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24-Hour Shift Schedule: Tips, Examples

Blog Images_24-Hour Shift Schedule- Tips, Examples

If your doors are open and the lights are always on, you’re always available and welcoming.

A 24-hour shift schedule can benefit customers, who can come to your business anytime. However, this schedule can be difficult to manage and plan for.

Night shifts can have a negative impact on morale, so it’s important to be fair when scheduling them. However, swapping and rotating 24-hour shifts can be difficult for employees trying to adjust.

As the manager, you must be prepared for the varying levels of customer interaction throughout the day, from the peak traffic hours to the slowest periods. This can be difficult to plan for, but you must ensure that you have enough staff to meet the customers’ demands at all times.

A 24-hour shift schedule can give your team larger blocks of consecutive days off, avoid rush hour traffic and commuting headaches, and allow them to run errands while others are working. 

However, there are some drawbacks to this type of work schedule. Maintaining social relationships outside of work can be difficult since your free time will likely be limited. 

Additionally, the physical demands of working long days and nights can lead to sleep disorders. Fatigue and depression are also common among people who work shifts. Finally, this type of schedule can put a strain on family relationships.

Creating a 24-hour shift schedule that is fair to your employees and meets customer demand is possible despite the challenges.

Before Building your schedule

There are various ways to build a shift schedule, with 24 hours being a lot of time to work with. There is no right or wrong way to do it; it all depends on what is best for your team.

To help you choose the most appropriate shift schedule for your staff, consider the following key factors:

What type of business do you have?

The needs and expectations of employees and management differ greatly between restaurants, hospitals, and manufacturing facilities. As such, the questions you need to ask in order to determine the best 24-hour shift schedule will vary depending on the type of organization.

A hospital might be interested in knowing how many patients they tend to see during different seasons and how many emergencies they see on weekends. A manufacturing facility will want to know about production demands, scheduled maintenance, and times when equipment will be offline.

A restaurant’s primary concern is customer traffic. On the other hand, a security company may need more personnel during low-traffic times. This is the opposite of many other kinds of businesses.

What kind of availability can your staff offer?

What is the average availability of your employees?

 Are there any employees that can offer more hours than others? It is important to speak to employees and ask about their availability instead of making assumptions.

Various 24-hour shift schedules can be used depending on the number of employees. If you have a small staff, certain schedules may not be feasible.

What does your sales data tell you?

In order to effectively plan your 24/7 shift schedule, you need to have a clear understanding of your customer traffic patterns. When are you the busiest? When is it slow? What kind of customer needs happen at different times of the day? Are you offering delivery services? This information allows you to create a schedule that meets your customers’ needs.

For example, if you’re a 24-hour restaurant, your late-night customers may be more interested in coffee and pie. You may be able to turn off the grill, not schedule kitchen staff, and only offer basic counter services for those late-night shifts. You may only offer delivery services during peak hours.

What business resources do you have to offer?

Can your organization afford to pay overtime? Can you offer higher pay for those working the night shift or less desirable shifts?

Before choosing a 24-hour shift schedule, you should have a few enticing options for filling out some of those late shifts. Offering extra pay is always a good idea, but make sure you can afford it before making any promises.

What do your employees prefer?

Working at any hour of the day or night can create concerns and strong preferences among employees.

What are your employees’ preferences regarding shifts? Can you get their input and involve them in the scheduling process, so they feel a sense of ownership? Would they prefer rotating shifts? 8-hour or 5-hour shifts? Remember that laws may require 8-hour shifts, but if not, consult with your team.

Understandably, you may want to decide quickly and on your own. However, this decision will significantly impact your employees’ personal lives. It is not only smart but also the right thing to do to get their feedback before making a final decision.

What kind of flexibility will you offer?

Flexible self-scheduling can benefit shift work, but you need to plan accordingly if running a 24-hour shift schedule.

Can employees swap shifts or schedules with each other? If so, how will you ensure that you have the necessary coverage for each shift in terms of both total employees and required skills? What measures will you take to ensure employees are not overworked and have healthy sleep schedules?

It is important to use scheduling tools that allow you to set restrictions and guidelines so that employees can swap shifts within your policies.

Scheduling tools that allow shift swapping are a great way to ensure that employees follow your policies and guidelines.

How will pay time off factor in?

What are your thoughts on paid time off for employees?

If an employee calls in sick or takes any other time off, it can disrupt your business’s schedule. Although you can plan for paid time off with your employee, there may still be times when you need to fill in the gaps in your workforce.

If you plan a 24-hour shift schedule optimal for each employee, the absence of even one can be problematic.

