Productivity

What is a 2-2-3 Schedule, How Does it Work, and How to Make it Work for You

February 2, 2023
IN THIS BLOG

Accommodating social distancing and quarantine protocols made it a must for companies to change their way of doing business. The post-COVID-19 era – if it can be called that – continues using plenty of forcefully introduced creative working solutions. From hybrid to coworking spaces, we’re seeing it all.

In addition, it dawned on organizations how many of their employees prefer working from home. Catching on to the current climate, Microsoft studied the reprioritization of people’s approach to work. Interestingly, more employees are realizing the importance of health, well-being, family life, and work-life balance.

The same study shows your workforce may be moving beyond that! Many think it should extend to healthcare benefits for family members and the flexibility to take time off and schedule custom workday schedules.

So, if you’re one of the holdouts, you may want to think about allowing at least partial WFH scheduling. Educate your managers on how the move isn’t just improving work life balance for your employees. But that your business can also benefit from increased productivity. And if you don’t know how to plan things out, this guide should help you interpret one of the most popular burgeoning hybrid work models, i.e., the 2-2-3 work schedule or the 3/2 Split.

The 2-2-3 Schedule

Figure 1. Monthly 3/2 Split Schedule

Also called Panama Scheduling, the 2-2-3 schedule comprises 4 rotating shifts. By dividing your workforce into teams, you can ensure each alternates between day and night shifts.

The 2-2-3 Work Schedule Pros and Cons

The Technical Deets

  • Well-suited to admin, healthcare, military, and other training-based work
  • Gives employees 3-day-long weekends every alternating week while also reducing the number of consecutive workdays to 2
  • Reduces the annual working day load on employees from 260 to 180 days 

The Pros

  • Flexibility for workers to alternate between day and night shifts while providing optimal time for person-to-person in-office collaboration
  • Great for team cohesion since it removes the depersonalization associated with fully remote work environments
  • Opens you for business 24/7, increasing the customer pool you can serve and attract and profit. Round-the-clock availability helps build trust and strengthens client relationships
  •   Lowers turnover and, in turn, employee unproductivity time—something that multiplies year after year
  • Fewer between-shift employee-employee or employee-management communication errors

The Cons

  • Knowing how many hours is a 2-2-3 schedule means you also realize your employees will be working for 12 hours straight—and 62 hours per week. It can get exhausting and monotonous and turns hazardous if prolonged to a two-day-long period
  • Employee sleeping cycle could get affected due to the rotation between day and night shifts
  • Studies link the night work shift with the development of cardiovascular disorders, increase in stress, negative effects on the immune system, and career burnouts
  • The risks of overindulging in unhealthy activities, such as smoking or overeating, also increase
  • You may be adopting a more office-centric model rather than an employee-centric one. That’s because your workforce will be spending more days in the office than anywhere else. So, you may want to think of applying one of the other more flexible types of scheduling

Not to be missed: Employee Burnout: Here is How Effective Resource Planning Can Help

Caveats & Potential Hang-ups

If you’re going towards execution, here are things you should know about the 2-2-3 work schedule:

Schedules Get Trickier

The waters get murkier when some workers are on sick leaves or vacation. You may have to call in the day shifters to make up the numbers. And given they may already be having a hard time with their sleep schedules under the 3/2 split, most wouldn’t appreciate serving double shifts.

Consider the State you’re in

You may think you’re in charge of the work schedule for your employees. However, the local legislation may have other ideas. So, do due diligence before making your own 2-2-3 work schedule calendar 2023. For example, Californian employers must hold a vote within a month and submit proof of two-thirds approval to the Department of Industrial Relations. Don’t lose the records, or you’d be violating California’s standard overtime laws.

Don’t Pay through the Nose

Often, companies have to handle around 2% wage increases when switching from an 8-hour shift to a 12-hour schedule. Use vigilant time-tracking aid, like timegram, to ensure cost neutrality. You’d know when your employees are working and the exact compensation owed.

Not to be missed: From Dragging to Flowing: How to Find Your Most Productive Hours

Examples of the 2-2-3 Work Schedule in Practice

The 3/2 split may seem too complicated for companies to try. However, that’s not the case because we bring several 2-2-3 work schedule examples of organizations making this alternate scheduling work. What’s more, they put their own custom spins on it:

Google

Put forward by the company’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, Google switched back in 2021. Essentially, 20% of its employees began working remotely and in new office locations while the rest of the Googlers stuck to the original plan.

