What is a Rotating Shift and Why Does it Matter?

What is a Rotating Shift Schedule?

The manufacturing and labor sectors utilize rotating shifts to maximize production and ensure the required employees are on-hand throughout the work day. An employee works a fixed shift for a set time frame and then rotates to a new fixed schedule.

Some organizations offer a rotating shift schedule to increase efficiency and improve worker knowledge. However, this type of shift work schedule comes with its challenges. Effective scheduling practices are necessary to optimize mental health and decrease turnover rates.

In rotating shift work, businesses operate on 2 to 3 work shifts each of the work week. Employees are on the job 8 to 12 hours for all shifts, but take turns with other coworkers. To illustrate, an employee is assigned to shift two during the afternoon, then rotates after two weeks to the third night shift.

Read ahead to understand the importance of rotating shifts, along with the pros and cons of this type of work schedule.

1. Examples of Rotating Shifts

There are different ways to schedule shift workers for a rotating schedule. Different industries pick different methods, depending on the size/scope of the business, as well as worker needs. The 4 types include -

  • DuPont Shift Schedule - 12 hour rotating shifts with 4 teams of workers to cover the entire day and night. For example, a work schedule may include 4 consecutive day shifts, 3 days off, three consecutive night shifts, one day off, three consecutive day shifts, three days off, four consecutive day shifts, seven days off. Workers have one week off each month but receive only one break for 24 hours mid-month.

  • Southern Swing Schedule - These types of work schedules rotate four teams across 3 8-hour shifts for a month. For example, work hours include seven days on, two days off, seven swing shifts, two days off, seven evening shifts, three days off. Employees work a typical eight-hour schedule, but they also work for seven days straight.

  • Pitman Shift Schedule - Also referred to as the Two, Three, Two schedule. Four teams are on two, twelve-hour shifts each day on a two-week shift pattern. Teams can either work during the day shift or on night shifts. In the Pitman schedule, employees get every other weekend off, but it's hard to work a twelve-hour shift.

  • 2-2 3-2 2-3 Rotating Schedule - This shift system is similar to the Pitman schedule but slightly different in that the cycle is four weeks instead of two. Workers never have to go in for more than three days at one time. Furthermore, employees take long weekend every two weeks. However, an employee may need to work up to 60 plus hours at a time, which impacts the quality of sleep and work life balance.

Pros and Cons of Rotating Shift Schedule

Military personnel, the hospitality industry, utility providers, transportation companies, and some 24/7 diners utilize rotating schedules.

While many employees prefer more consecutive days off and a greater amount of work packed into a shorter time frame, others grow exhausted from it. Internally, businesses utilize these schedules to ensure all areas of the supply chain are operational from morning to evening. Here are some other pros and cons of rotating shifts.

1. Rotating Shifts Optimize Human Capital

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Team members have strong points and weaknesses. Shift rotation assigns employees to the shifts that suit them and can maximize their talent. For example, a restaurant may put a more experienced server during peak hours, or during the holiday season. In contrast, a supervisor may assign a less experienced employee to the third shift, when there isn't as much pressure.

This ensures the restaurant provides the highest quality of customer service and makes up for any labor costs with an increase in revenue.

2. Rotating Shifts Improves Morale

This type of shift schedule keeps a certain type of worker happy. For those who want more consecutive days off and are willing to work more hours at once, rotating shifts are the answer.

Organizations with rotating teams tend to have more cohesiveness and collaboration. Shift employees get to know one another on a more personal level. However, employees need to be available for long work days with little sleep. Not everybody can do this.

3. Rotating Shifts Provide Better Learning Opportunities

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Fixed shifts, day shifts, and even an hour shift all come with benefits and problems. In a rotating shift, workers get to have all the experiences that come from different shifts. Those who typically work night time can see what it's like to work during the day, and vice versa.

This enables team members to learn more about how the organization operates, so they can increase their knowledge. As a result, the company has a highly informed workforce that is more efficient and productive.

4. Rotating Shifts Impact Sleep

It's difficult to work long hours at a time with little sleep. When people work on rotating schedules, they disrupt their sleep patterns and circadian rhythms, which causes cognitive problems. This leads to higher rates of anxiety, depression, and burnout.

This disruption can even lead to physical problems, such as cancer and weakness. It also impacts productivity levels and hurts relationships with friends and family.

5. Rotating Shifts Increase Safety Issues

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If workers are more tired and have a difficult time sleeping, they are more prone to mistakes. These mistakes may involve equipment or other machinery that can lead to serious injury. 13% of workplace-related injuries are caused by exhaustion. Businesses must regularly check in with employees who are working night shifts to ensure they are getting enough rest.

Key Takeaways of Rotating Shift Schedule

In conclusion, here is what to know about a rotating shift schedule -

  • There are four different types of rotating shift schedules. These include the Dupont shift schedule, the Southern Swing, the Pitman shift schedule, and the Two Two Three Two Two Three rotating shift schedule.
  • Rotating shift schedules can enable organizations to harness talent, make workers happy, and generate better training opportunities.
  • Rotating shift schedules can negatively impact sleep and lead to serious mental health and physical problems.
  • Rotating shift schedules can cause safety concerns when workers don't receive enough rest. This may involve machinery and heavy equipment that results in serious injury.