4 on 4 off schedule

4 On 4 Off Schedule: What It Is and How It Works

Scheduling can be demanding, especially for a business that requires 24/7 attention. It’s a delicate balance: You must ensure your business needs are met while also keeping your employees’ well-being top of mind. A 4 on 4 off schedule might just be the solution.

In this article, we’ll walk you through what a 4 on 4 off schedule is, how it works, and its pros and cons. We’ll also give you some tips on implementing this smart scheduling solution.

Table of contents

What is a 4 on 4 off schedule?

A 4 on 4 off schedule is a rotating schedule popular with businesses that require 24/7 coverage. Employees work 12-hour shifts for four days consecutively, followed by four days off. When they’re on the clock, each four-day block of shifts alternates between day and night.

With multiple teams working opposite schedules, the business is always covered and operations are continuous.

4 on 4 off schedule: How it works

4 on 4 off schedule software

Because it’s a repeating pattern, the 4 on 4 off schedule is easy to set and anticipate. Let’s take a look at an example.

Example of a 4 on 4 off schedule

Employee A works a day shift for four days followed by four days off. They then work a night shift for four days, and then take four days off again.

Employee B works a night shift for four days followed by four days off. They then work a day shift for four days and take another four days off.

Employees C and D work the same schedules as Employees A and B, only staggered, so they cover the days when A and B are off the clock.

4 on 4 off schedule: Pros and cons

In order to decide whether the 4 on 4 off schedule is right for your business, it’s helpful to look at the pros and cons.

Potential Pros

Better work-life balance

The first pro of a 4 on 4 off schedule is that it offers an improved work/life balance. With every four days of work comes four days off, which allows employees to relax, travel, and spend time with family and friends.

Improved productivity

Businesses implementing this sort of schedule can expect increased productivity due to fewer shift changes and more consistent attention to the job.

Less disruption between shifts

With only one shift change a day, you can expect less disruption from personnel coming and going.

Increased cost-effectiveness

Because it’s such an efficient schedule with a limited amount of shifts, a 4 on 4 off system can be more cost-effective thanks to reduced overhead and optimized coverage.

More scheduling predictability

Of course, because this type of schedule is repeating, it’s very easy to predict and extrapolate to the future.

Less employee burnout

Four full days off between shifts allows employees to thoroughly recharge before diving back into work.

Potential Cons

Long shifts

tired employee from a 4 on 4 off schedule

With a 4 on 4 off schedule, shifts are long — normally 12 hours. This means employees must have an excess of both mental and physical stamina.

Inconsistent work days

On its face, this is a simple type of schedule, but because it’s based on an 8-day pattern, there is no consistency as to the days of the week your employees will work.

On top of that, it may be harder to get coverage if there’s a last-minute call-out or a no-show, as others may be more resistant to giving up their off days.

Communication gaps between shifts

After a 12-hour shift, an employee will inevitably be tired and eager to leave. As such, they may forget to pass along important information to the incoming team in their rush to get home.

The 4 on 4 off schedule for the restaurant industry

4 on 4 off schedule for the restaurant industry

To best understand the 4 on 4 off schedule, it’s helpful to consider the needs of a 24-hour restaurant.

To cover a restaurant that operates around the clock, you will need to create four teams comprised of hosts, servers, cooks, and dishwashers (and any other necessary skills) so that all of the necessary roles are always filled.

Two teams work alternate schedules while the other two are staggered to cover the first teams’ time off.

This type of schedule can provide consistency for the food and experience, though you’ll want to keep an eye on employee fatigue and leverage downtime to maintain your team’s energy.

How to implement a 4 on 4 off schedule

There are a number of things to keep in mind when implementing a 4 on 4 off schedule. Let’s dive in.

1) Assess your needs

Before implementing the schedule, you’ll want to take a look at your operational needs. How many people do you need at a given time? What skills must they have?

Then you can organize teams to address these needs on a daily basis.

2) Get your team on board

Talk to your team before deciding on a new type of schedule. Be sure they understand why you are considering the 4 on 4 off schedule and what they can expect if it gets implemented.

3) Make scheduling policies

Establish the policies and procedures around scheduling that address call-outs, no-shows, schedule swaps, lateness, schedule conflicts, and anything else that might come up.

4) Design the schedule

Next, you want to design a schedule that meets your business and employee needs. Using Sling’s scheduling software, you can not only set the schedule with ease but can quickly communicate needs and changes using our instant messenger.

5) Train your team

team training

It’s important to train your team on the process and expectations around scheduling to avoid confusion.

6) Prepare for task continuity

As we mentioned earlier, after a 12-hour day, your outgoing team will be tired. Make sure your processes account for this with easy ways to transfer information without holding them up.

7) Ask for feedback

After a couple of weeks of using the 4 on 4 off schedule, ask your team for feedback. If there are challenges, it’s best to know early so you can address them quickly.

8) Offer support

Making yourself available to help your team manage their workload is important for employee satisfaction.

9) Keep an eye on performance

Set up performance metrics so you can see how the team is doing with your new schedule.

Other 24-hour scheduling options

The 4 on 4 off schedule is just one of several options for businesses that require 24/7 coverage. If this isn’t a good fit for your business, there are others that might work better.

Continental shift schedule

With the Continental shift schedule, each employee works 8-hour shifts over an 8-day rotational cycle. Generally, employees will be broken into four teams that work two morning shifts, two swing shifts, two night shifts, and then take two days off.

2-2-3 schedule

The 2-2-3 schedule requires employees to work 12-hour shifts over a 28-day rotating shift schedule. Over a four-week cycle, four teams work two or three shifts in a row, followed by two or three days off.

DuPont schedule

The DuPont schedule is also a 28-day rotating schedule where employees work 12-hour shifts. With this schedule, four teams work an equal amount of day and night shifts.

Smart scheduling with Sling

team who does 4 on 4 off schedule

The 4 on 4 off schedule is all about meeting your business needs while making sure your employees have a healthy work/life balance so they remain productive, satisfied, and engaged.

Using an employee scheduling software like Sling can make shift scheduling much easier to manage. Our software features work schedule templates that are as easy as drag and drop, and instant messaging capabilities to address conflicts or facilitate shift swaps.

Not only a scheduler, Sling’s features also include:

The best news of all: You can try Sling for free. Visit GetSling.com and take advantage of our free resources on scheduling and managing your team for success.

This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal, tax, HR, or any other professional advice. Please contact an attorney or other professional for specific advice.

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