What are Rotating Shifts? Rotating Shift Work Schedule 

A rotating shift refers to a work schedule in which employees regularly alternate between different shifts, such as morning, afternoon, evening, overnight, and night shifts, typically over a defined period, like weekly or monthly rotations. 

Using rotating shifts helps small businesses keep enough staff and provide consistent service. It also allows employees to balance their work and personal lives. 

Employers can improve the efficiency of rotating shifts with technology like shift scheduling software, which makes scheduling fair and efficient. 

Understanding Rotating Shift Work Schedule

Rotating Shifts

Imagine you’re in charge of a restaurant that’s open 18 to 24 hours a day. How do you schedule your staff? Do you make them work only during the day or only at night? Of course not—that wouldn’t be fair!

In this article, we’ll talk about another option: rotating work schedules

With rotating schedules, employees work different shifts at different times instead of the same shift every day. We’ll look at how to use rotating schedules in your business to manage staffing needs while also taking care of your employees’ well-being.

Let’s get started ⏲️

Rotating shifts are good for both employers and employees as they ensure round-the-clock coverage, allowing businesses to meet customer demands. 

The rotating shift work schedule involves employees changing between different shifts over time.

For employers, rotating shifts mean they always have employees ready, day or night, to serve customers whenever needed. 

It also helps ensure that there are always the right number of workers, neither too many nor too few.

Plus, it keeps workers happy by giving them flexible schedules.

Top three issues that rotating shifts resolve for employers and employees are,

1. Work-life balance:

  • Rotating shifts allows employees to balance personal and professional lives.
  • They can accommodate family obligations and personal interests more easily.

2. Skill development:

  • Exposure to different shifts offers opportunities for learning new skills.
  • Cross-training enhances employee versatility.

3. Job satisfaction:

  • Rotating shifts contribute to job satisfaction.
  • Employees feel more fulfilled in their roles due to the variety and flexibility of schedules.

How Do Rotating Shifts Work in Businesses?

Rotating shifts in businesses involves scheduling employees to work different shifts on a regular basis, typically including mornings, afternoons, and nights. Rotating shifts ensures 24/7 coverage and distributes the burden of undesirable shifts evenly among staff. 

Rotations can be fixed or cyclical, with employees rotating through various shifts over a set period. Rotating shifts helps prevent burnout and allows employees to experience different aspects of their job. 

However, it can disrupt sleep patterns and personal lives, requiring careful management to balance employee well-being with operational needs. Effective communication and flexible scheduling are key to making rotating shifts successful.

How Does Rotating Shifts Impact Work-Life Balance?

Rotating shifts significantly affects work-life balance, bringing advantages and challenges. 

The constant schedule changes can mess up employees’ time, making it hard for them to balance work and life. 

Also, irregular shifts can mess up routines and affect overall well-being. 

Small businesses can address these problems by offering flexible schedules, giving enough time off between shifts, and ensuring good communication. They can also opt for employee scheduling software to automate the scheduling process.

Putting importance on balancing work and life helps keep employees healthy and productive in the long run.

Are Rotating Shifts Bad for Employees or Businesses?

employee turnover

Rotating shifts can be both helpful and challenging for both workers and businesses. 

Pro: They allow operations to run all day and offer flexibility. 

Con: However, they can also cause health problems and lower productivity if not handled well. 

Pro: For businesses, rotating shifts mean they can keep services going and spread skills among workers. 

Con: However, they might have to deal with more turnover and impact workers’ well-being. 

Workers might like the change and the chance to balance work and life, but they might also feel tired and have health problems because their sleep gets messed up. 

So, businesses must think carefully about the good and bad points and develop ways to reduce the harmful effects of rotating shifts on workers and the business.

What is a Rotating Shift Schedule?

Rotating Shift Schedule

A rotating shift schedule arranges work hours in a repeating pattern, so employees work different shifts like morning, afternoon, and night over time. 

It gives employees flexibility and changes in their work, helping businesses handle their staff well, especially when things get busy. 

Rotating shifts also offer chances for learning and keeping employees motivated, which is good for small businesses and people who want flexible hours.

How to Create a Rotating Shift Schedule?

