5 types of work schedules for your business to consider

sWork schedules aren’t like they used to be. The most common work schedule of 9 to 5 is now just one of the many different types of shifts that workers can be scheduled for. So, what’s better for your business and your workers: traditional or alternative work schedules? Well, that depends on the nature of your business, the needs of your customers, and the wants of your employees. 

No matter what you decide is best for your business, there are tools that can help make scheduling the easiest part of your day. 

What’s a work schedule?

You might think that a work schedule is a few shifts laid out for the week, but it’s a bit more complex than that.

A work schedule is more like a plan. It determines an employee’s working hours, days on and off, and depending on the business, it outlines the tasks they’ll perform. It works with the schedules of other teammates so that all needed shifts are covered as required.

Work schedules are commonly made for both full-time or part-time work, and can include flexible work hours, rotating shifts, fixed or split schedules. It’s important to create work schedules that actually, you know, work: not just for your scheduling apps, but for your employees and your customer flow.

What’s the most common work schedule?

There’s a reason why Dolly’s 9 to 5 song was so popular—it’s the most common type of work schedule for employees in North America.

The 9 to 5 job is the traditional schedule that people think of when they hear the words “full time job”. These work schedules can be paired with images of corporate life, a pension, and hour-long commutes.

But although it’s popular, it doesn’t mean it’s the only way to work. In fact, there are many different alternatives to working the 9 to 5, and businesses are taking note. Even in 2019—also known as pre-pandemic times—50% of employees globally were working outside of their main office headquarters at least 2.5 days a week.

Our bodies also would benefit from more flexibility,” says Emily Laber-Warren in this opinion piece from the New York Times.

Ms. Warren leads the health and science reporting program at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York.

Each of us has a personalized rhythm known as a chronotype — an internal timer that governs when we naturally fall asleep and when we are most alert. For more than half of adults, biological bedtime falls after midnight, which means that a typical 9-to-5 work schedule throws many of us out of sync.”

It’s evident that our minds need time to decompress and disassociate from work, no matter what our jobs are. And for busy people who also need to walk the dog, feed the kids, or in some cases, work a second job, finding that time can be difficult.

So, maybe Dolly was onto something when she said “there’s a better life”.

Let’s see how different work schedules might help us get there. 

The 5 most common work-schedule types that aren’t 9 to 5

Not every schedule is a 9 to 5, and that’s perfectly fine. Here are 5 common work-schedule types that might work for your business. 

1. Shift work schedules

Shift work is defined as any work schedule that falls outside of the hours of 7am and 6pm. It can include evenings, nights, and morning shifts, and fixed or rotating schedules.

An example of shift work schedules could be a bike mechanic working Tuesday and Wednesday from 8 am to 2 pm, and on Saturday from 12pm to 8pm. They could be scheduled for these hours due to the amount of bikes in the shop that need to be fixed, or in anticipation of a rush on the weekend.

Shift work schedules can be beneficial for any business that has customers or clients outside of “regular business hours”. This includes restaurants, hotels, retail, manufacturing, tourist spots, galleries, and more.

When it comes to scheduling shift workers, business owners need to be aware of the rules and regulations that support the health and safety of workers.

For instance, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that if an employee is working more than 40 hours in a 168 hour period, it should be counted as overtime. This is because the average American work week is 40 hours, which equals 8 hours per day for five days a week.

Businesses and organizations are required to schedule a minimum of 8 hours in between shifts, and in some states, like New York, employees must receive a 24-hour break between shifts at least once a week, and employers must offer a minimum of 4 hour shifts.

Wondering where the happiest shift workers in the United States live? See if your city makes the list of happiest shift workers in America.

2. Flex work schedules

Flex work schedules are when employees work a full shift but in varying hours. It gives employees a bit more control over when they work and is an alternative to the 9 to 5, offering staff more autonomy in their day. That said, some employers do require a “core time” that staff should be online or at the job. 

According to a 2019 study by the International Workplace Group, 80% of workers would turn down a job that didn’t offer a flexible work schedule for one that did.

Employees with flex work schedules can create compressed work weeks or break up their days. For example, one employee might decide to work an extra 30 minutes every day of the week in exchange for every other Friday off, while others might break up their days into halves, working 7am to 11am and jumping back on from 2pm to 6pm.

