Some big companies are adamant about getting workers back to the office. But the numbers regarding remote work productivity and employee sentiments don’t lie.
A Pew Research survey found that 61% of employees who have the option to work at the office in 2022 are electing to work from home. In contrast, that number was 36% in 2020.
Another study by Owl Labs reported that 57% of employees who resumed work at the office still preferred working from home.
Most employers want their workers back to the office because of their work schedule. These organizations mainly include those that need to be staffed around the clock.
Also, some businesses are reluctant to fully go remote because they run the 2-2-3 schedule. But does remote work frustrate or hinder the routine?
This article will talk about the 2-2-3 work schedule and whether it can be implemented in remote work environments.
What is a 2-2-3 Work Schedule?
Also called the Panama schedule, the 2-2-3 work approach is a rotation cycle that normally runs for 28 days. It involves employees working daily 12-hour shifts.
The work schedule is the traditional working system for most businesses where service is required 24/7. It’s mostly implemented in manufacturing, industrial, and servicing companies to keep them adequately staffed without burning out workers.
The schedule is employed to make sure workers get enough rest after long hours. It also ensures that a select number of employees are not constantly working undesirable hours.
Indeed, the 2-2-3 work schedule is mainly used in situations where workers have to be on-site. However, it can be applied to specific remote workplaces.
How Does the Schedule Work?
The work schedule typically needs four different teams of employees to work. And since the company needs around-the-clock availability, workers don’t get typical weekends.
So, the work pattern is in the name. It essentially means that workers do two 12-hour shifts for two consecutive days, then take the following two consecutive days off. After that, they work for the next three days to complete one cycle.
The next 2-2-3 cycle starts with a break or a shift, depending on whether the employer worked or rested during the last shift in the last cycle.
2-2-3 Work Schedule Example
So, let’s take an employee who is working day shifts for one week starting from Monday. They will work 12-hour day shifts on Monday and Tuesday, then take Wednesday and Thursday off. After that, they’ll work day shifts for the rest of the week – Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Then, the following week, they’ll start with Monday and Tuesday off, work Wednesday and Thursday, then have a three-day weekend.
The next cycle will then start with two days of work (most likely night shifts).
Why Does the Schedule Need Four Teams?
The schedule requires four teams to cover every shift cycle. That’s because every 24 hours is divided into 12-hour day and night shifts, which requires two teams. So, two other teams have to fill in on days where other teams are off.
That said, each team may comprise as little as one or two workers, depending on the business size. However, it’ll be appropriate for teams to be adequately staffed so workers can take enough breaks during each 12-hour shift.
2-2-3 Schedule Pros and Cons
The Panama work schedule has worked for organizations and industries that require workers to be available around the clock.
But while it has numerous benefits, there are also some downsides. Let’s go through them separately.
From adequate rest to improved productivity, the 2-2-3 work schedule offers employees lots of perks.
The most exciting benefit of the schedule is more rest. While employees work 12-hour shifts, which can be a lot, they enjoy at least two days off. Even when they do three shifts, they can rest assured they’ll be getting a three-day break sooner than later.
Getting 72-hour rest periods is something workers always look forward to.
Also, since workers get to enjoy at least two free days after consecutive working days, they’ll have more time to destress and recharge. This way, they’ll be returning to work more refreshed.
And as it turns out, taking time to rest can increase sharpness and boost performance more than some productivity tools.
More Weekend Days
A lot has been said about the four-day work week and all its perks, one of which is three weekend days. Workers on the 2-2-3 shift enjoy that benefit too.
Every alternating week, employees can have three weekend days, which gives them ample time to relax and enjoy more time with family. It also helps them refresh for the next round of shifts.
Less Work Days in a Year
Traditional 9 to 5 employees work the entire workweek. That means they go to work 260 days a year.
You can argue that they work less hours per day. But when you add the cumulative office commute hours and the time it takes to turn your work mode on and off, hours related to work only stretch longer.
On the other hand, employees who are on the 2-2-3 rotation only get to deal with work stress like the office commute for 180 days in one year.
Drawbacks of the 2-2-3 Schedule
While there are great perks of using the 2-2-3 schedule, it also has downsides, especially when it’s not implemented correctly. Let’s look at those drawbacks.
Risk of Reduced Productivity
Research has shown that we may not be our best for 8 hours in a day, let alone twelve. According to a Voucher Cloud study, the typical employee is only productive for two hours in a day.