Certainly, here is a complete guide on how to create a rotating shift schedule effectively.

  1. Identify Shift Requirements
  2. Understand Employee Availability
  3. Choose a Rotation Pattern
  4. Create a Schedule Template
  5. Assign Shifts to Employees
  6. Monitor and Adjust
  7. Consider Automation

1. Identify Shift Requirements

To create an effective rotating shift schedule, start by identifying your business’s specific shift requirements

Consider factors such as operational hours, peak periods, and staffing needs. 

Look at how much work there is at different times of the day or week to decide the best shift plan. 

By knowing what your business needs, you can create a rotating shift schedule that helps everyone work better and get more done.

2. Understand Employee Availability

Employee Availability

First, consider when your employees can work and what they prefer when creating a rotating shift schedule. 

Talk to them to find out if they have any limitations on when they can work, like taking care of kids or other commitments outside of work. 

You might want to try letting employees choose their shifts or determining which shifts they prefer. 

This helps make sure everyone can work when they’re available and keeps enough people working at all times. 

By listening to what employees want and when they can work, you can make sure they feel more involved and excited about their jobs.

3. Choose a Rotation Pattern

After you’ve gathered the details about when shifts are needed and when employees are available to work, pick a schedule that fits your business goals and operating style. 

Some common schedules to consider are the Pitman Schedule, DuPont Schedule, and 2-2-3-2-2-3 Schedule

Look at each one to see how long the shifts are, how often they change, and how many days off in a row employees get. 

Choose the schedule that keeps employees happy, makes your operations run smoothly, and meets your business goals.

You can choose any one of the different types of rotating shifts.

  1. Fixed Shift Rotation
  2. Forward Rotation
  3. Reverse Rotation

1. Fixed Shift Rotation

Selecting a fixed shift rotation means employees will always work the same shifts, which makes it easier to predict schedules and helps them stick to a routine. 

2. Forward Rotation

When planning shifts that rotate, think about using the forward rotation method. 

With this method, you move employees from day to evening to night shifts in a forward order. 

It helps them get used to changing schedules slowly and keeps their natural sleep patterns from getting too messed up. 

Plus, it can make work go smoother and keep employees happier because they know what to expect when switching between shifts.

3. Reverse Rotation

Reverse rotation means switching between working during the day and at night in a pattern. 

For instance, employees could do two weeks of day shifts and then two weeks of night shifts. 

This helps spread out the work evenly and ensures there’s always someone working, day or night.

4. Create a Rotating Shift Schedule Template

To create a rotating shift scheduling template, start by identifying the number of shifts needed and the duration of each shift. 

Then, categorize your workforce into groups based on availability and skill sets. 

Develop a rotation schedule that ensures fairness and balance, considering factors like seniority, preferences, and labor laws. 

Utilize a spreadsheet or scheduling software to map out the rotation, ensuring clarity and accessibility for all employees.

Communicate the schedule well in advance, allowing time for adjustments and feedback from staff. 

Encourage open communication to address any concerns or conflicts that may arise. Be flexible and willing to make changes to accommodate unforeseen circumstances or individual needs.

Implement a system for tracking attendance and managing shift swaps or requests for time off. Provide adequate training and support to ensure smooth transitions between shifts and minimize disruptions to productivity.

Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the schedule and make adjustments as necessary to improve efficiency and employee satisfaction. Consider implementing tools or technology to streamline scheduling processes like Buddy Punch to reduce administrative burden.

Here’s a sample rotating shift scheduling template:

Shift Rotation Schedule Template:

Week 1:

Shift 1: 8:00 am – 4:00 pmShift 2: 12:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Shift 3: 6:00 am – 2:00 pmShift 4: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm

Shift 5: 7:00 am – 3:00 pmShift 6: 11:00 am – 7:00 pm

Shift 7: 9:00 am – 5:00 pmShift 8: 1:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Shift 9: 8:00 am – 4:00 pmShift 10: 12:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Shift 11: 6:00 am – 2:00 pmShift 12: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm

Sunday: Off for all employees

Week 2:

Same shifts as Week 1, but rotate employees to different shifts to ensure fairness and balance.

Repeat this pattern for subsequent weeks, adjusting as necessary based on feedback, changes in staffing levels, or operational requirements.