While flex work schedules may seem like the answer to the work/life balance conundrum workers find themselves in, it’s not always an option for every business.

Flex work schedules can work for creative industries, like design or photography studios, for example, but not for businesses with strict hours of operation or busy times dictated by customer flows.

3. On-call work schedules 

On-call work schedules refer to a schedule where employees are available to work outside of their regular hours if necessary.

These types of schedules are common in retail and hospitality, and can be used to cut a business’s labor cost. On-call work schedules can mean that staff members don’t need to be on-site at the business premises all the time but are available to come in on short notice if necessary, like in a rush or if someone calls in sick.

There are currently no laws or regulations around on-call shifts, but even though they can be convenient for managers and business owners, employees might find on-call schedules challenging.

One challenge is a lack of security in pay. On-call work schedules mean that employees don’t have any guarantee of work, which means there’s no guarantee of getting paid.

Another challenge is lack of work/life balance. On-call work schedules don’t always offer the flexibility employees need in their personal lives. If a manager calls, they might have to reschedule commitments or find alternatives for child care with limited notice. The result? Low employee satisfaction, higher levels of stress, and a lack of security in their role. 

4. Rotating schedules

Rotating work schedules are implemented by businesses to cover various shifts for their weekly schedules or monthly schedules. If a business decides to go this route, you’ll see employees working a variety of shifts, whether they’re 12-hour shifts or less,  like the day shift, night shift, or any other type of shift for a certain number of consecutive days.

Once those days are up, it’s time to rotate. Employees will now work the second shift—the type of shift they didn’t previously work—for another set period of time.

For example, an employee might work the day shift for 6 weeks, and then in the following 6 weeks, they would switch to the night shift.

There can be a number of perks to rotating work schedules, all depending on the type of business you run. For example, in a retail environment that’s based on commission, weekday mornings may be very slow, and some workers might not appreciate only getting these shifts. With a rotating work schedule, the manager can switch up employees from mornings to the busier evenings every few weeks, so every staff member can get a fair chance at making commissions. 

5. Split shift schedules

Split shift work schedules are when a work schedule breaks a single day into separate shifts for an employee. The break in between shifts is normally a minimum of 2 hours. For example, a server might work the brunch shift at a restaurant, then return at 3pm to prepare for the evening’s dinner service.

Split shifts come with various rules and regulations depending on the state you’re working in. For example, in California, it’s stated that “workers who earn the minimum wage per hour are entitled to additional pay known as a “split shift premium” when their schedule includes a split shift. The premium is equal to one hour of pay at the rate of the minimum wage”.

If you’re a business owner exploring split shift work schedules, make sure you know the regulations for your local area.

What are the advantages of alternative work schedules for employees?

Working outside of the traditional 9 to 5 can have its advantages. Employees who have the autonomy to work flex work schedules or shift schedules can have more freedom in their day or night. They might be able to take advantage of down-times in traditional industries, like enjoying a quiet Main Street on a Tuesday morning shopping trip, or being able to find some me-time at the coffee shop while the world works away on a Wednesday afternoon.

Exploring different work schedules can also support your creativity, work habits, and help you develop healthy working habits—something that every employee should have, no matter their schedule type.

A 2023 study focused on work-life balance reported that “a substantial portion of the global workforce are working either long or short hours when compared to a standard 8-hour day/40 hour working week”. The study found that longer hours of work were “generally associated with lower unit labor productivity” and shorter hours were linked with a boost in productivity. 

What are the disadvantages of alternative work schedules for employees?

Although alternative work schedules can offer advantages like more flexibility and the potential for extra pay, they can also come with their disadvantages. 

These can include issues with work/life balance, especially for on-call workers and those working split shifts. Employees who are working rotating shifts might also suffer from health issues, like stress and mental health issues. Consider a worker on night shifts for 6 consecutive weeks. Until their body gets used to the schedule, they might feel overworked or even disconnected from their surroundings, family, and friends. This can not only decrease their job satisfaction, but it can also prove unsafe.

From the employer’s perspective, alternative work schedules can be a bit of a headache.

Without the proper tools, there may be tracking issues, scheduling conflicts, unhappy employees, and difficulty coordinating with teams. 

3 ways to manage shift schedules for employees

Here are three tips that you can implement now to manage shift schedules with ease.

