Shift work is a term used to describe specific hours in the day (within a 24-hour timeframe) that work is performed. The hours worked are based on the type of shift work—for instance, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. typically represents the first shift, and Saturday and Sunday hours represent the weekend shift. Knowing which shifts are needed and scheduling your employees to cover those shifts are pivotal to the success of your business.
8 Common Types of Shift Work
While there are different types of shift work, they all fall into the same 24-hour period. For businesses that are open 24/7, their needs will be to cover every shift. A company that is only open between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. will only need employees during the first shift. Other businesses, such as restaurants, will need to cover multiple shifts. We have broken the shifts down into the eight most common types.
First shift is generally referred to as a normal working day. Hours can vary, but usually fall between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., with the most common being 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. First shift is typical of businesses such as general offices, banks, doctor’s offices, and companies that are only open Monday through Friday.
Second shift, also known as the swing shift, covers afternoon/evening hours. The starting hour for the second shift can vary greatly, anywhere from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and these shifts last into the evening hours (any time before midnight). Second shift is typical of businesses such as restaurants, retailers, and entertainment centers like bowling alleys or skating rinks. Many businesses that are open during the second shift will also have hours within the first shift and weekend shift.
Third shift, also known as the graveyard shift, is in the evening and overnight hours. The starting hour for this shift is usually around 11 p.m. or midnight and lasts until the early morning (6 a.m. or 7 a.m.). Third shift is typical of businesses such as convenience stores, factories, some restaurants, and hospitals. These types of businesses are usually open during the daytime as well, such as 24/7 establishments.
A rotating shift is when employees work different hours throughout the week. One day the employee may work during the first shift, and then the next day they may work the second shift. Rotating shifts are typical of businesses such as hospitals (doctors, nurses), retailers, and hair/nail salons. These establishments are usually open in the evenings as well as during the day.
A split shift occurs when an employee works two separate shifts within the same day. This can happen in businesses such as restaurants, when an employee will work the first shift in the morning to prep the business for opening and then return in the late afternoon and work until the business closes. Split shifts are typical of businesses in hospitality, retail, and public safety (police officers).
A fixed shift is when an employee works the same hours every day. This could be during the first, second, or third shift, but always the same hours of the day. Fixed shifts are typical for part-time employees, such as those who work in retail, where they may work 4 p.m. to close every day of the week. Fixed shifts are also typical of businesses such as retailers, entertainment establishments, and healthcare facilities.
An on-call shift is when a worker is not specifically scheduled to appear at work, but is scheduled to be available if called in. On-call shifts are typical of businesses such as fire stations, emergency services, and repair shops. These businesses can experience ebbs and flows and may need to call in extra workers without notice.
Weekend shifts are just that—hours worked Saturday and Sunday. The hours worked, in this case, may be longer (10–12 hours per day) or can fall into part-time work. Weekend shifts are typical of businesses such as event planners and nightclubs, as well as businesses that are open seven days a week.
Shift Scheduling Best Practices
As a small business, you must decide who will work and during what hours (or shift). Scheduling employees based on their skills and availability will create a favorable working environment for all. And of course, consider the needs of your business; for instance, you may have some days that are busier than others where you need additional workers.
Did You Know?
Shift differential is the practice of offering premium pay to employees who work shifts outside of their regular schedule or when the shift is less desirable. For example, businesses may offer shift differential pay to workers who agree to work during overnight hours.
Keep these best practices in mind as you schedule employee shifts:
|Offer Flexibility: Offer employees the option of working different shifts that may better suit their lifestyle. Employees are more productive when they are satisfied with their work schedule and feel they have a work/life balance.||Play Favorites: Always scheduling your favorite employees for the best shifts can lead to workplace dissatisfaction among other employees. Be sure to give every employee the chance at the best shifts.|
|Allow Swaps: Sometimes your employees may need to take a day off from work. Rather than having to call out, your employees can swap shifts with another employee. This will ensure that both scheduled shifts are covered.||Over/Under Schedule Employees: Overscheduling employees can lead to burnout. Similarly, underscheduling employees can lead to turnover. Be sure to create a good balance of time worked among all your employees.|
|Know Your Staff’s Availability: It is very difficult to schedule your employees for shifts when you do not know when they are available. This can lead to employees calling out of work or you having to constantly redo the schedule. Have your employees notify you upon hire (and weekly, if necessary) of their work availability. Having the right number of employees on the schedule will maximize your profits.||Delay Schedule Release: Be sure to put your schedule out to your team in advance of the workweek. This will give your employees time to make necessary arrangements to handle their shifts. Putting out your schedule too close to the start of the workweek can cause issues that may force you to have to rework the schedule.|
Keeping track of the hours your employees are working can make scheduling shift work easier and prepare you for processing payroll.
Shift work is necessary for many small businesses to cover the hours that the company is open. Knowing what type of shift you need (and the hours they include) will help make shift scheduling easier. Be sure when scheduling shifts that each shift is staffed appropriately for each position in the company.
Using scheduling software can take the headache out of assigning work shifts to your employees. While you’ll still need to be in tune with your employees’ abilities and scheduling needs, using software such as Homebase can help you keep up with each employee’s days worked and reduce errors.