12 types of work schedules: which is best for your small businesses?

As small businesses adapt and evolve to the shifting conditions of the world around them, so too do staff work schedules. These days, types of work schedules can vary widely depending on many factors, including business type, client needs, and so much more. 

If you manage a small business, chances are you’ve encountered some scheduling hiccups already. Over or under staffing, missed shifts, and overscheduled employees are all too common. This can lead to heaps of stress and confusion for everyone involved. The gist? It’s crucial that managers stay organized when it comes to scheduling.

In order to keep on top of your business’ unique scheduling needs—and to avoid the messiness of scheduling conflicts—we’ve put together a detailed guide on 12 different types of work schedules and how to manage them efficiently and effectively, regardless of your industry type or how many people you employ. 

Let’s get to it.

What are work schedules?

A work schedule refers to specific days and times a business’ employees are expected to be on the clock for paid work. Work schedules often differ depending on the type of business and who it serves. 

For example: A nanny working for a family may have a full-time schedule that mirrors their employers: Monday through Friday, during daytime hours of 9am-5pm. 

Conversely, a bartender is often required to work nights. Depending on the bar’s hours and how it’s managed, this type of work may revolve around flex shifts that vary on a weekly or even seasonal basis. 

As you can see, there’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to work schedules. That can make a manager’s job quite tricky. There are often multiple moving parts to handle, like tracking employee hours, managing requests for vacation time, or ensuring none of your employees are overworked, which can lead to burnout. According to Forbes, this is a timely issue businesses need to look out for, with staff burning out at record rates.

Creating a work schedule for your small business doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. The process for scheduling can still be done the old-school way: manually determining work schedules by using a digital spreadsheet or calendar. However, it’s much simpler and more streamlined to use scheduling software and apps to manage staff schedules.

What are the 12 different types of work schedules?

Whether your small business runs on a set schedule with predetermined hours or not, we recommend you familiarize yourself with these 12 different types of work schedules, and plan accordingly. 

After all, knowledge is power. If you invest the time to learn about your scheduling options, you’ll be better equipped to keep your team on track.

1. Standard

A standard work schedule refers to the classic 40-hour work week where employees work set days and times. It’s most commonly known as the “9-to-5.” This schedule usually follows regular business hours between Monday to Friday at eight hours a day, but start and end times can vary depending on the company. 

Standard work schedules traditionally work best for office workers of all sorts, from receptionists to HR reps. The downside? They don’t offer much wiggle room. If you work a standard schedule, you’re expected to be on the job for eight hours a day, five days a week. In return, workers reap the benefits of having a predictable schedule that’s easy to plan around. 

If you’re lucky enough to have a senior manager on your team or someone in HR or finance, they might operate on this schedule.

2. Fixed 

Fixed work schedules share some similarities with standard schedules. The main difference is that they function better for businesses that are open beyond standard hours of 9am-5pm. Though it can be full or part-time hours, a fixed schedule remains consistent on a weekly basis.

A fixed full-time schedule may look like Wednesday through Sunday, 7am-3pm for a dental hygienist working in an office that’s open more than eight hours a day. A fixed part-time schedule may be Thursday through Saturday, 3pm-11pm for a server working in a busy restaurant. 

Either way, fixed work schedules offer the benefits of consistent, reliable shifts just like standard schedules. They follow a specific, stable timetable regarding hours and days worked.

3. Full-time 

Full-time work schedules dictate that an employee works, on average, between 35 to 40 hours total per week. The specific days and times don’t necessarily need to adhere to a set schedule. A full-time job’s schedule can vary widely depending on the company, but always sticks to the average 35 to 40-hour work week.

For example: A retail worker with a full-time work schedule could be on the clock six hours one day, eight hours another day, and so on, equalling a total of 35 to 40 hours for the week. During the week, however, their schedule changes depending on the store’s needs. 

A full-time schedule gives workers peace of mind that they’ll work and get paid for a set number of hours each week. However, they also have to keep an eye on their changing schedule to avoid missed shifts or other logistical issues.

