What Is The Pitman Schedule and Is It Right For Your Business?

When you’re a 24/7 operation, scheduling your employees can be a challenge. You’re responsible for maintaining coverage, keeping costs down, and making sure your employees still have work-life balance. A tried and tested shift working pattern, like the Pitman schedule may offer a solution.

Also known as the 2-3-2, the Pitman schedule can help you meet your business needs while protecting your employees’ health and wellbeing.

What is the Pitman schedule and who uses it?

The Pitman schedule is a shift management system in which four teams work either fixed or rotating 12-hour shifts. Employees typically work two day/night shifts, followed by two rest days, and then 3 day/night shifts.

The Pitman schedule allows businesses to operate 24/7 without burning out their employees. It offers workers consistent, predictable schedules with sufficient time off between shifts, promoting productivity and employee satisfaction.

There are two variations, with both versions requiring four teams working 12-hour shifts:

1. The Pitman fixed schedule

On a Pitman fixed schedule, all four teams always work the same shifts, with no rotation. Two teams work day shifts and the other two teams work night shifts.

Day-shift or night-shift, employees work on the following schedule:

  • Work two days
  • Two days off
  • Work three days
  • Two days off
  • Work two days
  • Three days off

This is why the Pitman fixed schedule is commonly known as the 2-3-2 schedule. Employees have two days off followed by three working days, then two more days off.

2. The rotating Pitman schedule

On a rotating Pitman schedule, all four teams rotate between day and night shifts. For two weeks, one team works during the day while the other works at night. After two weeks, they rotate.

With the rotating Pitman schedule, employees also alternate schedules each week. 

In the first week, employees work the following schedule:

  • Work two days
  • Two days off
  • Work three days
  • Two days off

In the second week, employees work the following schedule:

  • Two days off
  • Work two days
  • Three days off

The rotating Pitman schedule is also known as the 2-2-3-2-2-3 schedule (a mouthful, we know) because employees always work two days, have two days off, then work three consecutive shifts.

Industries that use the Pitman schedule 

The Pitman shift schedule requires enough employees to maintain a consistent schedule while managing absence and vacation coverage. This means it’s most commonly used by medium-large organizations that operate outside of a 9-5 workday. For example:

  • Police forces
  • Gas stations
  • Emergency services
  • Hospitals
  • Customer care
  • Manufacturing
  • Dispatching

Pitman schedule example

This is what a 14-day Pitman schedule rotation might look like. Teams continue working the day or night shift for the next two-week rotation. In a rotating Pitman schedule, Team 1 and Team 3 would switch to the night shift, and Team 2 and Team 4 would switch to the day shift.

Advantages of the Pitman schedule

The Pitman schedule is popular because it offers a number of benefits for both businesses and employees. Here are some of the most common advantages:

Advantages for businesses

  • 24/7 coverage: When your business needs round-the-clock staffing, the Pitman shift schedule ensures consistent staffing even during busy or high-demand periods. And because employees have predictable shifts with plenty of days off, you’re less likely to deal with absenteeism due to personal reasons
  • Reduced overtime costs: With a 12-hour shift structure, employees often work fewer days per month than they would with a traditional 8-hour shift schedule. This means employees accumulate fewer overtime-eligible days per month, reducing your staffing costs.
  • Improved employee satisfaction: With longer shifts, employees may have more days off and better work-life balance. A healthy work-life balance is critical for employee happiness and retention—a huge win. Employees with time for their personal lives are more likely to stay put.
  • Increased productivity: Because employees on the Pitman work schedule tend to experience less burnout, they may be more focused and motivated when they’re on the job. Additionally, longer shifts mean less time spent transitioning between tasks, making it easier to complete work in full, further boosting productivity.