⚠️ Note: This is a basic template. Customize it according to the specific needs and preferences of your workforce and organization. 

5. Assign Shifts to Employees

Now once the rotating shift schedule template is made, assign shifts to employees.

Assigning shifts to employees can be done methodically to ensure fairness and operational efficiency. 

Begin by considering factors such as employee availability, skill sets, preferences, and any legal or contractual requirements. 

Here’s how you can assign shifts:

  1. Review Employee Availability: Assess individual availability and preferences for shift times.
  2. Consider Skill Sets: Match employees to shifts based on their relevant expertise and experience.
  3. Balance Workload: Distribute shifts evenly to prevent overburdening and ensure adequate coverage.
  4. Accommodate Preferences: Consider employees’ shift preferences to enhance job satisfaction.
  5. Rotate Shifts Fairly: Utilize the rotating schedule to ensure all employees experience various shifts equitably.
  6. Communicate Clearly: Ensure all employees receive clear communication about their assigned shifts and any changes.
  7. Address Concerns: Be responsive to employee concerns or conflicts regarding shift assignments.

6. Monitor and Adjust

To make a rotating shift schedule work well, you need to keep an eye on it and make changes when necessary. 

Listen to what your employees say about it, check how well they’re doing, and check the schedule details regularly. 

When problems or issues arise, deal with them immediately. Use software or tools to help you keep track and make changes faster. 

Talk to your team often so everyone knows what’s happening with the schedule. By staying on top of things, you can ensure the schedule works well for the business and employees.

7. Consider Automation

When making a schedule for rotating shifts, think about using automation to make things easier and avoid errors. 

Use software like Buddy Punch to automatically assign shifts, keep track of when employees are available, and handle time-off requests smoothly. 

With automation, you can quickly create schedules based on things like how long shifts are, what skills are required, and what employees prefer. 

Moreover, automation helps you follow labor laws and rules, so you don’t end up paying fines. 

By using automation for your shift scheduling, you can save time, make fewer mistakes, and get more done in your small business.

How Does Software Like Buddy Punch Simplify Rotating Shifts?

Buddy Punch Interface

Thanks to Buddy Punch’s numerous shift scheduling features, our users have an easy time setting up and maintaining rotating shifts.

  • Buddy Punch’s ability to send out notifications whenever a schedule is published ensures that team members are aware of when and how they’re scheduled as the rotation changes.
  • Buddy Punch’s clean and simple user interface makes it easy to drag and drop individual shifts to create your schedule on a weekly basis.
  • Our Shift Trades & Swaps option allows your employees to initiate shift trades with each other to help iron out scheduling issues, rather than having to take charge of them yourself.
  • If a scheduled employee submits a time off request, you’ll be automatically notified so you can approve or deny it. Thus, you will never be caught off-guard by no-shows again.

What’s Wrong With Fixed Eight-Hour Shifts?

Fixed 8-hour shifts are the most common type of scheduling in the U.S. for good reason. 

Though there is no “perfect shift schedule,” for many American workplaces the stability and hours provided are more than enough to reach a satisfactory output for both employees and employers.

The problem is that this type of scheduling is most common in industries where services aren’t expected past a certain hour. 

Imagine if gas stations shuttered down at 5 PM? Or if restaurants let their servers and cooks off at the same time most businesses let their employees clock out? What if grabbing a bite to eat after work was no longer an option?

Rotating Shifts are a team work shift innovation born from the need of businesses providing services beyond the typical 9-5 scheduling to ensure productivity remains high around the clock without sacrificing employee satisfaction or well-being.

Industries and Professions Using Rotating Shifts


In the United States, about 25% of workers use rotating shift work. It’s common in:

  • Any workplace that needs workers beyond the standard 9 AM to 5 PM, like healthcare, hospitality, transportation, or other services.
  • Industrial workplaces operating complex machinery on a continual basis. 

The continuous operation might be necessary for cost-effective reasons (it’s cheaper for production managers to avoid shutting down and starting up heavy factory machinery, for instance) or where technical processes can’t be interrupted without damaging the product.