So, working for twelve straight hours can lead to serious productivity declines.
What’s more, workers may begin to lose focus because long working hours may cause cognitive declines.
Risk of Burnout
Workers rotating the 2-2-3 schedule are expected to work 12-hours. This amount of work time can be detrimental to employees’ health and may reach the level of burnout.
According to the World Health Organization, long working hours can contribute to heart-related illnesses that may lead to death.
What’s more, burnout can significantly reduce concentration and productivity levels, leading to costly mistakes.
Unstable Sleep Patterns
Workers may find it difficult to adjust to new shifts because their internal clocks have adjusted to the previous routine.
They’ll be going in and out of sleep patterns without allowing their bodies to define and maintain a consistent circadian rhythm.
This erratic change in sleep patterns can reduce concentration levels and even cause health problems. Research has shown a negative correlation between unhealthy sleep cycles and physical health.
Can the 2-2-3 Schedule Work for Remote Workplaces?
While the schedule is mostly implemented by organizations and industries that require employees to be on-site, it can also work for some companies offering remote work.
For example, it can be executed in customer service agencies where employees can attend to customers from remote locations.
Other instances where remote work can be implemented 24/7 are:
- Technical support teams
- Monitoring teams
In these cases, you can use the 2-2-3 schedule to adequately rotate your remote workers and provide the kind of service your company requires to survive.
Implementing the 2-2-3 Work Schedule for Your Remote Workers: Best Practices
The only way you’ll get the best out of the 2-2-3 schedule for your remote team is by implementing it correctly.
As you know, the work routine is majorly used by on-site businesses, and things are different in the remote work environment.
So, ensure you make the right considerations, from recruitment to workplace policies.
Hire the Right Team
Implementing the 2-2-3 schedule starts with hiring the right remote work professionals.
While you have to follow the best recruitment practices for remote teams, you must also consider the fact that you’ll be using this routine.
So, it’s best to look out for candidates who have a rich work experience in what you do and can work rotating shifts.
Using this kind of workers makes the onboarding process easy and straightforward. It also reduces the learning curve and helps them settle into the job faster.
It would be a good idea to include the routine in your job description when putting out the employment ad. This way, workers know what they’ll be doing and will come mentally prepared.
Properly Onboard Employees
Your next step in the process is to provide a holistic induction experience. Since you work remotely, you must take the extra step to ensure you give workers all they need to learn your company’s culture, work process, and shift routine.
Merely showing them what you do isn’t enough. You must walk them through the 2-2-3 shift process and run drills to ensure they completely understand the schedule.
List out everything, from tools to be used, who to report to, and the entire gamut of work operations.
Provide the Right Tools
Businesses use digital tools and resources to handle the challenges of working remotely. These tools are designed to make up for the lack of physical supervision and in-office levels of communication.
Since you’re saving on the cost of running physical infrastructure, you can redirect those costs to investing in robust digital resources.
Tools you’ll need to keep your remote workers afloat include:
- Time tracking applications like Traqq to monitor work hours, keep employees accountable, and quantify productivity.
- Communication tools such as Slack, Zoom, and Skype to help workers stay in touch with team members.
- The right tools for your business process, such as customer service and IT support software solutions that meet your team’s and customers’ needs.
- Project Management solutions to help you track work progress, streamline workflow, and reconcile your budget with expenses.
Encourage Workers to Set up Dedicated Workspaces
Dedicated workspaces help remote employees stay focused and increase productivity.
Since your team members will be pulling off 12-hour shifts on consecutive days, you should encourage them to use dedicated home offices. You can also provide the resources for these workspaces if possible.
Having a defined work area will ensure workers can block out domestic distractions and concentrate on work. The work area will also help tune their mindset to prepare for work just as a physical office does.
Allow a Level of Autonomy
Remote work takes away employers’ oversight abilities to an extent. Understandably, managers tend to become more controlling and anxious to always check up on workers.
Using this management method in remote and physical workspaces doesn’t work. It kills workplace morale, increases employee turnover, and erodes trust.
Using a 2-2-3 work schedule in a remote work environment already reduces your workers’ level of flexibility. They don’t get to choose their hours.
That should be the extent of your control over their work hours. Allow them to define their process and work approach. This way, you’re showing them you trust them and they can be more comfortable handling their roles.
Maintain the Practice of Shift Rotation
Don’t allow workers to stay in one shift schedule for too long. This way, they won’t get too used to that shift and struggle to settle into the next.