Advantages for employees

  • Higher earning potential: Employees on the Pitman schedule receive their base wage plus an added percentage for the extra four hours worked on each shift. Because of the longer shifts, employees are able to earn more money without working additional shifts.
  • More time off: One of Pitman schedule’s main benefits is that employees get more days off than they would working a standard shift, five days a week. Workers on the Pitman schedule get around 15 days off per month compared to a typical eight days. They also get every other weekend off work, which is why the Pitman schedule is sometimes called “EOWO.”
  • A consistent schedule: Shift work is often criticized for its lack of predictability, making it tough for employees to schedule life outside of work. A Pitman schedule provides employees with set, consistent work hours so it’s easier to manage personal obligations, time with family and friends, rest, and other important commitments.
  • Better sleep: With a minimum of 2 days off between shifts, employees have more time to adjust to changing sleep patterns. This can make it easier to establish good sleeping habits and contributes to better overall health and stress levels.
  • Reduced commute time: Longer shifts mean fewer days on the job and less time spent traveling to and from work. Employees save money on transportation costs and stress less about a daily commute. 

Disadvantages of the Pitman schedule

As with any shift management system, the Pitman schedule has its challenges. Here are some of the common disadvantages of this schedule:

For businesses

  • Not suitable for all industries: The Pitman schedule requires enough employees to make four teams that cover all shifts, vacations, and absences—all while maintaining a consistent schedule. At least two people per team is recommended, but realistically you’ll need more. The Pitman schedule may not make sense for very small businesses with limited staff.
  • Difficult to find employees: A lot of employees prefer working longer shifts in exchange for more time off. But for many people,12-hour shifts equal burnout. Using the Pitman shift schedule at your business may decrease your pool of potential candidates and make it harder to fill open positions.
  • Tougher to find coverage: Because employees are already working long hours, they may prefer not to take overtime when asked. This can make it more difficult to arrange for sick coverage or vacation leave

For employees

  • Long shifts: Despite the extra days off, 12-hour shifts can still be exhausting. When employees are tired, it can lead to poor performance and an increased safety risk—especially when they’re nearing the end of three consecutive 12-hour shifts.
  • Health issues: While the Pitman schedule’s predictability may help with healthier sleep habits, it still has the potential health risks that come with shift work. Research shows that consistently working long hours can lead to fatigue, low mood, heart issues, and other health problems.

The Pitman schedule is designed to reduce the impact of shift work, but it’s still important to care for your employees’ health with adequate breaks, areas for night-shift workers to nap, and any other health-related benefits you can offer. 

How Homebase can help you create and manage a Pitman schedule

Do you think the Pitman schedule might be right for your business? Here’s how Homebase can help you build and manage your new schedule:

Just drag and drop. Build your Pitman schedule in minutes with one of our scheduling templates or the drag and drop feature in our work schedule maker. Since the Pitman schedule repeats, simply copy your schedule over to the next pay period as far into the future as you like.

Manage and share from anywhere. With an online employee scheduling app like Homebase, you can share your schedule instantly and send updates from any location. With built-in team communication tools, you and your employees are always in the loop—a huge bonus when your team doesn’t work a standard week. 

Keep your labor costs in check. Homebase makes sure you only pay for the shifts you scheduled by preventing employees from clocking in early and sending you alerts when employees approach overtime limits. You can also break down your labor costs by hour, department, or role and optimize all aspects of your scheduling.  Create your Pitman schedule quickly and easily with Homebase today. Get started for free.

Pitman schedule FAQs

What is the Pitman schedule?

The Pitman schedule is a shift management system that involves four teams working 12-hour shifts. The teams typically work two days, followed by three days off, and then two working days. The Pitman schedule allows for 24/7 operations, but protects the health and wellbeing of your employees.

There are two versions of this schedule: the Pitman fixed schedule and the rotating Pitman schedule. In a Pitman fixed schedule, two teams always work the day shift and two teams always work the night shift. In a rotating Pitman schedule, the teams switch to night/day shifts every two weeks.

How do I know if I should use the Pitman schedule for my business?

You should consider the Pitman schedule for your business if you need to operate around the clock and want to offer your employees better work-life balance. That being said, the Pitman schedule requires four teams working 12-hour shifts and enough employees for sick days and vacation coverage. This may be expensive or tough to manage for very small businesses.

How many employees do I need for a Pitman schedule?

To make the Pitman schedule work for your business, you’ll need enough employees to make four teams and cover all the shifts. At a bare minimum, you should have at least two employees per team. Realistically, you’ll need more to provide coverage for vacations or sick leave. This means 10-12 is an ideal number of employees for the Pitman schedule.

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