C-Desk Technology | Old Vicarage | Rolleston | NG23 5SE | Tel: (+44) 01636 816466 | alec@visualrota.co.uk 

Shift Patterns


I am often asked the question, “What is the most popular shift pattern?” Answer: There is an infinite number of shift patterns. And there are many popular shift patterns. The correct shift pattern for you depends on many different factors. We have put together a list of the most important factors to consider when creating or selecting a shift pattern.   We have cataloged over 250 of the most popular shift patterns. You can now purchase them. They are all set up for a full year. The slide show below shows several different shift patterns.
	24/7 operations   	Flat workloads  	Variable Workloads 	Absence Management 	Resource Management


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The shift patterns are created in Excel. We show you how we do it below. This makes it very versatile. You can use it on any Excel enabled device. There are four different files. One for HISP (Holidays Included Shift Patterns), one for HESP (holidays Excluded Shift Patterns, One for 8-hour shift patterns and another for 8 & 12-hour shift patterns used together. Within each file you have many different shift patterns each on their own tab. All shift patterns have a unique name given on the tab to make navigating the file easier. You can view the list at any time. If you click on the name you want Excel will take straight to the requested shift pattern..
 When you deleted a shift, you will see everything change in the numbers. Try undo and redo to flick back and forth.

Reducing Costs &

Increasing Quality

1. Ensure all shifts are fully staffed 2. Ensure all shifts are fully skilled 3. Ensure everyone can take all their holiday 4. Call or email us 01636 816466 alec@visualrota.co.uk
Having selected a shift pattern, scroll left to right and up and down to see all of the file. The shift patterns are very wide because they are set up for a year hence they have over 365 columns. The shifts are given names, such as D for Day and N for night. There is also HD for Holiday Day and HN for Holiday Night. Days and nights are highlighted in different colours to make it obvious when people are down to work. SD for Sick Day and SN for Sick Night. Sickness and Holidays are coloured in make them highly visible. You can change the names easily by overtyping the names. Try deleting a person’s name (P1) and write your name instead. You can delete or add shifts according to your own requirements.
Calculations are going on as you enter, delete or change shifts. So you don’t have to keep track of them yourself. Instead you can concentrate on the important factors. You can ensure that the workload each day is met or help your staff maintain a good work/life balance. The blue table above the shift pattern calculates the number of people down to work on each shift each day. This means that if someone is absent through illness or holidays, you can see very quickly where you are short. Then if you add in another shift to cover the absentee, the numbers will be automatically updated. This means that you no longer have to manually add up how many people are working on the day shift, or the night shift. Excel will do it for you.

What to Consider when Creating a Roster

Creating a roster can be daunting and very frustrating. However a good roster will not only improve staff morale but will also allow you to do your job better and with greater ease. So it is worth spending some time to get it right. Considerations you need to satisfy: Operational needs The workload Individual requests of the staff Legal constraints Staff/business contracts These factors often cause conflicts, so is there a perfect solution? No solution is ever perfect. You must always make a comprise between what you want and what you need. However there are always many possible solutions and you need to assess what will work for you. Your first consideration should be to minimise your work in creating the rota. It is pointless to waste effort on solutions which will not work for you and the business. Therefore you need to firstly eliminate what is not possible to allow you to focus on viable solutions. Hence you need to consider what you want.

Legal Constraints

Your constrains will be those: set down by statute, guidelines from your clients, Contracts of Employment, maximum hours to be worked, notifiable skills requirement. Contracts of Employment can impose agreements about hours, specific days of the week, payments, etc.

Format of the Roster

How the roster will operate, will eliminate multiple options. Therefore it is important to know what is and what is not viable. The number of consecutive days that can be worked, is an important factor to consider. In general this may vary from person to person but we would advise that when possible, you use no more than 7 consecutive days.

Split Days

Split days are when a person works a short shift in one part of the day, goes home and comes into work later the same day. In general we would advise you to try to keep this to a minimum. They might fit the workload better, but no one likes working them.


Weekends tend to be important for staff morale.  It is always better to share out the weekend working. There are many different ways to work weekends. If possible we would advise against split weekends (weekends where people only work one shift at weekends). This is because people feel that their weekend has been interrupted. if they work split weekends then they would work twice as many weekends than if they worked two shifts at weekends. Weekends are important because friends and family that do not work on shifts are only off at weekends.

