12-Hour Shift Schedules: Pros & Cons of the Most Common Schedules

While most office jobs operate on a standard 40-hour work week with employees working 8 hour days from Monday through Friday, industrial sites that operate around the clock are generally not afforded that luxury. Because workers need to be onsite 24 hours a day, most industrial companies operate on 12-hour shift schedules.

There are many different types of 12-hour schedules and each one has a number of variations. Picking a schedule that is right for your company can be challenging. Each schedule has its own pros and cons that must be considered and evaluated according to your company’s needs.

Most Common 12-Hour Shift Schedules

Let’s take a look at the three most commonly used 12-hour shift schedules.

The DuPont

The DuPont has been in use since the 1950’s and its name is derived from the company that originated it. The schedule revolves around a maximum of four consecutive day or night shifts and a single day off between another three consecutive day or night shifts. Employees then have a 7 or 8 day period of consecutive days off during every 28-day rotation.

  • Pros: While employees have long stretches with very few days off, they also enjoy having a weeklong “mini-vacation” each month.
  • Cons: Working several consecutive night shifts and long stretches with limited days off causes fatigue. Employees also have a tough time re-adjusting to work when they get back from their 7-8 day off time.

The “2-3-2”

The 2-3-2 was first introduced in the 1960’s and became popular in the 1980’s. The schedule is based on a 14-day period in which employees work 2 days on, 2 days off, 3 days on, 2 days off, 2 days on, and 3 days off. It is sometimes referred to as “every other weekend off.” This type of schedule is widely used in oil refineries.

  • Pros: Employees know they never have to work more than three consecutive days in a row and will always have every other weekend off.
  • Cons: This shift requires workers to switch back and forth between day and night shifts, which can lead to fatigue. Also, while employees never work more than three days in a row, they also never have more than three days in a row off.

Four On, Four Off (or 4 x 4)

As its name states, this schedule requires employees to work four consecutive day or night shifts followed by four consecutive days off. While it varies by company, employees typically rotate day and night shifts as frequently as every 8 days or as infrequently as every 24 days.

  • Pros: Always having four consecutive days off gives employees plenty of time to recuperate between shifts. This schedule also provides employees with three consecutive weekends off during every eight-week cycle.
  • Cons: Because this schedule is based on an eight day period rather than the standard seven day week, employees’ days off are pushed forward by a day each period. That can make scheduling future plans difficult since workers do not have set days off. It also means that during every eight-week period, there are five consecutive weeks in which employees must work at least one day on the weekend. For some, four consecutive shifts can be tiring as well.

Each of these 12-hour work shift schedules can be altered in various ways to suit your needs. When evaluating a shift schedule, it is important to understand the pros and cons of each and how they impact workplace safety.

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