What Is a Rotating Shift and How Does It Work?

What is a rotating shift

To keep things running and ensure that there is always an employee on ground, different organizations use different strategies. Rotating shifts is one of the most common of these strategies and it helps guarantee the presence of at least one employee who will hold down the fort while everyone else is engaged elsewhere.

Rotating shifts would be perfect for you if your organization is the kind with a 12 a.m. to 12 a.m. work schedule. The shift would let you rest on days you ordinarily wouldn’t and work on other days that you would ordinarily be resting.

While some studies have suggested that rotating shifts affect sleep patterns, they still have their advantages when applied well.

In this article, we take on the rotating shift work schedule. First, we define it and then identify its types with common examples. We also highlight the benefits of using rotating shifts in an organization and what kind of employees are perfect for it.

What is a Rotating Shift?

The idea of a rotating shift is based on the work shift schedule. Such a schedule requires employees to work in shifts, meaning that every employee in the organization must work a specific number of hours every day. However, these employees do not work at the same time. Instead, one works for 8 hours, for example, and another takes over, then the next one, and so on.

As for rotating shifts, the work schedule itself changes instead of just the employees. This means that you have to be at work during a specific period, and then this schedule is rotated so that when you are at work another time, the period would be different.

At the end of the work schedule, every other person in your organization would have also experienced every kind of shift and period.

For example, in a rotating shift, you may be asked to work 3 day shifts as a medical staff, to be followed by 3 night shifts. So, for the first 3 days, you will be at your office during the day while someone else is scheduled for night work. And for the next 3 days, you would only be at the office at night to take over from someone else who was there during the day.

This work schedule is commonly found in organizations that have to be open for 24 hours every day of the week, or for a handful of hours less.

Because they have to run operations with a limited number of staff, the organization uses rotating shifts of 12 hours max to compensate for being short-staffed. Thus, there will always be a member of staff present.

So, depending on the specific period covered by the work schedule, rotating shifts could be described as day/night shifts, where workers only work during the day or night respectively.

There are also overnight shifts, where staff take turns adding the night work schedule to their normal routines. Then there are swing shifts where workers alternate between day and night shifts.

Ultimately, rotating shifts help organizations manage their short-staffing problem while also helping the workers get more familiar with the workings of their organizations. Also, rotating the shifts among employees is a way of getting them to share the burden of bad hours (such as night shifts) and mutually enjoy good hours.

Types and Examples of Rotating Shift Schedules

Rotating shifts come in different sizes and varieties, and even levels of classifications. These shifts may be long or short, frequent or infrequent, only during weekends, or alternating between rotating and fixed shifts (known generally as partial shifts).

But a higher level of categorizing rotating schedules includes types such as the DuPont shift, Southern swing shift, Pitman shift, and 28-day cycle (2-2-3-2-2-3) shift.

DuPont Shift

The DuPont shift schedule uses the maximum number of working hours (12 hours) for four different teams of employees. The length of the schedule is four weeks, effectively taking up the entire month.
But the schedule also ensures that each team gets enough time to rest despite having to work some days and some nights.

Specifically, the cycle of the DuPont shift schedule is 4-3-3-1-3-3-4-7. The cycle indicates that each of the four teams are tasked with working 4 night shifts first and getting 3 days off; and then 3 day shifts and getting 1 day off; and then 3 night shifts and 3 days off; and finally, 4 day shifts and 7 days off.

Although the DuPont schedule alternates between days/nights of work and rest, it has its merits and demerits.

The biggest plus is that you get 7 days off in succession and 14 days off at the end of the cycle. However, the shift schedule is complex enough to confuse the average worker. Additionally, it can be very taxing considering that the long period of rest only comes at the end with only 1 day off in the middle.

However, the DuPont shift schedule is good for both small and medium-sized organizations. And it is named after the organization that developed the schedule.

Southern Swing

The Southern Swing schedule uses a maximum number of 8 hours instead of the usual 10 or 12, and the schedule is shared among four different teams of employees. The schedule cycle is 28 days a month with no considerations for weekends. But even though the schedule looks like it takes up every day of your life, you only need to work for 8 hours max for each of those days.

Specifically, the cycle of the Southern swing shift schedule is 7-2-7-2-7-3. It indicates that each of the four teams are tasked with working 7 day shifts and getting 2 days off; 7 swing (day/night) shifts and getting 2 days off; and then 7 night shifts and 3 days off.