Night Shifts

Night shifts affect people’s sleeping arrangements. Determine the optimum length of the Night shift. Minimise single Night shifts, have a maximum number of consecutive Nights. Ideally try to have two or three days off after working nights.

Daily Working Hours

Set up a maximum number of daily working hours for different scenarios. Many people use 8-hour shifts because they are a natural progression from office hours arrangements. However you are not limited by this. We have set up 24-hour shifts, 16-hour shifts are fairly common, most regard 12-hours as a maximum. The longer the shift is, the fewer shifts people need to work.

Days Preceding Leave Days

Ideally the shifts should follow the sun. So if an Early shift is followed by a Late shift, then there is a 24-hour break between the shifts. If a Night shift follows a Late then there is a 24-hour break between shifts. If a Night shift is followed by a Late then there is only an 8-hour gap between shifts. (These breaks are based on a standard 8-hour shift arrangement). If a Night shift precedes a day off then they will not start their leave until the morning of their first day off.

Pattern Rosters

Most people ‘like’ to work to a pattern, which can be regarded as having all the shifts worked in order by everyone. They feel this distributes the hard shifts evenly to all staff. Many people like to work in a team. This way they are always working with the same people. then they know the strengths and weakness’s of everyone. Which works well until someone is absent, whether on holiday or through illness, the effect is the same. They either need to run short or have a stranger amongst them. To avoid this issue, the substitute should be one of them. So consider introducing a regular mix between teams.


Have a notice period for holiday requests or set up set times for holiday requests. This can be times when the workload is lower or there are extra staff to accommodate holidays. There are many ways to accommodate holidays in an orderly manner that minimises your work while allowing shift workers their choice.

Staff Constraints

Everyone has a home life and this often imposes constraints on when they can work. This is the greatest area of potential conflicts so you need to be aware of any constraints.

Agency Workers

Have a resource available that can be called on to fill any gaps in the rota. This can be external or internal to the organisation.

Skills Mix

When creating a shift pattern you need to keep the workload in the forefront of your mind. It is pointless to create a shift pattern that does not meet the workload. The skills mix is an important factor in meeting the workload. After all your aim is to have the right number of staff, in the right place at the right time with the correct skills. The main factors that are going to prevent you from doing this are holidays and absences.  A person with several skills is more valuable than a person with one skill and can fill more holes in the rota. It helps to determine the maximum length of time the operation can work with a missing skill.

Personality Conflicts

This is undesirable but sometimes it has an effect on the rota when contact needs to be kept to a minimum.

Staff Preferences

Everyone has preferences so, where possible, allow shift swapping. It is more difficult to set up a rota to take any preferences into account, but it is easier if the preferences are to work unpopular shifts, such as Christmas Day. Ensuring Cooperation Be flexible Communicate with staff Be fair Use common sense

Writing The Rota

When you find a rota that works, copy it from one period to the next. To start one, list the factors that need to be taken into account. You need to satisfy: Operational needs The workload Individual requests of the staff Legal constraints Staff/business contracts These often conflict so usually there is no perfect solution. You could spend days trying to find it, so instead, set a time limit and produce the best version you can in that time. You can always go back to it later on.

We use our software to set up different staff rotas for all types of shift working

arrangements. You can find more information at www.oranalysts.com about the work

we do and our software.

