Shift patterns at work

How to get your work rota in order

First published on Thursday, Jun 04, 2020

Last updated on Thursday, Nov 04, 2021

You may refer to your shift plan as a rota or roster, but the result is the same for any working day—you need to schedule a solid pattern that helps your business function correctly.

But what’s the best approach for you to take?

This guide takes a look at the approaches you can consider for your organisations.

Types of working week

This type of employment practice where you provide a service across 24 hours of your working day.

There are several types of patterns you can use in your business. We’ll take a closer look at each one shortly.

But in the meantime, here are some of the types you can familiarise yourself with:

  • 2 shift.
  • 3 shifts.
  • 4 on 4 off shift pattern.
  • 4 on, 3 off.
  • Continental plan.
  • 7 day shift patterns.
  • 24/7 shifts.
  • Split shifts.
  • Earlies and lates.
  • 28 hour day.
  • 21 hour day.
  • 8 hour shift schedule for 7 days.
  • 12 hour shift pattern.
  • 12 hour continental shift schedule.
  • 24 hour shift pattern.
  • 10 hour shift schedule

And there are many more approaches you can take to running your pattern.

So, when you have such an enormous selection available, how do you know which one to choose?

Well, it really depends on the average type of work shift your staff members complete. You should also factor in your industry, as one type pattern may be more suitable than the other.

To help you make a decision that matches your needs, we’ll take a closer look at some of the more common approaches and how you can apply them to your business.

And bear in mind you can tailor any type to suit your business—nothing is set in stone and you can take a creative approach to make your daily tasks work out.

2 shift

Starting things off, we have a typical Monday to Friday pattern of:

  • 06:00-14:00.
  • 14:00-22:00.

Your staff in this pattern will rotate, usually once a week. But you can discuss that with your team, as they might prefer, for example, a monthly swap.

For this approach, you may rely on a pattern of two 40 hours equalling 80 hours per week.

Alternatively, you may choose two 37.5 hours per week.

If you adopt this type, then the staff handovers for each working run are typically for an informal situation.

Again, you should talk to your staff about whether they’d prefer an afternoon or morning time. This way you can balance out a better work-life balance for your employees.

Night shifts

Despite the unsociable hours, some staff members may prefer this option—night shifts typically offer a slight increase in pay over other standard roles.

A Monday to Friday pattern may consist of a set up such as:

  • 22:00-06:00.

Or you may choose a Sunday to Thursday approach. This may consist of:

  • 5 x 8 hours for a 40 hour week.

If you use this with two systems, that leads to 120 hours for your working week.

But if you use it as a one off, then you’ll have:

  • 4 x 10 hour night shift.

Again, many employees who take on this night work do so as it suits their lifestyle, or they want the higher wage.

But you can speak to your team members to find out what approach they’d prefer.

Weekend work

A model that consists of 12 hour patterns. Your staff is then limited to 12 hour working days across Saturday and Sunday.

You can use this with a three-shift pattern, but you can’t manage a full weekly coverage with this approach.

4 on 4 off shift calendar

One of the most famous patterns, its continuous approach relies on a fixed 12 hour run.

Employees on this must work four 12 hour days consecutively. Their hard work is then rewarded with four days off.

After this, they then work four 12 hour nights in a row.

Once more, they’re rewarded with four more days off. This pattern then repeats.

As an approach, it’s particularly useful in some businesses.

Staggered days

Here we have 5 x 8 hour days. And these are usually spread over 6 or 7 days, ensuring there’s weekend cover for your business.

For the employee, days off are often during the week, as opposed to the weekend.

It’s often in use for the plant maintenance industry. Also, service groups find it highly effective.

Staggered days work best as a two or three-week cycle.

Twilight and evening work

A pattern that covers you for four or five days each working week. You can have a set up of:

  • 17:00 to 21:00 hours.

It’s a good choice if you’re offering part-time work. Any staff members with varying responsibilities—such as caring for children—will appreciate the flexibility of the pattern.

As such, it’s a great option if you’re working in retail.

This is especially the case for any Christmas or seasonal shifts, so your full-time staff is supported during busy periods.

Shift schedules examples

We can help with your shift roster examples—we’ll listen to how your business works, then help you work out the best type of pattern so you have a template in place to rely on.

Rotating shifts

A rotational model covers a wide range of schedules. It’s a good option for scheduling work where employees have a cycle of day and night shifts.

It’s the opposite of a fixed schedule, simply put.

For rotating shift work schedules examples, you can get in touch with us and we can talk you through what’s involved.

On shift scheduling

As a final note, here are a few ways you can optimise your scheduling to keep your daily functioning streamlined.

  • Plan your schedule I advance. Make sure it’s airtight and no errors can get through.
  • Once your schedule is running, adapt it in real-time if you do see any issues emerging.
  • Don’t consider on-call scheduling as it’s often very unreliable.
  • Adapt to overtime as required.
  • Keep it simple—don’t try to be clever or revolutionise the system. Choose a proven model that works for your industry and tailor it as you see fit for your business.
  • Rely on technology. Don’t have a paper system in place. Turn to shifts and rotas HR software to simplify your schedule. s

Need help with your shifts?

We can help you set up a classic working week, or tailor one to meet your business’ needs. Get in touch today: 0800 783 2806.

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