What is a shift pattern? Adapting to Modern Work Routines

shift planning, work planning

In this article we take a closer look at what exactly is a shift pattern, and how can employers craft the perfect one that meets their needs

What is a shift pattern?

A shift pattern is how a company structures its hours of operation. It can include early, late, and night shifts and any other shift variations necessary to accommodate a business's demands.

Typically shift patterns involve regular weekly shifts with breaks in between – usually working a minimum of five days per week but never more than seven.

Depending on the industry, shift patterns also include rotating shifts which involve working a different shift each week or every few days.

 Useful Read: Schedule Rotation Generator + FREE Template

Different types of shift pattern

Here are some of the many shift patterns that most businesses currently use:

  • 8-Hours shifts: Employees work 8 hours before taking a shift break. They then come back and do another 8 hours shift.

  • 12-Hours shifts: Employees work 12 hours before taking a shift break. They then come back and do another 12 hours shift.

  • Rotating shifts: Employees shift their working hours weekly or daily.

  • Split shiftsEmployees work for several hours and then take a break before returning to work for the rest of their shifts.

  • FlexitimeEmployees can choose the shift hours that suit them and their lifestyle.

  • Compressed work weekEmployees work longer shifts (e.g., 10-hour shifts) but have fewer workdays per week.

Useful Read: The 4-day work week schedule - An Implementation  Guide

No matter which shift pattern you choose, it's important to make sure that it meets both the operational needs of the company and provides employees with shift times that best suit their lifestyle. With careful consideration and regular monitoring, shift pattern management can effectively ensure business success.

How to create an effective shift pattern?

Creating an effective shift pattern requires careful consideration of the needs of both employees and employers. It's essential to ensure everyone has enough hours to make a living.

Here are a few things that you should keep in mind while creating an effective shift pattern:

  • Take into account the preferences of your employees - Do they prefer working during certain days or hours? Can you accommodate shift swaps if an employee requests them?

  • Consider shift length - Different shifts can be beneficial, particularly concerning productivity. Generally, shifts should not exceed 8 hours, which can lead to fatigue.

  • A balance between employee preferences and operational goals - An effective shift pattern should be able to meet both the operational needs of the company as well as provide employees with shift times that best suit their lifestyle.

  • Avoid burnout - Make sure shift patterns don't lead to excessive daily or weekly hours, which can lead to fatigue, stress, and, ultimately, burnout.

  • Evaluate the shift pattern regularly - As business needs change, so should shift patterns. Regularly evaluating shift patterns helps ensure they meet employee and organizational needs.

The shift pattern can make all the difference between an efficient workplace and one in disarray – so it's important to get it right! Following these tips can ensure that your shift patterns benefit employers and employees.

By taking a thoughtful approach to creating shift patterns, employers can create an effective one that meets the needs of everyone involved and keeps employees productive, engaged, and motivated.

Advantages and disadvantages of various shift pattern

Every shift pattern has its advantages. Let's discuss each of them in detail below:

8-Hours shift

It ensures employees have enough time for rest and family. It also allows employers to have continuous shift coverage, increasing productivity.

However, it can lead to employee fatigue if shift length is not properly managed and adjusted. It also can lead to shift-swapping difficulties if employees need additional flexibility.

12-Hours shift

This can lead to higher productivity, as employees can work fewer days. It also allows employers fewer shift changes, leading to lower costs.

On the other hand, it can lead to employee fatigue and long hours. It also leads to shift-swapping difficulties as employees may be unable to cover each other's shift changes.

Rotating shift

It can help reduce employee fatigue by giving them different shift times each week and the opportunity to rest between shifts. Hence, this shift pattern allows employees to stay fresh and alert.

Nonetheless, it can be difficult to manage, as employees may be required to work shift times that do not suit their lifestyle. This shift pattern can also lead to employee fatigue if shift lengths are not properly managed.

Split shift

It allows for more flexible shift lengths and hours for employees who prefer it. It benefits employers as they can shift coverage when needed, such as during peak hours.

On the flip side, it can be difficult for employees to manage two shift lengths in one day. Employees may also be unable to cover shift changes as shift lengths vary.


It offers greater flexibility to employees and can help improve morale. It allows employees to choose shift times that suit their lifestyle and needs. This shift pattern improves the quality of life for employees while also providing employers with the shift coverage they need.

Still, this can lead to scheduling conflicts and makeshift management more difficult for employers. It can be difficult for employers to provide shift coverage if shift times vary.

Compressed work week

It can reduce employees' work days to earn enough money to survive. It helps to reduce shift changes and shift length. This benefits employers and employees, reducing shift change costs while providing employees with more free days.

However, this can lead to longer shift lengths than normal, which can cause employee fatigue. It can lead to shift-swapping difficulties, as employees may be unable to cover shift changes.

No shift pattern is perfect, and each has unique advantages and disadvantages. Employers should consider all factors when creating shift patterns and strive to create one that works for the organization and its employees.

