What Is the Pitman Schedule & Should Your Team Adopt It?

Pitman Schedule

Shift work enables organizations to employ different employees or teams during particular hours of the day. This ensures your organization can run round the clock without overworking your employees. 

Pitman schedule is one such shift calendar suited to medical services, law enforcement agencies, and other departments that work throughout the day. 

In this article, we’ll discuss how it works, its advantages and disadvantages, and share a few successful implementation tactics. 

Finally, we’ll also introduce a few alternatives to the Pitman schedule.

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Let’s get started.

What is the Pitman Schedule?

Pitman schedule is a work plan that provides 24/7 coverage with four teams or crews working 12-hour shifts in a 2-week cycle

There are two versions of this schedule: fixed and rotating.

1. Fixed Shift

In the Pitman fixed schedule, the same team will take the day shift during all cycles. In other words, the first team will always work during the day and the second team will work at night. 

Here, an employee will follow a repeating cycle of:

  • Two working days.
  • Two days off.
  • Three working days. 
  • Two days off. 
  • Two working days. 
  • Three days off.

As this schedule has only three working days between two consecutive off days, it’s also called the 2-3-2 schedule.

Typically, the first team will follow the below day schedule and the second team will have the night schedule during the second shift of the cycle respectively:

WeekMonTuesWedThursFriSatSun
1Day/NightDay/NightOffOffDay/NightDay/NightDay/Night
2OffOffDay/NightDay/NightOffOffOff

And the other two teams will follow the below schedule during the same period:

WeekMonTuesWedThursFriSatSun
1OffOffDay/NightDay/NightOffOffOff
2Day/NightDay/NightOffOffDay/NightOffOff

2. Rotating Shift

The Rotating Shift Schedule makes teams working the day shift during a cycle work the night shift in the next cycle. And the team performing the night shift will be in charge of the day shift in the following cycle and so on. 

This rotating schedule is also called the 2-2 3-2 2-2 work schedule.

Here’s the schedule the first team will follow in this rotational shift work:

WeekMonTuesWedThursFriSatSun
1DayDayOffOffDayDayDay
2OffOffDayDayOffOffOff
3NightNightOffOffNightNightNight
4OffOffNightNightOffOffOff

Replace ‘day’ with ‘night,’ and that’s the second team’s schedule.

Simultaneously, the third team will work according to the below schedule:

WeekMonTuesWedThursFriSatSun
1OffOffNightNightOffOffOff
2DayDayOffOffDayDayDay
3OffOffDayDayOffOffOff
4NightNightOffOffNightNightNight

And the fourth team will follow night shifts in place of day shifts and vice-versa.

Both fixed and rotating versions of the Pitman schedule are popular in:

  • Police departments.
  • Emergency medical services.
  • EMS call centers and dispatchers.

Now, let’s see a few drawbacks and benefits of the Pitman schedule.

The Pros and Cons of the Pitman Schedule

Here are the benefits and drawbacks of following the Pitman schedule:

1. Pros

A long shift schedule, like Pitman, is more likely to give employees the time they require to complete a task in a single day. This can save the time they would otherwise take to recollect information or regain their flow.

Additionally, a shift worker gets every other weekend off in a Pitman work schedule. Unlike the typical two day weekend, it offers a 3 day weekend. 

Most importantly, there are two weeks with only two working days in a month. A person can get a week off by taking leave for those two days! 

Moreover, it ensures that employees won’t have to work consecutively for more than three days, reducing employee absenteeism due to personal responsibilities.

2. Cons

In a Pitman schedule, an employee will have to work 12 hour shifts. This can take a toll on the employee’s mental health

Such long work hours could aggravate anxiety, depression, and burnout, leading to lower productivity and worker fatigue

Additionally, long schedules can discourage employees from taking up extra work or overtime. This can be an issue when employees need to work extra to compensate for leaves.

However, implementing the Pitman schedule the right way can mitigate these drawbacks. 

Let’s see how you can do that. 

7 Ways to Successfully Implement the Pitman Schedule

Here are seven tips to help execute the Pitman schedule in your organization:

1. Decide on Convenient Start and End Times

The shift’s start and end times should enable employees to work efficiently and prioritize their well-being.