You shouldn’t place workers on day or night shifts for too long. You can maintain the traditional two-week shift rotation practice.
This way, they can easily switch sleep patterns without struggling to stay alert during different shifts.
Monitor your current routine and assess how it affects your workers. Then, you can make the necessary adjustments as it suits them.
Running 12-hour shifts can be tiring. Work can become monotonous and less exciting as a result. So, ensure you add compulsory breaks to your 2-2-3 work policy.
You can define how many employees get to work before taking breaks.
While implementing this policy, make sure there’s enough coverage and that multiple workers are not off work at the same time.
You should not be too heavy-handed when enforcing these breaks.
For example, workers may be given the freedom to choose their break times as long as they take time off to rest. However, they must make sure other team members are prepared to cover their absence.
Encourage Open Communication
Make sure workers communicate with each other to boost collaboration and collective productivity. This way, they can come together to analyze and resolve difficult problems and issues.
Communication also helps when it comes to making shifts more fun and exciting.
You should encourage activities that enhance the social mood in your company. These include icebreakers during meetings, and independently organized team-building activities.
What Benefits Would the Schedule Bring to a Remote Work Environment?
Here are some reasons you may want to use the 2-2-3 schedule to keep your business consistently staffed.
It’s easy to think that implementing the schedule in remote teams will bring significant challenges. Afterall, it’s difficult for remote managers to execute flawless supervision. But that’s not the case.
There are available telecommuting tools that will make round-the-clock remote work monitoring and shift management a breeze for the 2-2-3 schedule.
There are also tools that will help work-from-home employees handle their duties without fuss.
Using a remote team allows you to reduce costs when it comes to office infrastructure, such as entertainment, childcare, workspace supplies, and maintenance.
According to a study by Global Workplace Analytics, businesses can save up to $11,000 per half-time remote worker annually.
It’s also beneficial for small businesses who want to hire freelancers from anywhere in the world without accruing the cost of full-time employees.
Easily Hire Staff to Meet Your Customers’ Needs
Your business may be dealing with customers in different corners of the world. This customer base may also be scattered across different time zones.
Using a remote team allows you to hire the right staff to meet your customers’ needs on different levels.
Since you’re not limited by location when working remotely, you can employ virtual support teams and customer service professionals close to your customers. This way, you’re bridging cultural differences and can hire people who understand your clients better.
With the 2-2-3 schedule, you can then implement a rotation cycle to ensure your staff is always available.
A Defined Work Structure Helps Remote Employees Create Healthy Work-Life Boundaries
You and your workers can’t fully enjoy the benefits of remote work if they can’t maintain a work-life balance and respect work and domestic boundaries. It’s easy to get distracted and perform less when personal issues continue to get in the way of work.
That’s where using a strict work schedule helps.
When you define your workers’ work hours, they concentrate better and can fully focus on work. Their families know when they have to concentrate on work and can get out of the way.
What’s more, they can plan other personal activities better knowing when they’re on and off duty.
Managers Can Efficiently Manage Timesheets and Payslips
Whether you compensate your employees hourly, weekly, or monthly, using the 2-2-3 schedule helps you reduce paycheck complexities.
That’s because the routine helps you to predetermine each employee’s total working hours.
You don’t have to go through different complex billable hours calculations to arrive at the accurate wage of each worker.
Paying out the correct wage does your business a lot of good. That’s because research has shown that employees tend to leave a workplace after experiencing two payroll problems. So, you’ll be significantly reducing the risk of high turnover.
You’ll also be able to easily calculate other things like unpaid and paid time off, sick leave allowance, and vacation times.
The Schedule Keeps Workplace Ambiguity Low
The 2-2-3 routine reduces confusion because workers know exactly how their schedules work. Since you’ll use a defined work timetable, employees can easily arrange their personal activities to align with their work schedule.
Boosts Management Efficiency
Managers can arrange work routines ahead of time and supervision will be easy. That’s because expectations are already set and the procedure is pretty straightforward for workers to follow.
Moreover, with a defined work schedule, managers can adequately assign and supervise tasks. They can identify the types of jobs to allocate and when to allocate them.
Keep Your Business Alive With Consistent Remote Staffing
Remote work isn’t perfect and neither is the 2-2-3 work schedule. But they remain powerful work tools that, when implemented correctly, can help your business thrive.