1. Manage work schedules with a scheduling app

Scheduling work schedules can be tough, especially when they’re outside of the typical 9 to 5, but it can be done—and done easily.

By using smart employee scheduling software, you can automate the process of scheduling your staff, no matter their working schedule. Depending on the software, you can organize your labor data and keep it all in one place and even try to try a timesheet template to help with payroll, too. 

2. Manage work schedules with time tracking

Time tracking is an important part of any work scheduling. You’ll want to make sure your employees are showing up on time, leaving on time, and taking the appropriate breaks.

Using a manual system can make it hard to do this, but software can help. With some software, you can even set up your break and overtime rules to comply with federal, state, or city laws, which is important for staff who are working outside of the common 9 to 5 schedule.  

3. Manage employee satisfaction with transparency

If you don’t have happy employees, you’ll probably have a hard time making sure they show up for their scheduled shifts. Without transparency and open communication, employees might feel like their schedules are unfair compared to others, leading to decreased morale or a toxic workplace.

On the opposite side, you’ll want to know when employees are feeling their best and what works for their life. By collecting feedback from employees, you can schedule to suit the needs of their life, and of course, your business.

No matter which work schedule is best for your business, Homebase can help.

Time, energy, planning, tracking, and communication. Let’s face it: scheduling is a process.

Homebase helps you get through it all with tools to support the needs of your business and your team.

Let’s start with scheduling. Homebase’s schedule-maker sends your hourly workers calendar notifications about their work schedule, and alerts them when their shift is coming up. Our online scheduling feature means that managers and business owners can build and update the schedule from anywhere for any number of employees, and know that their team will always have the latest schedule in their pocket.

Homebase also offers a connected time clock that makes it easy to have a full picture of your labor costs. Think of it like a punch clock app or time tracker, but on their phone, a tablet, computer, or POS at work. It’s a modern, digital way for employees to clock in and out of their shifts. The time clock connects with your online timesheet or time tracking software to calculate hours and create payroll reports and wages for each team member. 

Check in on your employees

Looking to see how employees are doing? Track and store employee performance so you can make better scheduling decisions. Our scheduling app can show you which employees show up late most often, so you can schedule accordingly and take action. Or, check out info like which time periods have the highest sales (and need the most staff scheduled).

Lastly, let’s talk about communication. With Homebase, your team gets our free mobile app, meaning they’ll always have access to their up-to-date schedule, hours worked, and earnings. Employees also have the autonomy to track and manage their time-off requests and availability, and can communicate with each other on the app to coordinate and request shift trades or covers, tracking everything so you don’t have to.

Remember, when work schedules aren’t the typical 9 to 5, you need tools that are as agile and on-the-go as your employees. By taking a modern approach to scheduling and time tracking, your team gets the transparency and simplicity they need, and you get hours back in your pocket—and because time is money, some dollars, too. 

Work schedule FAQS 

What is a work schedule?

A work schedule is a plan that determines an employee’s working hours, days on and off, and sometimes, and depending on the business, it outlines the tasks they’ll perform. It works with the schedules of other teammates so that all needed shifts are covered as required.

Which work schedule is right for my business?

Figuring out which work schedule is best for your business first starts with understanding the needs and nature of your business, the people you serve, and the employees that you’ve hired.

Once you’ve determined that, you can try a variety of work schedules if it makes sense for your business. For example, you might know that a 9 to 5 won’t work for your restaurant, but you’re not sure if split shifts in combination with rotating shifts will. To find out, solicit feedback. Ask your employees what they want, and test both.

Track your findings then make a plan—just don’t forget to communicate it. 

How can a work scheduling app help me?

A work scheduling app can help to automate the work schedule process. It can help you organize your labor data, provide timesheet templates, digital time clocks, and notify you about what’s happening at your workplace.

Should I use an hours tracker to track my employee hours? 

If you’re creating work schedules, you probably need to use an hours tracker to track your employee hours. This can help you stay on-top of what’s happening at work, like when employees are late for shifts or approaching overtime.

Tracking employee hours is also necessary for taxes. With a time tracking app, you can store time cards—including all edits—in one space, helping you comply with FLSA record-keeping rules.

Want to end your scheduling chaos? Get Homebase to build, share, and optimize your work schedules to keep your team on track—no matter their shift. Get started for free with our easy scheduling app.

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