Shift work often takes place in industries where employees are needed around the clock (like health care, police or fire departments, or computer operators). More than 22 million Americans are shift workers, jobs that can come with benefits like higher pay, and challenges such as limited sleep and health issues. Despite the nontraditional work hours, shift workers serve an important role providing essential services to their community.
To help employees be successful at working shifts, it’s key to arrange schedules in such a way as to allow for sufficient sleep. Know the pros and cons of the three most common types of shift work schedules to help you decide what will work best for your situation.
DuPont Shift Schedule
One of the most popular shift work schedules, the DuPont plan features 12-hour rotating shifts, using four teams, to ensure coverage around the clock. During a four-week cycle, an employee’s schedule looks like this:
Pros: Employees enjoy having a one-week vacation built into every month of work.
Cons: A 24-hour break in the middle of the month might not be enough time for employees to adequately rest before reporting back to work. Employees might also have trouble re-adjusting to their work schedule after a week off. Finally, employees will work 72 hours in one week, once a month.
Pitman Shift Schedule
Also known as “every other weekend off,” in this common plan four teams work two 12-hour shifts per day and operate on two-week cycles. Each team is given either the night shift or the day shift. For teams on the night shift, the schedule looks like this:
Pros: Employees will have every other weekend off and make plans with family and friends who have more traditional work schedules. Also, employees never work more than three consecutive days.
Cons: Twelve hour shifts can be grueling—especially for night shift employees.
2-2 3-2 2-3 Rotating Shift Schedule
A variation on the Pitman shift schedule, this plan uses four teams and two 12-hour shifts over a four-week cycle. Teams stick with either day or night shifts for two weeks, then rotate to the opposite shift for two weeks.
Pros: Employees never work more than three days in a row and enjoy a three-day weekend every other weekend.
Cons: An employee might work up to 62 hours in one week, and the switch from day to night shifts can be challenging and exacerbate sleep issues.
Whatever shift schedule you go with, you can expect some bumps while workers adjust to their new routine. Check in with them regularly to see how they are feeling, and work together to make necessary changes to help them get the sleep they need.