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    How to Use Rotating Schedules (and How They Can Increase Productivity)


    Those of you who run a business that is open 24-hours a day should consider working in rotating shifts (if you haven’t already), but this can be applied to just about any company. Whether you’re operating hours are 14 or 16 hours out of the day, it always helps to ensure that both your day and night crews are flowing together seamlessly.

    The logistics involved with scheduling can be an absolute nightmare, which is why most people rely on software to get it done for them – even when you’re looking to apply a rotating schedule, certain tools will make this process a simple one. Employees who work on a rotating schedule won’t feel the “drain” that comes along with some traditional ones, while still keeping all of their operating hours accounted for.

    For example, if you’re running a restaurant the rotating schedule is especially effective. The dinner service may bring more customers in when compared to lunch, allowing to you schedule your staff accordingly. Not only that, but the person who gets stuck with the “bad shift” only has to deal with it for a specified period, as opposed until told otherwise.

    This guide is going to take a look at what rotating schedules are at their core, as well as a few different examples.

    What is a Rotating Schedule?

    Sometimes referred to as a “rotating shift”, this is a scheduling system that allows your employees to move through a cycle without any issues. Whether it’s a day, night, or swing shift, you can apply them without the worry of overlap or unattended operating hours.

    Fixed schedules are what most people have grown used to over the years,  which is when they clock in for a traditional 9 to 5 workday. This often leaves one group of employees to cover the day shift and one group to cover the night shift, with little wiggle room for swing shifts or unforeseen days off.

    Often applied to the restaurant industry, let’s walk through a quick example using one:

    • You own a restaurant that is operating from 8 AM to 12 AM, and while it may not be open to the public, employees are still present for prepping and cleaning.
    • Most people would schedule the workers in two groups of 8-hours shifts (for 16 hours of operation in total)
    • The first shift is from 8 AM to 4 PM and the second is from 4 PM to 12 PM
    • In a fixed schedule system, the two groups would always work what they have been scheduled (the day crew always works days, and the night crew always works nights)
    • Rotating schedules would have the day crew swapping over to the night shift every other week, while the night crew swaps over to the day shift

    Not only will all of your operating hours be accounted for, but you will also give employees a chance to swap shifts to avoid potential burnout. Some people prefer the day shift or vice versa, but rotating schedules allow you to keep things fair among staff members.

    Pros and Cons of the Rotating Schedule

    There are pros and cons to the rotating schedule like there are with anything in life. Some managers and business owners will find it the most effective way to approach running their company, while others will prefer using a fixed schedule. At the end of the day, as long as your employees are happy with their shifts and productivity is booming, there’s no need to complain.


    Keeps employees engaged by letting them know they will always have their share of the busy shifts to take care of

    Gives employees a chance to learn on the job by participating in peak hours

    Grants employees a feeling of fairness by not being limited to a shift they don’t enjoy


    Some employees prefer the consistency of a fixed schedule and don’t want to “plan around their work schedule”

    It can be physically imposing on some employees since our bodies run on a 24-hour cycle, and not everyone can “train” themselves for night shifts

    Different Types of Rotating Schedule

    Setting up your rotating schedule can be somewhat simple, although you’ll always be better off by using a software/service to handle the hard work for you. There are several different rotating shift practices that many business owners make use of, some of which we’re going to look at here today.

    DuPont Style

    The DuPont style of rotating schedule will have two teams working 12-hour shifts, all of which will operate within a 4-week cycle. The cycles typically consist of:

    • 4 Nights (ON)
    • 3 Days (OFF)
    • 3 Days (ON)
    • 1 Day (OFF)
    • 3 Nights (ON)
    • 3 Days (OFF)
    • 4 Days (ON)
    • 7 Days (OFF)

    With approximately 42-hours of work available with this rotating schedule, it’s one of the most effective ways to ensure that workers who have 12-hour shifts are always well-rested.

    Pitman Style

    This style also uses 12-hour shifts but 4 teams, which seems to be the most efficient way to approach rotating schedules. With the Pitman style, there is a 2-week cycle included that features a very prominent “on and off” schedule for each team.

    D = Day Shift, O = Off, N = Night Shift

    1st Team: 1st week (DDOODDD), 2nd week (OODDOOO)

    2nd Team: 1st week (NNOONNN), 2nd week (OONNOOO)

    3rd Team: 1st week (OODDOOO), 2nd week (NNOONNN)

    4th Team: 1st week (OONNOOO), 2nd week (DDOODDD)


    This one is relatively simple and features a total of 3 teams. Each team is going to work a 2-day cycle that has them doing:

    • 24-hours working
    • 48-hours off

    24-hours straight of working certainly warrants 48-hours off, although this is one of those rotating schedules that have the potential to burn out your workers regardless of industry. Then again, 48-hours is enough time to recover from almost any kind of work-related fatigue.

    Conclusion: Increasing Productivity Can Be Easier Than You Think

    By implementing a rotating schedule and keeping all of your employees engaged/satisfied, you’re giving your company the best chance at success possible. Creating a work environment that people enjoy coming into can start with scheduling in the first place, so do it the right way!

    There are plenty of automated scheduling services out there to save you the trouble, but it never hurts to figure out how things work for yourself.

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    TimeWellScheduled is a team management solution for retail businesses. We provide a full suite of team and time tools designed to save you time and improve productivity.