As earlier noted, the maximum number of work hours allowed while using the Southern swing schedule is 8 hours.

This is the biggest advantage of the schedule for employees. Secondly, the schedule is easy to get used to since employees are required to work 7- to 8-hour periods every time. Additionally, you get at least 2 days off each time you are not required to work.

The biggest disadvantage of the Southern Swing schedule is that you have to work for 7 days (or nights) every time you are not having your days off. This can be exhausting and make you look forward to those days off, thereby making you lose focus in your work.

Pitman Shift

The Pitman shift schedule uses the maximum number of working hours (12 hours) with no specified number of teams for employees.

The schedule cycle is only for two weeks, so workers have to go through the cycle two times each month. Also, the schedule tries to balance working days with the days off, making it easier to adjust to than the DuPont and Southern swing schedules.

Specifically, the cycle of the Pitman shift schedule is 2-3-2, indicating that workers are tasked with working 2 shifts (day or night) and getting 2 days off; then 3 shifts and another 2 days off; then 2 shifts and 3 days off. Each of the shifts are either day or night and this works perfectly for two alternating teams.

The biggest plus of the Pitman shift schedule is that the number of working days is very close to the number of off-days. As a result, you can easily adjust to the schedule and have time to spend on other things, such as your family and friends. However, the constant shift from working days to working nights can be stressful, especially considering that every shift is 12 hours long.

28-Day Cycle (2-2-3-2-2-3) Shift

Like the Pitman shift schedule, the 28-day cycle (2-2-3-2-2-3) shift uses the maximum number of working hours (12 hours) with no specified number of employee teams. As the name suggests, the schedule cycle is 28-days long. That said, there is an even greater balance in the number of work/off days than in the Pitman shift schedule.

Contrary to its title, the schedule pattern is not 2-2-3-2-2-3. Instead, it is 3-2-2-3-2-2-3-2-2-3-2-2. Here’s how it plays out:

  • You work 3 day shifts and get 2 days off.
  • 2 day shifts and 3 days off
  • 2 night shifts and 2 days off.
  • 3 night shifts and 2 days off.
  • 2 night shifts and 3 days off.
  • And 2 day shifts and 2 days off.

The maximum number of work days in this rotating shift is 3 days, and you get at least 2 days off every time.

This cycle makes the schedule perfect for the average worker with enough time to rest. However, the 12-hour work cycle can also stress the mind and body, especially if the tasks to be handled are monotonous.

Benefits of Rotating Shifts

Using rotating shifts can be beneficial to organizations, specifically the employers and employees. Thus, unless you are formally unemployed, using rotating shifts can provide a big boost to your effectiveness at work.

Here are some of the benefits of rotating shifts for employers:

  • Someone is always available to attend to clients and handle work.
  • The constant presence of office personnel and their growing familiarity with the way the organization runs indicates progressively increasing levels of productivity.
  • Shift-sharing will lead to the natural formation of workplace relationships and boost employee engagement over time.
  • Employees acquire multiple skills as they learn to cover up for their colleagues.

For the employees, rotating shifts allows them to:

  • Equally share good and undesirable schedule hours.
  • Acquire a diverse skill set.
  • Focus on work and gain a robust understanding of office operations.
  • Plan their calendars and control their schedules more efficiently.

Who Will It Suit Best?

Rotating shifts are useful for organizations that run for 24 hours every day of the week. They are also a helpful method for short-staffed organizations to manage their resources by increasing the pay of their employees instead of paying new staff or outsourcing employee work.

Thus, rotating shifts are perfect for the following:

  • Health care personnel such as doctors and nurses.
  • Emergency-service responders such as police officers and firefighters.
  • Hotel and resort employees.
  • Commercial motorists.
  • Retailers and factory workers.
  • Call centers.

How to Use Software for Rotating Shift Schedules

Rotating shift schedules can be confusing and easily abused, and the intended productivity of employees can be undermined. However, this could only happen when you don’t use time-related software.

Traqq is one such software application that you can use to maximize the benefits of rotating shift schedules. The application will help you monitor employee activity, thereby ensuring that every employee and every task is accounted for. Also, it can help you identify gaps in your application of rotating shifts, thereby guaranteeing sustained productivity.

Conclusion

Before transitioning to a rotating shift schedule, make sure you allow workers time to adjust. Consider the initial confusion workers may have while adjusting to the long and short shift lengths.

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