Creating effective shift schedules can be challenging for managers, especially in industries that operate around the clock. Whether you are managing a healthcare facility, a hospitality establishment, or a manufacturing plant, scheduling the right number of employees at the right times can be a daunting task.

In this article, we will explore the best practices for creating and managing 24/7 shift schedules that work for both employees and the business.

Process to Create 24 Hour Schedules

Understanding the Needs of Your Workforce

The first step in creating effective 24/7 shift schedules is to understand the needs and preferences of your workforce. Each employee has unique circumstances, such as family obligations, transportation constraints, and personal preferences, that can affect their availability and willingness to work at certain times. As a manager, it is your responsibility to take these factors into consideration when creating shift schedules.

One way to gather this information is to conduct a survey or hold individual meetings with your employees. Ask them about their preferred shift times, commute times, and any other factors that may impact their availability. This will allow you to create schedules that are more accommodating to your employees’ needs, which can improve their job satisfaction and reduce employee turnover.

Using Scheduling Software

Once you have gathered the necessary information from your employees, it’s time to start creating the schedules. In today’s digital age, there are many software solutions available that can streamline the scheduling process and reduce errors. These solutions can help you create schedules more efficiently, and allow employees to view their schedules online, swap shifts, and receive notifications about any changes.

Some of the features that you may want to look for in scheduling software include:

  • Shift templates: This allows you to create recurring shift patterns for specific roles, which can save time and reduce errors.
  • Automated scheduling: This feature uses algorithms to generate schedules based on the availability and preferences of your employees, which can further reduce errors and save time.
  • Availability tracking: This allows employees to indicate their availability for each shift, which can help you create more accurate schedules.
  • Mobile app: A mobile app can allow employees to access their schedules and make changes from their smartphones, which can be especially convenient for employees who work irregular schedules.

By using scheduling software, you can create schedules that are more accurate, efficient, and convenient for your employees.

Accounting for Break Times

When creating 24/7 shift schedules, it’s important to ensure that your employees receive adequate break times throughout their shifts. Depending on the laws and regulations in your area, employees may be entitled to rest periods and meal breaks, which can vary depending on their shift length.

As a manager, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your employees receive these breaks, and that they are scheduled in a way that allows for smooth operations. This may require some creative scheduling, especially if you have a large workforce and limited resources.

One solution is to stagger break times throughout the day, so that only a portion of the workforce is on break at any given time. This can help prevent bottlenecks and ensure that there are enough employees available to keep operations running smoothly.

Maintaining Open Communication

Open communication is crucial when managing shift schedules, especially when it comes to notifying employees of any changes or updates. As a manager, you should encourage your employees to communicate with you about any concerns they may have regarding their schedules.

In addition to regular communication with your employees, you may want to provide clear instructions on how to report absences, request time off, and swap shifts. This can help prevent scheduling conflicts and ensure that you have enough staff available to cover all shifts.

You may also want to consider implementing a system for employees to provide feedback on the schedules. This can help you identify areas for improvement and make adjustments to the schedules as needed.

Monitoring Effectiveness

Once you have created your 24/7 shift schedules and communicated them to your employees, it’s important to monitor their effectiveness over time. This can help you identify any issues or areas for improvement, and make adjustments as needed.

Some of the metrics that you may want to track include:

  • Attendance: This can help you identify any patterns of absenteeism or tardiness, which can impact your operations.
  • Productivity: Tracking productivity can help you identify any bottlenecks or inefficiencies in your operations.
  • Employee satisfaction: Employee satisfaction is an important metric to track, as it can impact turnover rates and overall morale.

By monitoring these metrics, you can identify any issues with the schedules and make adjustments to improve their effectiveness.

Adjusting Schedules as Needed

Even with careful planning and monitoring, there may be times when you need to adjust your 24/7 shift schedules. This can occur due to a variety of reasons, such as employee absences, changes in demand, or unforeseen events.

When making schedule adjustments, it’s important to communicate these changes to your employees as soon as possible. This can help prevent confusion and ensure that all employees are aware of any changes to their schedules.

One way to make schedule adjustments is to offer overtime to employees who are available and willing to work. This can help ensure that you have enough staff available to cover any unexpected shifts or demand increases.

Another option is to allow employees to swap shifts with their colleagues. This can help prevent scheduling conflicts and ensure that all shifts are covered without the need for overtime.

What are 24 Hour Schedule Pattern Examples?

There are several different schedule patterns that businesses can use when implementing 24-hour schedules. Here are a few examples:

2-2-3 Schedule

This schedule pattern is often used in industries that require round-the-clock operations, such as healthcare and manufacturing. The alternating day and night shifts can help employees adjust to working at different times of day and can help ensure that there is always coverage on the job. The three-day weekend can also be beneficial for employee work-life balance and can help reduce fatigue and burnout.

4-on, 4-off Schedule

This schedule pattern is popular in industries that require 24/7 operations, such as emergency services, transportation, and utilities. The long work shifts can be challenging, but the extended time off can provide employees with a chance to rest and recharge. Additionally, the fixed schedule can help employees plan their personal lives around their work schedule.

DuPont Schedule

The DuPont schedule involves alternating between day and night shifts every few days, which can be challenging for some employees. However, the extended days off every two weeks can be a major benefit for employee work-life balance. This schedule can also be beneficial for businesses that require coverage around the clock, but do not need employees to work 12-hour shifts.

Pitman Schedule

The Pitman schedule is often used in industries that require continuous operations, such as call centers and customer service. The three consecutive work days followed by three consecutive days off can provide employees with a predictable routine and can help reduce fatigue and burnout. However, some employees may find it challenging to switch back and forth between work and off days every few days.

Continental Schedule

This schedule pattern involves working three 12-hour shifts in a row, followed by three days off. This schedule is often used in industries such as healthcare and manufacturing, where continuous coverage is needed. The extended days off can be beneficial for employee work-life balance and help reduce the risk of burnout. However, some employees may find it challenging to work such long shifts. Businesses may need to provide additional support, such as breaks and ergonomic workstations, to help employees manage the physical demands of the job.


Creating effective 24/7 shift schedules requires careful planning, communication, and monitoring. By understanding the needs and preferences of your workforce, using scheduling software, accounting for break times, maintaining open communication, monitoring schedule effectiveness, and adjusting schedules as needed, you can create schedules that work for both employees and the business.

Implementing these best practices can help improve productivity, reduce employee turnover, and ensure that your business is able to operate smoothly around the clock. Creating and managing 24/7 shift schedules is challenging but these guidelines can create effective and efficient schedules for your business.