The term “rotating shifts” refers to work schedules that change (or “rotate”) from one shift pattern to another on a regular basis.
Rotating shifts are most commonly used by businesses and services that are open late or even 24 hours a day (for example, emergency workers, care homes, and IT providers), since rotating shift patterns allow staff to share the responsibility of working later or more antisocial hours between them, without leaving any gaps in the rota.
A rotating shift pattern means that all or most employees will work every type of shift at some point during the rota period — whether the rota covers the week, month, or even a whole year.
Example rotating shift pattern
When working on a rotating shift pattern:
- Team 1 works the early shift for one week
- Team 2 works the mid shift
- Team 3 works the late shift
At the end of the week, the teams then “rotate” so that Team 1 works the mid shift, Team 2 works the late shift, and so on. This pattern continues when, at the end of the second week, each team moves on to the next shift type, before resetting the week after.
By using a rotating shift pattern, each team gets a turn working each type of shift. This means that the onus is never on just one team to work the more antisocial hours, which over time can have a negative impact on one’s work-life balance and mental health.