What is a rotating schedule?

Editorial Team

4 min read
Manager talking with factory workers

In a traditional office setting, employees work eight-hour shifts – arriving and leaving at the same times every day. Some companies may offer flextime or telecommuting. Still, the schedules are relatively fixed.

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By contrast, other businesses adopt a rotating schedule in which each employee’s hours (or days) change. This article explains what a rotating schedule is, how it works, and what types of businesses might benefit most from using this scheduling method for their employees.

What is a rotating schedule as opposed to a fixed one?

As the name suggests, a rotating schedule is one in which team members’ hours shift throughout the week or month. For example, an employee might work exclusively on the morning shift for several days before switching places with someone on the night shift.

Rotating schedules are commonly used for essential services that require 24/7 coverage. Fire stations, hospitals, police precincts, utility providers, and even military defense all fall into this category.

However, rotating employee shifts is also popular in industries with long or unusual hours. Factories, call centers, and restaurants are some common examples.

Types of rotating schedules

Although the primary goal of rotating schedules is to ensure total coverage, the health and well-being of employees is, of course, important. To help minimize fatigue and burnout, many businesses use one of the established models below.

1. The Pitman shift schedule

This approach involves four separate teams alternating between cycles. It’s also known as the 2-2-3 schedule.

A 2-2-3 schedule works like this:

  • Two shifts on
  • Two days off
  • Three shifts on
  • Two days off
  • Two shifts on
  • Three days off

The beauty of this approach is that no employee ever works more than three days in a row. Better still, each team member receives a three-day break on alternate weekends. The downside to a 2-2-3 schedule is that 12-hour shifts are long. Once a month, everyone on the team has a 62-hour workweek. Be prepared to deliver pep talks or offer perks to help team members to stay positive during these longer weeks.

2. The 2-2 3-2 2-3 rotating shift schedule

This approach is almost identical to the Pitman schedule. The main difference is that teams alternate between day shifts and night shifts every 28 days. As a result, each team member eventually becomes familiar with the busiest and slowest times of the workday. This semi-routine can help your team coordinate better and anticipate customer needs.

3. The DuPont rotating shift schedule

For this scheduling method, teams alternate shifts on a four-week cycle using the schedule below:

  • Four nights on
  • Three days off
  • Three days on
  • One day off
  • Three nights on
  • Three days off
  • Four days on
  • Seven days off

The main advantage here is that everyone gets a seven-day break each cycle. The trade-off is that everyone also inherits a 72-hour workweek once a month.

What are the benefits of rotating shift work?

As a business owner or someone who manages an essential service, rotating schedules allow you to have teams on-site around the clock. There are also benefits for the team members. For example, with rotating schedules, everyone gets a break from the traditional 9-to-5 grind. For those who need to go to doctors’ appointments, pick up dry cleaning, or run other errands, having a break during daytime hours occasionally is extremely helpful.

One of the real advantages of using a rotating schedule is that it helps to more evenly distribute the workload, with everyone occasionally taking on the night shift and peak hours. In industries dependent on tips and commissions, a rotating schedule also helps give everyone the opportunity to maximize their earnings.

Small business types that can best utilize rotating shifts

If you have enough employees to break into four separate teams, you can technically adopt rotating shifts in your business. However, this approach is more common among industries that are open day and night – such as hospitality, travel, manufacturing, and janitorial services.

In addition, businesses that are open longer than eight hours a day (e.g., retail stores) or at staggered times throughout the day (e.g., restaurants) might also benefit from using rotating shifts. Even stores that use fixed schedules throughout the year might switch to a rotation model during the busy holiday season.

How to manage rotating shifts with ease

Mapping schedules in general can be a time-consuming task. That task becomes even more complex once you begin alternating days on and off – following any of the rotating schedule patterns outlined above.

Fortunately, it’s now possible to automate complex tasks, such as these, using technology. For example, in addition to employee management and payroll capabilities, all Clover POS systems seamlessly integrate with third-party apps designed to manage everything from employee scheduling to customer engagement and more.

To learn how our POS technology can help you save time and make your operations more efficient, contact one of our Clover Business Consultants today.