Shift Work Schedules- Determining the Best Option

Shift work schedules can present a number of challenges for employees, including limited sleep, fatigue, higher risk for certain mental health issues, and more.

This is largely because industries that rely on shift workers, such as healthcare and hospitality, often need employees around the clock. While shift work does have its benefits, it can be very difficult for workers to adjust to such non-traditional hours.

Managers, though, can help their shift workers maintain their physical and mental health by adopting a scheduling system that allows your employees to get a sufficient amount of sleep and makes it easier to balance their work and personal lives.

There are three main types of shift work schedules-

  1. Rotating shift schedule
  2. DuPont shift schedule
  3. Pitman shift schedule
Let's take a look at the differences between these types of schedules and which one is the best option for your employees' health and well-being.

Rotating Shift Schedule

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The rotating shift schedule is a variation of the Pitman schedule (more on that later) which cycles employees through a schedule of shifts.

Employees take turns working morning, afternoon, evening, and overnight shifts. Schedules can rotate on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, depending on your employees' needs and scheduling conflicts.

A typical rotating shift schedule-

  • 2 day shifts followed by 2 days off
  • 3 day shifts followed by 2 days off
  • 2 day shifts followed by 3 days off
  • 2 night shifts followed by 2 days off
  • 3 night shifts followed by 2 days off
  • 2 night shifts followed by 2 days off
This schedule would give employees time off in between rotations to adapt to their new shift, and gives each employee a three-day weekend every other week to refresh.
Rotating shift work schedules can adapt to your needs meaning, you can make rotations more or less frequent as necessary.

Pros & Cons
Rotating shift work schedules offer several advantages. Chief among them is that, if using the example from above, employees never have to work more than three days in a row and are able to take advantage of frequent three-day weekends.

Employees also don't have to commit long-term to work night shifts, which can be physically and mentally draining for employees.

On the other hand, rotating shift schedules may require employees to work excessive hours in some weeks. Moreover, having to frequently switch between day shifts and night shifts can cause employees to experience fatigue and lack of sleep.

DuPont Shift Schedule

The DuPont shift work schedule is one of the most popular options. This scheduling method is based around a four-week cycle where four teams are used to ensure round-the-clock coverage.

A typical DuPont schedule-

  • 4 consecutive night shifts followed by 3 days off
  • 3 consecutive day shifts followed by 1 day off
  • 3 consecutive night shifts followed by 3 days off
  • 4 consecutive day shifts followed by 7 days off
All shifts are 12-hours, so depending on your business' and employees' needs, this may not be an adequate option. However, for businesses that can accommodate 12-hour shifts, employees may enjoy having one week off every month. With this scheduling template, employees would work an average of 42 hours per week.

Pros & Cons
The main advantage of the DuPont schedule is that employees get a one-week vacation every month. This gives employees plenty of time to rest, spend time with family, and more. It also makes it much easier to combat the fatigue that is often associated with rotating shifts.

Employees also get longer breaks between cycles and don't have to work afternoon shifts, which are typically very unpopular.

The biggest challenge employees are likely to face comes in the second week of the cycle, which only grants them one day off before rotating from day shifts to night shifts.

Pitman Shift Schedule

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The Pitman shift schedule, like the DuPont schedule, involves four teams that rotate between 12-hour shifts.

This schedule is based on two-week cycles with each team being assigned to either the day or night shift.

A typical night shift team's schedule-

  • 2 night shifts followed by 2 days off
  • 3 night shifts followed by 2 days off
  • 2 night shifts followed by 3 days off
Just as with the DuPont schedule, 12-hour shifts can be difficult to implement. Night shift employees, in particular, may find it too difficult to adapt to these longer shifts.

Pros & Cons
Pitman shift work schedules allow employees to have every other weekend off. This makes it much easier for shift workers to spend time with family and take care of their personal responsibilities. Night shift workers may find this advantage particularly beneficial.

However, as employees will be working 12-hour shifts, they will have to make lifestyle changes to adapt to their new schedules without sacrificing their health or well-being.

Every business has different needs, so it may be worth consulting your employees to discuss their preferences before adopting a new scheduling system.

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