm to 3 pm, then go home for four hours.

    Their late shift would start at 7 pm to 10 pm, so the person has worked a six-hour day, over 10 hours.

    Split shifts have their pros and cons. They may require twice as much travel, but team members with children might find splitting shift work easier to balance.

    Staggered day shift pattern

    Staggered shift patterns are similar to the 5 over 7 shift patterns. However, employers use rotating shift patterns to ensure there's always weekend cover for the business.

    Each employee will get two different days off a week, whereas 5 over 7 patterns usually offer two consecutive days away from work.

    Other shift pattern options

    12-hour shift pattern

    Many people who work shift patterns have a four-on and four-off agreement, which is a constant cycle. For example, an employee might do four 12-hour day shifts and then have four days off. On their return, they'll work four 12-hour night shifts, and the cycle will continue.

    The great thing about this type of shift pattern is it gives people four days off at a time and is more predictable so employees can plan their lives around shifts.

    4 on 4 off calendar

    Another popular shift pattern is the 4 on 4 off, which requires minimal planning and is also a favourite among employees. Each person works four 12-hour day shifts and then gets four days off.

    This shift pattern works well outside of hospitality, too. Especially for businesses that operate 24/7, as it enable team members to rotate between day and night shifts. So after their first four days off, when they return to work, they'll do four 12-hour night shifts and switch back to days after.

    As the pattern is highly repetitive, workers can take advantage of established shift patterns, which make it easy to plan their lives around the job.

    Double day shifts

    Double-day shifts involve combining early and late working hours in one day. For example, someone could begin their shift from 7 am to 2 pm, then continue working from 2 pm to 10 pm.

    The shifts will alternate to give people rest days between double shifts, but hospitals, care homes and other 'always on' companies might require employees to work 16-hour shifts in one day.

    Rotating shifts

    Rotating shift work involves working different patterns on a cycle. For example, an employee might do two day shifts, then a night shift and then have two days off. However, the working hours can also change, from eight-hour shifts to 12-hour work days.

    These shift patterns are popular in health care, manufacturing, military and emergency service organisations because they allow for flexibility, should HR need to quickly adapt a schedule.

    As the shifts work on a cycle (for example, a three-week cycle), all employees work varying hours, allowing everyone to take advantage of the more flexible shifts while ensuring management treats all workers equally.

    Panama shifts

    Some businesses or organisations remain open 24/7, which means they must ensure workers can cover both day and night shifts. The Panama shift pattern is popular for paramedics, firefighters and the military.

    Four teams will cover a 24-hour shift for a set period, then switch shift patterns. For example, a team of paramedics might be scheduled to work night shifts, so they'll work between 7 pm to 7 am for two or three days, then get two days off.

    The cycle will continue for 28 days, but then the night shift workers will switch with the day shift workers for 28 days.

    The main benefits of Panama shift scheduling are it's easy for businesses to implement and it gives employees more stability.

    Earlies and lates

    Earlies and lates are common shift patterns in factories and other manufacturing businesses. For example, a 7 am to 2 pm shift is classed as early, while the 2 pm to 10 pm shift will be late.

    The shift pattern will usually continue for a week; then, they switch. Someone could work evening shifts for one week, then switch to earlies.

    However, some employers are more flexible and allow people to keep early shift patterns if they suit them more.

    Continental shift work

    Continental shifts benefit businesses with ongoing needs, as they can split their employees into various eight-hour shifts. Each employee will work six consecutive shifts and receive two days off.

    For example, days one and two could be day shifts, then days three and four will be afternoon shifts, with two-night shifts after. Then the employee gets two days off before returning to the pattern.

    As they only work eight-hour shifts, employees have adequate rest in between, and most employers won't put someone on an early shift when they're just worked a late shift.

    Which shift pattern is best for your business?

    The most popular shift pattern will continue to be the traditional five days on and two days off - but this isn't always an option for some companies.

    A business that's operational 24/7 needs to ensure it plans rotas accordingly and finds the right balance between employee satisfaction and meeting consumer demand.

    Knowing how to handle shift changes helps you create a positive environment for your employees, and the model you choose will define the future success of your business.

    Let's look at some scenarios so you can choose the correct shift pattern.

    Do you operate essential services?

    Essential services can be anything from health care to emergency services and social care. Service users and patients require round-the-clock care, which means your team must be on duty during the night.

    Panama shifts are usually the best option because they allow workers to get time off between working hours while maintaining staffing consistency.

    High-stress jobs can become overwhelming, but regular days off after shifts can give your employees time to relax and focus on their personal lives.

    Do you have different service times?

    Hospitality businesses, like restaurants and bars and the hotel sector, have different service times, meaning employees might only work for three hours at once. Split shifts ensure workers get enough hours and give them a break between work, while ensuring a business isn’t overstaffed during off-peak times.

    While these shift patterns aren’t for everyone, they’re also a big draw for those who work in the industry.

    What do your teams want?

    It's also essential to consider what your staff members prefer and try to incorporate that into the schedule. For example, some people might have childcare commitments, meaning they can only work certain times.

    To help you get to the bottom of what it is your team wants at work, we commissioned The Shift Towards Retention. It’s our deep dive into the state of shift worker satisfaction right now. And it’s packed with some eye-opening stats, like 67% of workers only get a week (or less notice) of their next shift pattern.

    This uncertainty is weighing heavily on our team’s minds, and causing them to rethink their careers. It’s so severe, 51% of workers have plans to quit their current job.

    So, whichever shift pattern you land on, it’s important to remember to build them around the wants and needs of your team as much as your business.

    How to schedule shifts properly

    Scheduling shifts doesn't need to be a headache, especially when you use an employee scheduling solution like Planday. Planday’s cloud-based software allows business owners, HR teams, and managers to spend less time on scheduling admin while ensuring they are always staffing the right people, at the right time. 

    With Planday, you can:

    • Get an overview of your shift schedules in one place.
    • Create and publish schedules.
    • Communicate scheduling with your team in real-time.
    • See employee availability for shift replacements and shift swaps. 
    • Easily handle contractor/agency worker shifts. 
    • Get immediate notifications about absences and holiday requests.
    • Comply with labour and union laws by receiving alerts if an employee goes above their working hours.
    • Monitor attendance and performance issues.
    • Get on-demand reports and statistics.

    If you'd like to see how Planday can help you, book a free trial or contact us to learn how we can uncomplicate your shift scheduling.

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