  • Rotating shifts are also customary in places where employees depend on tips because managers want to give everyone a chance to work peak business hours.

Some common workplaces where you might see rotating shifts are:

  • Factories
  • Mines
  • Hospitals and healthcare facilities
  • Protective and emergency services – police, fire, ambulance, etc.
  • Hotels
  • Food services
  • Customs & immigration
  • Transportation services – trucking, airlines
  • Construction
  • Industrial cleaners
  • Utility company repair
  • Road work crews
  • Business process outsourcing call centers, customer service, etc.

Common Types of Rotating Shift Schedules

The variations in styles of rotating shift work match the variation in types of workplaces. 

Each business has different needs, processes, and team sizes, meaning that rotating shifts will look a little different at each place.

The types of shiftwork differ according to schedule type, shift length, and rotation style.

1. Shift Scheduling Styles


In shift scheduling, there are two main styles: traditional rotating and slow rotating.

  1. Traditional Rotating Schedule:
  • This style involves crews changing shifts every week.
  • It’s good because it keeps work interesting by regularly changing hours.
  • Employees get to experience different shifts, preventing boredom.
  1. Slow Rotating Schedule:
  • Similar to traditional, but changes happen less often, like monthly or yearly.
  • This longer period helps employees settle into their shifts and keeps their personal lives less disrupted.
  • It still offers flexibility for businesses and keeps operations smooth.

Choosing the right style depends on things like the type of work, the team, and what the company wants to achieve.

2. Standard Shift Lengths

Rotating shifts can last different amounts of time depending on the industry and what employees need. Shifts can be eight hours, nine hours, ten hours, or twelve hours long. 

These different lengths help businesses run smoothly while ensuring employees stay healthy and productive.

3. Rotation Styles

types of rotating shifts

Different rotation styles in rotating shifts, such as the Pitman and DuPont Shift Schedules, offer various approaches for employee shift rotation and time off allocation. 

The Pitman Shift Schedule and the DuPont Shift Schedule are two major examples. 

The Pitman schedule gives employees alternating shifts and specific days off to prevent them from working too much. 

The DuPont schedule is more complicated, with a four-week rotation to balance work and rest effectively. 

There are also other options, like the 2-2-3-2-2-3 schedule and the Southern swing shift schedule, which have their own advantages and challenges for small businesses using rotating shifts.

1. Two-Shift Rotation

Implementing a two-shift rotation means dividing your team into two groups. 

Each group takes turns working during the day and at night according to a set schedule. 

For instance, Group A might work days for a while, and Group B handles nights. 

Then they switch after a certain time, so everyone gets a chance at both shifts. 

This rotation ensures someone’s always working, gives employees a predictable schedule, helps them balance work and personal life, and reduces tiredness from constant shift changes.

2. Partial Rotation

Partial rotation means that only some of your employees switch shifts while the rest stick to their regular schedules. 

For example, half of your team might rotate while the other half keeps the same daytime or nighttime shifts. 

It’s a mix of changing shifts and keeping things consistent, which helps keep everyone happy and the work running smoothly.

4. The Pitman Shift Schedule

If your small business requires a well-organized but flexible work schedule, consider using the Pitman Shift Schedule. 

This schedule divides your employees into four teams. 

Each team works 12-hour shifts in a repeating pattern. Employees get every other weekend off to balance work and life. 

The schedule includes two shifts followed by two days off, which repeats every two weeks. 

This prevents employees from working more than three days in a row and reduces burnout. 

Using this schedule can improve productivity, morale, and scheduling efficiency while creating a balanced work environment.

5. The DuPont Shift Schedule

Here’s how DuPont Shift Schedule works: There are four teams of workers, and they each work 12-hour shifts. 

They switch between day and night shifts every four weeks. 

After each rotation, employees get a whole week off, giving them time to relax.

Even though it might seem complicated, the DuPont Shift Schedule has many benefits for small businesses. 

Giving employees long breaks and spreading out shifts evenly keeps them happy and makes them want to stay. 

If it’s set up and managed well, this schedule can help small businesses run smoothly while ensuring their workers are taken care of.

Why Consecutive Days Off?

Although scheduling can get busy, the DuPont system lets employees take several days off to relax, ending with a week off at the end of the cycle.