Amazon 

Amazon’s operations are titan-sized, and they haven’t all embraced the 2-2-3 shift plan. Their warehouse, however, needs to be available 24/7 to meet the fast and next-day delivery demands. In this 2-2-3 work schedule example, shifts begin at 6-8 in the am and pm and end between 5 and 7.

7-Eleven 

Being among the largest gas stations in the US means 7-Eleven can’t be anything but available to the locals and passing-by truckers 24/7. However, they pull this off with a three-way split of their workforce. The first batch comes in at 7 am, the second at 3 pm, and the last at 11 pm. Each completes an eight-hour-long stint.

Managing the 2-2-3

So, now you’ve seen the 2-2-3’s doable, you may feel inspired to put it into practice at your own organization. Side note: remember, the less undue strain your employees feel due to the shift switch, the better your Panama scheduling will work.

Figure 2. Well-matched with edgy detectives who can solve cases during the day and work the night shift.

Below are a few steps that achieve both objectives and can help you create a 2 2 3 schedule template:

Get, Set, A-Going

First off, your early risers will be most productive if their shift start time is in the wee morning hours. The same applies to those who prefer to start their day later and others who opt for an even later start. To summarize, shift start time is very important for high productivity. So, let them know they can choose the most suitable time. 

Secondly, the type of work each team performs also dictates when their day should begin. Thirdly, you may not be able to adjust every employee’s schedule—unless you’re using timegram, i.e. So, create room for flexibility by allowing them to switch with their colleagues. In fact, a Flexjobs poll showed almost 97% of respondents would remain loyal to companies providing them with flexible employment.

After all, such a timetable would ensure employees can:

  • Manage their work/life balance
  • Have peace of mind that they can change shift times in emergencies

Get, Set, A-Going as Early as you can

You will have fewer issues if you factor in employee uptake when making the said schedule. Moreover, disseminate the rosters early enough so your employees can prepare for the split. Barring project emergencies, stick to the schedules as best as possible. And when roster readjustment becomes necessary, solicit feedback from your workforce once again.

Get, Set, A-Going with timegram

Managing employee scheduling can be a chore with larger workforces. So, don’t try doing it on your own. Instead, let software do the hard work for you. And while there are various tools you can use, including:

  • Calendly
  • Zoom shift
  • Sling
  • Google Calendar
  • Worktime
  • Clockify

We’d recommend doing it with timegram for the following reasons:

  • You’ll have an overview of your team, including information on who’s available for more tasks, which members are overbooked, etc.
  • Automating the process makes handling shift swaps and finding subs for employees on sick leave easier
  • Zero confusion when you introduce a new work schedule since you can set it up and share with team members of your choice
  • Employees can select the shift pattern that works best for them, and your team leads can still track them easily
  • Introducing breaks in the 12-hour schedule equation can be tricky but necessary. However, with timegram, your employees can choose which hours they want to share with their team leads/managers. Therefore, they can omit break time and only show their productive hours without fear of judgment.  

Get, Set, A-Going and Stay Lit

The University of Bergen study demonstrates minimizing drowsiness and boosting employee focus with the right combination of cold white light and high light levels is possible. When the light’s too dim, we feel drowsy. Too bright light, on the other hand, could cause migraines and eye problems. So, get the balance right. Moreover, our bodies release melatonin in the dark, indicating it’s time to sleep. Therefore, when a workplace’s well-lit, the workers are more likely to remain productive, focused, and alert. Checking off task after task would fill them with a sense of accomplishment, boosting positivity.  

Get, Set, A-Going for Naps

Believe it or don’t, but more big names are buying into the workplace napping increases productivity and eradicates boredom philosophy, like:

  • Nike
  • Ben & Jerry’s
  • Google
  • Facebook

These brands have dedicated rooms where employees can indulge in 15–20-minute-long power naps. So, consider if you can do something similar for your 3/2 shifters.

Get, Set, A-Going but Take the Noobs with You

Managers should regularly communicate with new employees to ease the transition. However, doing so becomes doubly necessary when those newbies will be doing shift work. That’s because a rotating schedule can cause insomnia, exhaustion, and other issues when it comes to new employees.