What practices do you need to avoid?

Many managers may be tempted to assign a clopening shift when struggling to fill out their schedules. However, this is not advisable.

The overnight shift can be tough on employees, who must juggle closing duties the night before and opening duties the next morning.

Although you are open 24 hours, some places that claim to be open 24 hours have a closing procedure before they start the new day. Others actually close for a short time in the early morning to clean and reset.

Even though you may be a 24-hour business, it is still not advisable to have someone work the evening and early morning shifts back-to-back, with the overnight shift given to someone else.

If you use clopening shifts, you will create employees who are sleep deprived, have poor mental and physical health, and are prone to burnout.

There should be no schedule containing a late night/early morning back-to-back shift for any employee. Even if they claim they don’t mind, this schedule is not conducive to a healthy work-life balance.

24-hour shift coverage examples

There are various ways to arrange shifts across a week and across a day. Here are a few examples of shift schedules that might work for you, so you can start shifting planning like a pro.

Fixed shifts

The simplest way to staff your business is to hire people for specific shifts. That way, they’ll always work the same shift without surprises.

The staffing of shifts is based on the customer demand that occurs during those shifts. In businesses where customer numbers increase at certain times during a shift, part-time workers can be used to cover the extra demand.

Scheduling becomes more straightforward with a day shift, and some employees find it more comfortable since they don’t have to readjust their bodies to constantly changing day and night shifts. Customers are also more likely to develop relationships with the same staff when they come in at the same times of the day.

However, employees unhappy with their shifts cannot switch to a different one. They may need to look for work elsewhere. 

Fixed shifts can benefit businesses of any size, but it’s important to remember that employees need time off. To ensure coverage for all shifts, businesses must have more employees than the bare minimum. This will also account for employees who have time off.

Rotating shifts

Shifts that rotate between employees are more equitable, allowing everyone to work different shifts. This ensures that no one is stuck with undesirable shifts, and everyone gets a fair chance at the desirable ones.

Rotating shifts can be:

The constant rotation of shifts can be complex for employees, both physically and mentally.

Slowly rotating shifts over long periods of time allow employees to adapt to the change.

The weekend shift is common in smaller businesses that don’t have the staff to cover it otherwise. Employees take turns working these shifts.

A shift schedule is not always fixed for every employee; some may have to rotate their shifts.

Rotation shifts are ideal for medium to large businesses, as they provide a great way to mix up different rotations.

Swing shifts

Swing shifts are a common scheduling strategy in businesses needing steady output or coverage. This type of shift allows employees to have different starting and stopping points each day instead of a set start-stop time for every employee in a shift. 

For example, instead of having shifts that run 8-4, 4-12, and 12-8, there would be a variety of different shifts mixed in, such as 9-5, 11-7, etc.

Swing shifts can be staggered with standard fixed shifts to ensure a seamless transition between shifts. Some employees find that working swing shifts present a unique challenge that helps keep them engaged and prevents boredom associated with working the same shifts simultaneously.

Some people prefer to work regular shifts so that they can plan their calendars accordingly.

Swing shifts typically require a larger employee base to accommodate the staggering of shift times; this can also make scheduling more complex.

Days on, days off, plus shift rotation

If you want to solve equity issues, mix up your shift rotation with your workweek structure.

Let’s use this 24/7 shift schedule example that could be broken up into five eight-hour shifts followed by two days off.

The work schedule is arranged into three 8-hour shifts (day, middle, and night), with five work days followed by two days off. The employee’s two days off will be moved to another day of the week next week.

Every seven weeks, the schedule would repeat.

It is generally not advisable to flip an employee back and forth between day and night shifts too often, as this can disrupt their sleep patterns. A possible solution would be to give an employee the day shift for seven weeks, the middle shift for seven, and the night shift for seven.

You might consider splitting it up if employees do not want seven consecutive weeks on one shift.

This approach is most effective with a staff of 15 or more, as this ensures coverage in all rotations. Other viable options include four days on, two days off (36 or more employees), five days on, three days off (40 or more), and so on.

Managing your employee’s weekly and shift schedules can be best done using an employee scheduling tool that allows templates. This way, you can easily manage each employee’s alternating schedules.

This approach is equitable in that everyone can work the days and shifts they desire or do not desire. It also gives them consecutive days off to refresh. If your business requires specific skill sets on some shifts, this approach may also not work.


Efficient shift scheduling for 24/7 coverage can help control labor costs, keep productivity high, maximize revenue, and keep employees happy. This guide provides information on how to make a 24-hour shift schedule.

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