4. Part-time

Part-time work schedules are for employees who work less than full-time hours each week. The hours can fluctuate greatly depending on the type of job. A part-time worker’s schedule can be all over the map when it doesn’t follow fixed hours, presenting challenges for both managers and employees.

A part-time schedule’s unpredictable nature makes it difficult to plan around; however, the flexibility can also offer certain benefits, especially when it comes to filling shifts on the fly.

Ben, manager of a busy indie bar, sees the value of using a scheduling app to keep his part-time crew organized: “It can be super challenging to manage part-time schedules for my team of five because they all have unique situations that require flexibility, and it’s my goal to provide that as much as possible. Switching to an app we all use has been a total game-changer for everyone.” 

5. Unpredictable

Unpredictable work schedules are just that—wildly unpredictable! This type of schedule can change at the drop of a hat and doesn’t follow a set timetable of days and times. It means employees can’t expect a predictable pattern from week to week. 

Unpredictable schedules are just as challenging for employers as they are for workers. They often require tons of patience and the ability to pivot at a moment’s notice. This is when a scheduling app can be a real lifesaver for all parties, offering simplicity, organization, and adaptability for the chaotic schedules that need it most. 

6. Flex

Flex work schedules are based on availability during a core set of hours (for example: 10am-3pm, Monday through Friday), while the remaining weekly work hours can be filled at an employee’s discretion. This type of schedule allows staff to adapt to the demands of modern life, like attending medical appointments or clocking out early on a Friday for happy hour. 

Flex schedules are based on the idea that as long as employees are available to work for a set number of hours each day, often for ease of scheduling team meetings or other functions, their start and end times can be more fluid. Managers may need to be more proactive when it comes to rallying the troops at specific times, but studies are showing that flex work schedules have a positive impact, often boosting employee productivity and engagement

7. Split shift

Split shift work schedules require workers to divide their work day into two, often starting with a few hours in the morning, taking an extended break, and then returning to finish the remaining hours in the afternoon or evening. This type of shift work can be valuable or difficult for employees, depending on their individual circumstances. 

Split shifts are often used for school bus drivers, in call centers, or in restaurants. Regardless of the job, it’s important that employers check local employment laws before implementing split shifts to ensure they’re following proper guidelines. 

8. Rotating shift

Rotating work schedules generally apply to shift workers like those who work in the medical, transit, or construction industries. This type of schedule requires staff to work set hours that rotate on a specific timeframe, changing from week to week or on a biweekly basis. 

For example: a hospital nurse may work a day shift of 8am-4pm one week, and then a night shift of 10pm-6am the next week, going back and forth between the two set shifts. 

Rotating shift work can be demanding and a tough adjustment for workers, with sleep disorders being a common challenge. It’s crucial that managers take compassion and understanding into consideration when creating a schedule based on rotating shifts. 

9. Seasonal

These kind of seasonal work schedules are ideal for businesses that are only busy at certain times of year, and require staff that are willing to only work during those specific timeframes. 

Seasonal staff are often hired at resorts that only operate during the summer and/or winter, or at national parks during peak visitor times. This type of schedule works well for those who have other jobs in the off-season like artists or writers, but can present challenges for hiring managers in terms of onboarding and retaining reliable staff. 

10. Alternate 

An alternate work schedule covers a wide swath of ground, referring to a schedule that accommodates the unique needs of an employee and often differs from that of their colleagues. This type of schedule could apply to pregnant staff or those with other special circumstances. They’re often temporary. 

This can present certain challenges for managers when creating alternate schedules, often requiring them to hire more staff to fill in the gaps or rearranging existing staff schedules. Using streamlined scheduling software can help clear up the confusion of alternate work schedules. 

11. On-call

On-call work schedules are at the discretion of the employer, requiring employees to be available for work at a moment’s notice. Once a worker gets the call to come into work? You bet: they’re required to drop whatever they’re doing and show up able to provide service, day or night. This means workers can’t go on a lovely day trip two hours away, or enjoy a couple glasses of wine while on-call. 

Doctors, midwives, veterinarians, and other medical professionals are no stranger to the on-call schedule. On-call schedules can be challenging to achieve work-life balance. According to a recent study by the National Library of Medicine, recovery time from on-call shifts is “limited under conditions of extended work availability, which may impair well-being”.