If you would like to discuss your operation, please call Alec: 01636 816466
There is an infinite number of shift patterns, the trick is finding the right one for you. Hence we have created a reference catalog of shift patterns. This catalog contains over 250 unique shift patterns. It is aimed at managers in all the departments, in all industries. Staff Representative Committees and Unions may also find this book useful when looking for improvement in the ways of working shifts.  These shift patterns are designed to give you ideas and suggestions as to how you can operate a shift pattern. When people think of shift pattern they tend to think there are only a few which will meet their criteria. The answer is: there are many possibilities. You don’t have to be limited when it comes to shift patterns. The common aims when trying to select a shift pattern include: Work/ Life Balance Fairness Flexibility Efficiency Consistency Reliability Low Maintenance Low Costs Robust Operation Work/Life Balance Work/life balance is about control. The ability to know when they are required to work and when they are free to relax and enjoy themselves without the pressures of work. For “office hours” staff, they have no control over their working hours. They are required to work every Monday-Friday, 9-5, unless they take a holiday. So for them work/life balance means the ability to leave work in the evening and not be contacted by work till they come back into work the next day. However shift workers have a far more complex relationship with work. Many do not have set hours of work in the same way as “office hours” workers. When one week you can be working an Early shift and the next week you are working a Late shift, when can work contact you and when should it not impinge on your life? The truth is shift workers have far more freedom than “traditional office hour” employees.  They have a great deal of choice in how and when they would like to work, when they can take their time off, the duration of each of these, the duration of their holidays. Therefore they feel more in control of the time periods at work and periods of time off.   Everyone working on shifts would like to have a good work and life balance. For this a great deal is down to the working shift pattern by providing times to be worked and  times off in the way that suits the business and the individual members of staff. The shift patterns in our catalog provide very different ways of working and having time off with the aim that there will be something for everyone. Fairness Fairness may seem like a simple ideal, but the truth is, it is very difficult to achieve without taking away choice. So you need to prioritise fairness. What do you want to be fair? Do you want everyone to work the same number of shifts? Would that be fair? Over what time period do you want everyone to work the same number of shifts, is it per week, per month, per year? Do you want everyone to work the same number of night shifts? Would that be fair? Do you want everyone to work the same number of weekends per year? Would that be fair? What about Bank Holidays? Is it fair that some people are down to work every Bank Holiday in the year and others are down to work none? That is why a simple solution to the ideals of fairness is to assume that everyone is an individual on the shift pattern and rotate them through the whole shift pattern. That way everyone works the same number of shifts, in the same order, in the same way, just a few days apart. Selecting the right Shift Pattern for You Selecting the right shift pattern for you, is a personal and lengthly process. The workload, and how you intend to run the day to day operation will have a big impact. However once you have made those decisions you will either be very limited in your choice of shift pattern, or the shift pattern will be immaterial to the operation. For instance, in most office environments you require the continuity of the same people working at the same time each day. The only time you will be short is when someone takes a holiday. When you require everyone in each day, you tend to be very limited in the shift pattern you can use. However if you require 24/7 fixed staffing, you have lots of different shift patterns you can use, which will all give you the same result. So you can give the options to your shift worker to select. They could work an 8- hour shift pattern, a 12-hour shift pattern, eight hours during the the week and12-hours at weekends to minimise the number of weekends they have to work. In some organisations the work is constantly changing and long periods of time off, such as a mere four or five days are detrimental to the business. The Business and Staff requirements from the shift pattern are very demanding in different ways. Some people may want to work two shifts and then have two days off, others might like to work six shifts and have six days off. Also the way the weekends are worked are important with some shift patterns giving alternating weekends off, whilst others have them working on six consecutive weekends. When we started to help out organisations in the early 1990’s, we set up every shift pattern individually for each application. We found that over time a pattern was emerging with a core nucleus of two or three shift patterns, as the initial starting point. These few shift patterns were then slightly amended to fit the operations requirements. This catalog contains the basic shift patterns and many variations to fit a whole host of requirements. Using the examples in this catalog will allow you to find a shift pattern that will work for you. Describing a shift pattern is difficult but do not dismay. For easy identification the shift patterns are all named with numbers that convey the main features of the shift pattern. For instance, the common 12-hour duration shifts on a ‘4 shifts on-4 shifts off’ (4on-4off and sometimes referred to as ‘Continental Shifts’) this shift pattern is called ‘44’. This gives the key parameters of working days on and off. The aptly named ‘44’ shift pattern involves people working 4 shifts on days and then having 4 days off. ‘44’ also describes the way the Day and Night shifts are worked in a set of 4 at a time
A shift pattern doesn’t need to be written in stone any more, it can be as flexible as  your organisation needs.
Like a trifle that has layers upon layers to make it work, so does an efficient shift pattern. Otherwise it can easily  become an Eton Mess
Our shift pattern catalog contains over 250 examples set up for a full year. You choose the year and it generates the shift patterns for you. They include the most common shift pattern ‘Continental Shifts’, in several different formats. There is also the most popular shift patterns when selected by the shift workers. These are the 232 and the 554 for 12-hour shifts. The most popular manufacturing 8-hour shift pattern is the 7on-2off shift pattern. Our shift pattern catalog: Created in Excel to make it very easy to use Designed to be used straight ‘out of the box’ Contains up to 50 staff working on 5 different shifts Rename the shifts to match your current operation Create your own shifts Create your own shift patterns Set up for a complete year as a starting point It calculates the number of shifts they are scheduled to work and their working hours It calculates their holidays It calculates their sick days You can roster Teams or up to 50 Individuals You can supplement the shift pattern data with Pivot Tables, graphs and much more.