However, many workers like this setup because it suits their shift preferences.

⚠️ One thing to remember: Employees will work more than 40 hours during some weeks of the 4-week cycle with the DuPont schedule. Managers need to be careful about overtime when using this system.

6. The 6-4 6-4 6-4 Shift Work Schedule

If you’re looking for a shift schedule that’s a bit less complex, the 6-4 6-4 shift schedule is a popular way of arranging employee work shifts. 

Employees work six days, then have four days off, and repeat. 

This schedule is common in manufacturing, healthcare, and public safety industries, where work must go on without stopping.

It helps businesses have enough staff while giving employees regular time off to rest. 

It also helps them plan their personal lives around work, making them happy and less likely to quit.

To use the 6-4 6-4 schedule, businesses need to plan carefully to make sure there are always enough people working. However, with the right approach, they can meet their needs while caring for their employees.

7. The 24-48 Shift Work Schedule

The 24-48 shift schedule is often used in emergency services and public safety jobs. 

Here’s how it works: Employees work one full day (24-hour shifts), then have two days off. 

For small businesses that need to stay open all the time, this schedule keeps things running smoothly without costing too much in overtime pay. 

Overall, it helps keep productivity high and ensures customers are taken care of without upsetting employees. 

With careful planning, small businesses can use this schedule successfully for a long time.

Rotating Vs. Fixed Shifts [COMPARISON]

AspectFixed ShiftsRotating Shifts
DefinitionWork hours remain consistentWork hours change regularly
ExampleMonday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pmVaried shifts throughout the week
Common inVarious workplaces, preference in some settingsHospitals and industries requiring 24/7 coverage
ProsPredictable schedule, consistent routineEnsures coverage, distributes workload evenly
ConsLimited flexibility, less adaptabilityDisrupts sleep patterns, potential for fatigue

How to Manage Rotating Shifts?

Manage Rotating Shift

To manage rotating shifts effectively, use tools like Buddy Punch for scheduling. 

  • Split your work hours into shifts according to what your business needs and how many staff you need. 
  • Think about busy times and what hours your employees prefer. 
  • Decide on a rotation plan that fits your industry and team. 
  • It could be often, infrequent, on weekends, or partial rotations. 
  • Once you’ve decided, use the scheduling software to make the plan. 
  • Make sure everyone gets a suitable portion of shifts and can take time off when needed. 
  • Tell your team the schedule clearly and let them swap shifts or work flexibly if possible. 

Ready to give Buddy Punch a try?

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Benefits of Rotating Shifts

rotating shift benefits

A rotating shift schedule means everyone takes turns working at different times. 

This helps share the workload fairly and promotes teamwork. 

Although not everyone likes this type of schedule, many employees and managers find it has lots of advantages.

1. Flexibility for Employees’ SchedulesRotating shifts offer flexibility for personal life management.
2. Employees Tend to Be More Well-RoundedDifferent shifts promote versatility and teamwork skills.
3. Fair Workload and Better Team SpiritEven workload distribution fosters fairness and teamwork.
4. Optimized Workforce CoverageRotating shifts ensure adequate staffing and cost savings.
5. Prevent Burnout By Spreading Out The DemandsVaried hours prevent exhaustion and promote productivity.
6. Improved Employee EngagementEmployee involvement in scheduling boosts morale and teamwork.
7. Enhanced Team CollaborationRotating shifts improve communication and problem-solving among teams.
8. Increased Employee SatisfactionFlexible schedules increase satisfaction and retention.
9. Adaptability to Changing DemandsRotating shifts enables businesses to adapt to demand changes efficiently.

Disadvantages of Rotating Shifts 

rotating shift disadvantages

Rotating shifts can help your team work better and manage things smarter. 

However, they also have downsides that affect individual employees. 

Some of these downsides are serious and could even be life-threatening. 

So, it’s really important to understand these risks and take action to deal with them properly.