Shift managers should always keep the health of their on-call employees in mind, even during work emergencies, by planning a fair and thoughtful schedule. 

12. Compressed

The compressed work schedule has been making headlines on a global scale thanks to the attractive nature of the four-day work week. A compressed schedule looks like longer shifts in less than five days. For example, working four 10-hour shifts in a week to reach full-time hours is a compressed schedule.

Creating compressed schedules for employees is relatively simple when hours are fixed, and provides the bonus of an extra day off for staff.

Things to consider when choosing a work schedule for your small business

How do you determine which type of work schedule your business should use? Well, that complex question requires business owners and managers to evaluate different aspects of their company’s needs.

If possible, start by taking a communication-centered approach

This basically means asking your team what would work best for them. Some small businesses can offer this type of flexibility. So, why not invite employees to the conversation? Giving your staff a voice improves overall communication. That can benefit your business environment in countless ways, like boosting productivity, organization, and overall morale

Use multiple types of work schedules to ensure shifts are covered

Are you running a small business with varied shifts, several locations, and evolving requirements that require you to adapt as you go? It may seem challenging to balance all these dynamics, but there’s no rule that says you need to stick to only one type of schedule. If you’re juggling a complex scheduling situation, lean on a scheduling app like Homebase to streamline your processes and keep staff organized and up-to-date. 

Consider your business hours and who you serve

Every small business generally keeps to a set of operating hours. This can shift throughout the year, of course, but managers should have a clear picture of when they need staff to work and plan schedules accordingly. Operating hours depend on what makes the most sense for your business and who your customers are. Once these things are determined, choosing the type of work schedule that works best for you should be fairly straightforward. 

Manage different types of work schedules with scheduling software

Creating work schedules shouldn’t be the biggest conundrum in your day. If you use simple tools like Homebase, it never will be.

Whether your small business requires complicated or straightforward scheduling, Homebase has everything you need in one user-friendly app. This is one of the best employee scheduling software options out there. Here’s why:

  • It provides unlimited schedule templates you can build and customize yourself, or the system can automatically build it for you
  • You can optimize shifts with its auto-schedule feature
  • Its self-scheduling features give you the ability to post open shifts and allows for shift swaps between staff with your approval
  • It allows you to easily track employee hours, availability, and time-off requests to avoid scheduling snafus
  • You will get alerts to avoid overtime and scheduling conflicts, and your staff will be immediately alerted to any changes as well
  • You can build schedules that are in line with your sales forecasts and labor targets
  • Once a schedule goes live, your team will be instantly notified via text, email, and in the free mobile app for iOS and Android

We could go on and on, but if you still need convincing that Homebase is your top option for scheduling software, you can read more here.

Types of work schedules FAQs 

What are the different types of work schedules?

There are 12 different types of work schedules. Listed out, these are standard, fixed, full-time, part-time, unpredictable, flex, split shift, rotating shift, seasonal, alternate, on-call, and compressed. 

What are the best types of flexible work schedules?

The best types of flexible work schedules allow your staff more freedom to strike a work-life balance. We recommend you try one of these work schedules: 

  • Flex
  • Alternate
  • Compressed

What are the best types of alternative work schedules?

The best types of alternative work schedules deviate from the traditional 9-to-5. The best bet for your small business depends on your unique needs. Consider one of these options:

  • Flex
  • Split shift 
  • Rotating shift
  • Seasonal
  • Alternate
  • On-call
  • Compressed

What is scheduling software?

Scheduling software automates the process of creating schedules for your business and allows  you to ditch the outdated paper-and-pen system. Homebase offers a free option for scheduling software that’s feature rich and will be your best friend when it comes to scheduling your team.

What is the best scheduling software to handle multiple work schedules?

If your small business requires you to manage a variety of work schedules, the Homebase app is your top option. It’s considered the best scheduling software to handle multiple work schedules, especially if ease-of-use is your top priority. 

No matter what type of work schedule you’re using, Homebase makes it simple and straightforward to build, share, and optimize schedules. Keep your team on schedule with Homebase.

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