No matter which shift pattern you choose, it's important to make sure that it meets both the operational needs of the company and provides employees with shift times that best suit their lifestyle.

Laws and regulations regarding shift pattern

Here are some laws and regulations regarding shift patterns:

Rest period

In some countries, shift scheduling patterns are regulated by law. For example, in the UK, employers must provide rest periods of 11 consecutive hours between shift patterns after busy periods.


Additionally, to ensure compliance, employers should check if their shift pattern abides by other laws and regulations, such as the Working Time Directive or the Working Hours Act. It's important to check your local regulations to see if shift patterns are regulated or if any other restrictions are in place.


Finally, shift patterns should be reviewed regularly to ensure they are still suitable and working for the organization and its employees. This includes assessing shift length, shift changes, and employee needs.

Flexibility in shift pattern

Flexible shift patterns offer a great way for employers to meet their organization's operational needs while also considering their employees' needs. Employers should strive to create shift patterns that work for their organization and employees.

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Company's discretion

Although some businesses may agree to employees' requests for a shift change, it is mainly based on the company's discretion and can be outlined in employment contracts.

Business's demand and preferences

If you're not satisfied with your current shift pattern and would like to alter it, then discussing this matter with your line manager would be beneficial. Clearly explain why switching shifts is important to you so that they understand the value behind this request. Keep in mind that the business's demands and preferences determine any changes.

Optimized scheduling of shift pattern

Here are a few steps you can take to help maximize your scheduling so that your day-to-day operations run as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

  • Planning - Develop a comprehensive shift plan to prevent any gaps or mistakes.
  • Continuous improvement - One must monitor your work schedule and make necessary real-time adjustments if problems arise.
  • Eliminating on-call scheduling - Always avoid on-call scheduling, which is often erratic and can lead to unnecessary stress.
  • Adaption to overtime - Try to be prepared to work overtime when necessary.
  • Reducing Complexity - When it comes to choosing a business model, forgo complexity. Opt for an established approach that works well in your sector and adjust accordingly with your particular enterprise in mind.
  • Technology - Embrace technology and forgo a paper-based system.

With careful consideration and regular monitoring, shift pattern management can effectively ensure business success while maintaining a good relationship with its employees.

Best shift patterns

Here are some best shift schedules:

Operational needs

This will depend on the business's and its employees' operational needs. Common shift patterns include 9–5, rotational, and shift patterns with fixed hours.

Regardless of shift pattern, employers should ensure that they provide employees with shift times that suit their lifestyle and meet the organization.

Employee's preferences

Everyone's preferences are unique, so the most suitable shift pattern is the one enjoyed by each employee. While some may find it more advantageous to work a 9 am-5 pm typical Monday through Friday pattern, others might be more comfortable with a 4 on and 4 off shift schedule or day shifts that include evenings and nights. Ultimately, it depends upon what works best for you!

Shift patterns are a great way to optimize your workforce and increase efficiency. Employers, the best shift pattern for your business lies in the hands of those executing it. You may have a particular vision to keep operations running smoothly, but without staff approval and satisfaction, that plan won't take off!

Comparison of traditional and modern shift pattern

Here's a comparison:


Traditional shift patterns, such as 9–5 or rotating shifts, remain popular amongst many businesses. However, there are now more innovative shift options available to companies, such as compressed shift patterns that allow employees to work longer hours but fewer days.

Work-life balance

Compressed shift patterns are becoming increasingly popular amongst employers and employees. By working longer hours, but fewer days, shift workers have more time for leisure activities or other commitments, which can benefit work-life balance.

Flexibility and innovation

These modern shift patterns also offer greater flexibility and can help to reduce shift workers' fatigue by ensuring that staff is adequately rested before and after their shift. The use of technology can also be very effective in managing shift patterns, allowing employers to track shift workers' attendance and shift patterns in real-time.


In conclusion, shift patterns are essential for any business to run efficiently and effectively. Businesses need to consider their staff's preferences, operational needs, and the shift pattern that works best for them.

Modern shift patterns offer flexibility and innovation, benefiting employers and employees. With careful planning and effective management techniques, shift patterns can ensure a more successful workplace. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • The 4 on, 4 off shift pattern is highly utilized in round-the-clock work settings due to its convenience and efficiency. However, the best one depends upon on company's and employees' needs.

  • Shift work can be physically demanding, leading to fatigue or stress if not managed properly. However, shift work doesn't have to be bad for your health if properly managed.

Employee Schedule
Rinaily Bonifacio

Written by:

Rinaily Bonifacio

Rinaily is a renowned expert in the field of human resources with years of industry experience. With a passion for writing high-quality HR content, Rinaily brings a unique perspective to the challenges and opportunities of the modern workplace. As an experienced HR professional and content writer, She has contributed to leading publications in the field of HR.


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