Shift Pattern Design

Creating a brand new shift pattern, is a rare event. Most managers will do it once in their careers unless they are very good at it. If you do bring in a successful new shift pattern, be prepared. The chances are other departments will see your operation and want it for themselves. In which case you will find yourself creating a new shift pattern time and time again.

Creating a new shift pattern is all about being prepared for any eventuality. So before you begin you need data. The more data you have, the easier it will be to make decisions and you can justify all decisions. This is very important when it comes to implementation. If you can provide proof for the number of staff you need, then you can justify your budget. If you can show the unions why this new shift operation is better for their members because it provides stability, then you can implement it.

So where do you start?

Your current operation is a good place to start if you want to just want to improve the current system in the short term. Look for where you are experiencing problems. Make a list of all your problems and prioritise it. Think about your workload. Are you able to meet your workload? If your are not, then identify where and when you need more people. Think about your budget. Are you able to stay within budget? If you are not, then identify what unexpected expense you've had. May be it's overtime. Think about bringing in a shift pattern with zero overtime.

The workload is the best place to start if you want to improve your long term operation. The workload is the key driver behind all decision making. Your goal is to create a shift operation that matches the workload. That way you minimise wastage and meet customer demands. So asses your workload every hour of the day, week and year.

However most operations are working to a fixed budget. If your budget is fixed, then you need to make the most with your money. Therefore you want a shift pattern that is efficient. Think about a doctor's surgery. Their operation minimises wastage of doctors time. The customer (patient) is left waiting for minutes, hours, days or weeks depending on the severity of their need and the number of other patients. During flu season, the doctor's surgery doesn't employ more doctors. The waiting times just get longer. This keeps the cost of the operation down. However they need to continuously triage their patients.

How many staff do you need?

When setting up any shift pattern this is the second question you need to ask, after "What is the workload?" If you are understaffed then your staff will be stressed with the high workload, the work may not be done, your customers can become disgruntled due to lack of service and you will end up with a high overtime bill. If you are overstaffed, you are inefficient, your staff will be fatigued due to being under-worked, and your operation will be limiting your profits.

We use your workload requirements, contractual details, skills make up and absence statistics to tell you exactly how many staff you need. Our calculation as well as detailed worked examples are included in our book, How to Manage Your Shift Pattern or our ebook: Calculating How Many Staff Do You Need. We also do this calculation as part of your Business Health Check package, and our bespoke consultancy.

Knowing how many staff you need is vital, it will allow you to make better decisions and to justify them;

  • How much overtime will be required?
  • Can the capacity be increased?
  • Will the current capacity allow for new work?
  • Are the staff under or over worked?
  • Can project work and training be fitted into the schedule?
  • Does the workforce need to be increased or reduced?

4on-4off Shift Pattern

The 4on-4off is the worlds most popular shift pattern, it is also the best well known.

It is a holidays excluded shift pattern, normally using D (day shifts) and N (night shifts) both 12-hour shifts.

The rotation period is 16 days, which does not fit into a 7 day week. Therefore the full rotation is 16 weeks. The shift pattern consists of working 4 day shifts followed by 4 days off then working 4 night shifts followed by 4 days off.

The advantages of this shift pattern is that it is easy to follow and well known.

However the disadvantages are:

  • Shift workers only get 5 whole weekends off out of 16
  • The nights are worked in blocks of 4 which from a fatigue point of view is the worst possible combination
  • Weekend cover is difficult because they get so few weekends off, no body wants to come in a work cover at weekends
  • Holidays are also more popular at weekends on this shift pattern than ones which revolve around a 7 day structure.

If you are currently reviewing your shift pattern why not consider some alternatives to the 4on-4off

online course
Not ready-made shift patterns, but shift patterns made to measure. Boost your shift scheduling skills and learn how to design the perfect shift pattern.

232 Shift Pattern

The 232 schedule uses two 12-hour shifts, a Day (D) shift and a Night (N) shift. It has a four week rotation period and results in one person on duty 24/7 using a minimum of 4 people. It is a holidays excluded shift pattern.

The 232 is the most popular shift pattern after the 4on-4off

The main advantages are alternating weekends off and working a maximum of three consecutive shifts.

554 Shift Pattern

The 554 shift pattern is based around the week. It is a four week repeating shift pattern, using 12-hour shifts. On the shift pattern you would work the shifts in blocks of four or five and have four or five days off between. There is a 24-hour break in the middle of the blocks of four or five shifts.

People like the shift pattern because it not only gives them whole weekend off, but a five day weekend regularly.

Creating a Shift Pattern

Would you like a tailor-made shift pattern that perfectly matches your requirements?

You can save money and be more productive with a new shift pattern

Managing a Shift Pattern

Managing a shift pattern can be easy if you plan ahead.

Manage holidays, sickness and training effortlessly.

Negotiating a Shift Pattern

If you find the right shift pattern then you just need to implement it.

Do you know how?

Our Clients

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