Disadvantages of Rotating ShiftsSolutions and Considerations
Lack of Consistency– Inform employees about shifts in advance – Support employees in achieving work-life balance
Long Shifts Can Cause Accidents or Low Productivity– Implement safety precautions – Avoid excessively long shifts – Ensure breaks are provided to prevent fatigue and maintain productivity
Your Work-Life Balance Can Suffer– Prioritize self-care – Communicate scheduling preferences – Seek support for managing disruptions and stress
It Can Cause a Lack of Sleep and Disrupt Your Circadian Rhythms– Ensure adequate rest between shifts – Consider offering resources for managing sleep disturbances – Be aware of potential health risks associated with disrupted circadian rhythms

Tips for Setting up a Fixed Rotating Shift

As a manager, it’s important to maintain clear and consistent communication when implementing a fixed shift schedule for your team to ensure optimal employee health and morale. 

Make sure your employees are well-informed about their 10-hour shifts and any variations in the schedule, particularly if they involve different days or three night shifts in a row, as this can significantly impact their workweek and overall well-being.

To prioritize employee health, ensure there’s adequate time for rest between shifts, especially for those working the third shift. 

Consider implementing a shift system that allows for at least one full day off between sets of night shifts, enabling workers to recuperate and maintain their energy levels. 

This approach not only supports employee health but also contributes to better employee morale and productivity.

Flexibility is key to maintaining a positive work environment. 

Allow employees the opportunity to switch shifts or choose their preferred hours whenever possible, accommodating their individual needs and preferences. 

When constructing the shift schedule, transition employees gradually from daytime to evening to night shifts, taking into account their natural body rhythms. 

Pay attention to the overall work environment to further support employee health. 

Ensure adequate lighting and air quality in the workplace, designate rest areas for employees to recharge during breaks, and provide access to a healthy cafeteria to promote nutritious eating habits. 

How Long Should the Rotation Period Be?

Consider factors like industry norms, employee preferences, and business requirements. Some companies opt for a fixed schedule, maintaining a stable rotation period such as a four-week cycle or a two-week cycle, to ensure consistency in their shift pattern and minimize disruptions in business operations. 

Others may prefer a more flexible approach, switching shifts on a weekly basis to accommodate evening shifts, morning shifts, afternoon shifts, or overnight shifts, depending on peak hours and customer experience needs.

Experimenting with various rotation lengths, whether it be three day shifts or four night shifts, allows managers to gauge the most effective scheduling system for their team. It’s essential to factor in sleep schedules and consider a slow rotation to mitigate fatigue and maintain employee well-being. 

Additionally, implementing time tracking mechanisms can help monitor labor costs and optimize scheduling efficiency.

Engaging in ongoing dialogue with employees enables managers to tailor the shift schedule to meet their preferences while ensuring business continuity. 

Are There Any Health Risks Associated With Rotating Shifts?

Working different shifts can lead to a plethora of health challenges for employees, spanning from disrupted body clocks, resulting in sleep deprivation, to gastrointestinal issues, and exacerbating mental health concerns. 

Sleep deprivation, a common consequence of irregular shifts, can lead to several health problems, including decreased cognitive function, mood disturbances, and increased susceptibility to illnesses. 

Moreover, responders to such irregular schedules often experience gastrointestinal distress, compounding their physical discomfort. 

Furthermore, the toll on mental health cannot be overstated, as the stress and strain of adapting to shift work can exacerbate existing conditions or precipitate new ones. 

Employers must acknowledge these risks and prioritize the well-being of their employees by implementing strategies such as providing adequate time between shifts for rest and offering comprehensive support systems to address stress management and overall health maintenance. 

By doing so, they can mitigate the adverse effects of shift work and foster a healthier, more resilient workforce.

How Can I Minimize The Negative Effects Of Rotating Shifts On My Health?

To stay healthy while working rotating shifts, follow these simple steps:

  • Get Good Sleep: Try to sleep at the same time every day, even on days when you’re not working, to keep your body’s internal clock working well. Make sure your sleeping area is comfy and dark so that you can sleep better.
  • Stay Healthy: Exercise often and eat healthy food to keep your body strong. Drink lots of water and reduce your caffeine intake, especially before going to bed.
  • Talk to Your Manager: Tell your manager about what you like and don’t like about shift changes. They might have ways to support you with the schedule, like programs or resources.

By doing these things, you can reduce the negative effects that rotating shifts can have on your health.