Some ways in which managers can ease the transition period and smooth over adaptation include:

  • Checking newbies for signs of tiredness
  • Sharing written instructions for the assignments they need to complete
  • Have a more experienced team member mentor them
  • Allow room for first time shifters to adjust to a rotating schedule
  • Dedicate the first batch of working days to an orientation on work, shifts, and environment

Get, Set, A-Going at the Right Pace

If your employees aren’t taking regular breaks while working 12-hour shifts, they will begin to show signs of stress! Our brains have trouble focusing on tasks after being at it for long periods. What’s more, from there, the issue could snowball into anxiety, burnout, and depression. This study on Nursing Administration, for instance, shows how healthcare providers can experience occupational fatigue.

Planned break time will ensure they can be their most productive and efficient selves, delivering quality work. Therefore, remove the risk of having to handle overworked staff by:

  • Recommending employees take short and frequent breaks
  • Introducing them to time management tools and strategies, such as Pomodoro
  • Allocating mandatory spans for relaxation and decompressing 
  • Using timegram to monitor which team members aren’t taking breaks

Not to be missed: Remote Working Culture: Productivity Killer or Enhancer?

Alternatives to the 2-2-3 Work Schedule

You now know what is a 2-2-3 schedule. However, given your organizational goals, nature, or culture, it may not be a good fit. So, it’s good to know a few alternatives. That’s what you’ll find below, along with their pros, cons, and employee types best suited to such scheduling:

  1. 48-96

Best suited to employees with long commutes and emergency services with 24/7 coverage. This timetable has workers on shifts for 48 hours straight and then allows them 96 hours off-time. However, being at or away from their desk for such long durations can cause productivity and fatigue problems.

Figure 3. A 48-96 workshift would make it easier for Cinderella to balance her responsibilities and dreams, taking her from glass to the top brass!
  1. The Southern Swing

Each shift is eight hours long. Within a month, employees work 7 days in the daytime shift, take 2 days off, work 7 swing shifts, take 2 more days off, and then work 7 night shifts with 3 days off. Since no one’s hours overlap, it makes round-the-clock service provision possible. And while employees work shorter shifts, they rarely get weekends off.

Figure 4. Perfect for smart witches who need eight hours of sleep at night since they must stay focused and alert and constantly use their brain power to extricate classmates from dangerous situations during the day.
  1. The Kelly
Figure 5. For all the Bonds on your team

Another schedule commonly used in emergency services, the Kelly operates on a 9-hour workday. Employees come in for 3 of those and get the remaining days as mandated off time. While the Kelly ensures teams don’t have to work all weekend long and have plenty of off time per rotation, the 24-hour shifts can cause fatigue and productivity problems.

Ideal for teams who juggle multiple tasks, switch from one to the other very quickly and must stay on top of them all. Makes working long hours and managing multiple responsibilities possible while granting enough time to rest and recharge.

  1. DuPont

Best for industrial-sized companies and policy agencies while ill-suited to smaller firms, the DuPont timetable is based on 12-hour shifts. It goes as follows:

  • 4 night shifts before 3 days off
  • 3 day shifts before a day off
  • 3 night shifts and 3 days off
  • 4 day shifts with 7 days off
Figure 6. Suited to teams that must be able to focus intensely on specific tasks for an extended period.

Conclusion

Shift working adds a new dimension to the workplace, allowing employees to be better at balancing work and life. You can choose any of the scheduling options mentioned above to boost growth productivity. However, the payoff will largely depend on how well you can manage the scheduling process. So, start investing in a new way of getting work done but do it with the right data and tools.

FAQs

How do you make a 2-2-3 schedule?

As its name would suggest, a Panama schedule requires workers to come in for two days, be off duty for the next two, and then work for 3 more days before 2 off days. It rotates teams between day and night shifts.

What is the 4-3-3-4 work schedule?

All shifts comprise consecutive working/off days. Besides that, this shift schedule has teams come in for 4 consecutive night shifts before being 3 days off duty, and then the workers do 3 consecutive day shifts and get a day off duty. Next, the schedule requires workers to work for 3 nights, be off duty for 3 days, then 4 day shifts, and seven-day-rest.

What are the other types of work schedules?

There are many types of work schedules, such as the:

  • 4 to 10
  • 2-2-1
  • 2-2-3
  • DuPont
  • Southern Swing

What are the two types of work schedules?

Companies usually have either fixed or rotating schedules. The latter type is best for companies providing 24/7 services and ensures employees get plenty of days off, so they return to work refreshed and bursting with productivity.

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Midhat Hadi

About the author

Midhat Hadi successfully caught herself a PhD in Botany. When she's not gloating, she writes fiction and blogs.

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