7 Types Of Work Shifts And How Best To Schedule Them

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The work shifts your company needs to cover might depend mostly on the business you’re in and customer demand, but that doesn’t mean managers can’t optimize. Let’s take a look at some of the most common work shifts and important things to consider for each.

Table Of Contents

7 Common Work Shifts (And Advice For Each)

woman on her work shift

1) First Shift

First shift — often called the “day shift” and sometimes the “morning shift” — is the shift that roughly corresponds to what is usually thought of as normal business hours.

First shift could be a classic “9 to 5” shift, or it could begin earlier — 6:00 a.m. or 7:00 a.m. for restaurants or cafes, for example — and end mid-afternoon.

Think About: A Strategic Reserve

For many companies, the first shift will be when you’ll have the most customers and your staffing needs are highest. This also means that an employee unexpectedly calling out or a no call, no show will have the biggest impact.

To protect your business from ending up understaffed at the worst possible time, consider creating an on-call schedule (more on this later) or keeping an up-to-date list of part-time employees who are interested in picking up extra hours.

2) Second Shift

Also called the “swing shift,” the second shift typically runs from late afternoon or early evening until around midnight. If your first shift works 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., then your second shift would clock in at 4:00 p.m. and leave at 12:00 a.m.

Think About: Unexpected Overtime

Since the second shift will typically conclude late at night, employees will be anxious to clock out and head home as soon as they can, and being forced to stay later can be especially frustrating.

To keep your second shift staff’s morale high, implement policies to help make sure their shift ends on schedule. This could include checklists for tasks that must be completed before store closing and announcements 10-30 minutes before closing so customers don’t linger.

3) Third Shift

woman working the third work shift

Also known as the “night shift” or, disparagingly, as the “graveyard shift,” the classic third shift begins at midnight and ends at 8:00 a.m.

Third shift is a necessity for retail businesses that stay open 24 hours and in some other industries that need staff available to respond to customer needs and emergencies around the clock.

Think About: Incentives

Aside from the difficulty of maintaining a social life when everyone you know is asleep while you’re awake and vice versa, it’s well established that working night shifts can have a negative impact on employees’ physical and mental health.

Few, if any, employees will actually want to work third shift. Consider offering a higher hourly rate or other incentives as compensation for the big negatives of working the night shift.

4) Rotating Shift

There are enough different types of rotating work shifts to make an entire additional list, but in general terms, rotating shifts change according to a fixed pattern at set intervals.

For example, an employee might work first shift one week, second shift the week after, and third shift the week after that.

The main advantages of rotating work shifts are that all employees end up working some more desirable and some not-so-desirable shifts, and that all employees get experience with the tasks required during each shift.

Think About: Potential Drawbacks

Rotating shifts may seem like the most equitable way to decide who has to bear the burden of covering inconvenient shifts, but there are drawbacks.

Employees may find that their shifts constantly changing makes it difficult to maintain work-life balance.

Your business also might not need as many employees on some shifts as others. If this is the case, then rotating your whole workforce through every shift may result in money being wasted on labor costs.

5) Split Shift

Instead of coming to work and staying until their shift is done, employees on a split shift schedule work for two or more periods throughout the day, with a gap of two or more hours in-between.

For example, a restaurant might use split work shifts to have more staff available during the lunch and dinner peak times: employees might clock in at 10:00 a.m., clock out at 2:00 p.m., and then return for the dinner rush from 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.

Think About: Compliance

Before you implement split shifts in your business, be sure to review all relevant federal, state, and local laws.

Several states, including California and New York, have specific laws mandating additional compensation for employees working split shifts in some circumstances.

6) On-Call Shift

Man whose on call

On-call scheduling isn’t an alternative to or replacement for other types of work shifts. Rather, employees who are scheduled as “on-call” are supposed to be available to cover emergencies, call-outs, and other unexpected circumstances during specific times.

Think About: Clear Expectations

Being on-call can cause stress for employees because of the uncertainty involved.

To minimize this, do your best to clearly communicate expectations for on-call employees, including the difference between real emergencies that require them to come in and tasks that can wait until regular business hours.

7) Flex Shift

A flex shift is built around a period of core hours when all employees must work at the same time. Outside of these core periods, they’re free to choose when they fulfill the rest of their required hours.

For example, you might set 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. as the core hours when all employees must be clocked in. One employee might choose to start their shift at 10:00 a.m. and clock out at 6:00 p.m., while another staff member might choose to work from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Think About: Scheduling Software

Flex work shifts present challenges to managers. Multiple employees each working slightly different schedules introduces complication.

Using scheduling software like Inch to create your schedule may save you time and improve accuracy.

Tips For Scheduling Different Work Shifts

For First, Second, And Third Shifts: Optimize Your Labor Costs

Calculating Labor Costs for work shifts

Depending on the type of business you’re in, your workload and staffing needs will vary from shift to shift.

For each shift, you want to schedule enough employees to handle the expected workload with some margin for the unexpected — without wasting money paying employees who aren’t needed.

Employee management software, like Inch, can help you analyze your scheduling to optimize labor costs and protect your profit margins.

For Rotating And Split Shifts: Assign Tasks

Split shift employees (who leave work in the middle of the day (and rotating shift employees (who have just switched to a different stage in the rotation) may find it difficult to get up to speed on what needs to be done.

To help get everyone on the same page, use task management tools, like Inch. Inch lets managers assign any number of tasks to individual staff members, teams, or a whole shift so everyone knows what needs to be done and by whom.

For Flex And On-Call Shifts: Track Hours

Because on-call and flex-scheduled employees clock in and out at “odd” times, their hours are more difficult to keep track of, and the chances of time theft are higher.

Inch offers robust time tracking features, including geofencing to make sure that employees can only clock in when they’re actually on-site.

For All Shifts: Communicate

Whatever type of shift an employee works, unclear, disorganized, or abruptly changing schedules will lead to lower productivity and employee morale. It’s essential to communicate the schedule (and any changes that are made) quickly and effectively.

Inch can eliminate confusion and miscommunication by allowing employees to access their schedules easily and get notified immediately if there are any changes to when they work.

Better Employee Management For Every Shift Type

Better Employee Management For Every Shift Type with inch

Different work shifts each come with their own challenges that managers need to be aware of in order to maximize productivity, efficiency, and staff morale.

Inch not only simplifies the scheduling process to save managers valuable time, but it also helps managers prevent time theft, optimize labor costs, and keep the whole team on-task.

To learn more about how Inch can help your business get more from every shift, visit TryInch.com today.

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