For example, employees older than 45 years are less likely to adapt to the night shift. Instead, you can assign them day shifts to maintain team productivity levels. 

Similarly, employees with health issues can be allotted day shifts to help them get quality rest during the night.

2. Guide New Employees

New hires may find it difficult to adjust to the shifting schedule or long shift lengths initially. This can cause physical and mental illnesses, like insomnia, fatigue, etc.

They’ll also be more likely to make errors because of these conditions. 

To prevent this, you need to guide new employees through different shift types and long working days. You can help them plan their work day by including breaks, sleep, and other activities to manage time effectively.

You can also watch for any signs of fatigue, like yawning or untimely dozing, and take the necessary steps to support employees in such cases.

3. Design Workplace to Improve Work Experience 

Here are two ways you can set up a workspace to enhance positive work experiences during shift work:

A. Light-up the Seating Area

A workplace with abundant light can alleviate stress and sleepiness. It can also help employees stay awake, especially during a shift change from day to night.

Light exposure in the workspace can influence the human circadian rhythm and reduce an employee’s tendency to sleep.

According to the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information), you need to use light between 1200 and 10,000 lux for three to six hours to maintain this effect. 

B. Designate a Napping Area

Intermittent napping can help your employees rejuvenate and reduce tiredness during a night shift.

They can strategically plan a power nap during their break, benefiting their health and performance. 

Additionally, to get quality sleep, you can provide them with:

  • Eye masks
  • Earplugs 
  • Dark blinds
  • Comfortable pillows and blankets. 

4. Schedule Breaks

Short, regulated breaks during 12 hour shifts can help refresh employees.

They are also a great time to grab a snack, catch up with colleagues, or take a nap – helping them concentrate on work better. 

However, you may want to control social media usage during such breaks as it can be counterproductive and increase stress levels.

Additionally, monitoring break time is necessary to ensure employees work for a minimum number of hours a day. 

But how can you know the duration of breaks?

You can use a productivity management tool like Time Doctor.

Time Doctor logs the time your employee stops and resumes work accurately using a silent or interactive timer. The tool also acts as a scheduling software using which managers can access work schedule settings and record whether employees clock in punctually.

5. Limit Caffeine Consumption

Caffeine is associated with boosting alertness and preventing drowsiness. Employees who have caffeinated food or drinks at the beginning of the shift may be more active than those who don’t.

However, caffeine consumption during the later stages of the shift can impact employees’ sleep,  leading to sleeplessness after the shift. 

This is why employees need to plan when to have coffee or other caffeinated drinks carefully. And employers can try an include non-caffeinated beverage and snack options in the cafeteria or pantry.

6. Keep in Touch with Employees about Work 

Routinely communicating with employees can give you a clearer idea about their schedule preferences. You can then carry out employee scheduling such that everyone is satisfied.

Conducting these one-on-one sessions can help you know the issues employees face due to shift work. You can devise a scheduling system and suggest appropriate lifestyle changes to help overcome them.

7. Come up with a Carpooling System

Carpooling is a safe, environment-friendly commuting option, especially after night shifts.

Not only can this reduce the chances of accidents due to sleep deprivation, but it may also give employees more time to sleep. 

Employee bonding could be another positive side-effect of this system. 

However, the Pitman schedule may not be the right choice for all types of workplaces. 

So let’s check out some alternatives to the Pitman schedule.

3 Common Alternatives to the Pitman Schedule

There are several other 12 hour shift schedules like Pitman. 

Here’s a quick look at a few of them:

1. DuPont Shift Schedule

The DuPont work schedule is a four week cycle that consists of four teams working 12 hour schedules to provide 24/7 coverage. An employee following this schedule will work 42 hours on an average per week.

Like the Pitman schedule, this system is popular in health centers, police departments, and other fields that offer round-the-clock service. 

As per this schedule, a team will work:

  • Four consecutive night shifts.
  • Three days off duty.
  • Three consecutive day shifts.
  • One day off duty.
  • Three consecutive night shifts.
  • Three days off duty.
  • Four consecutive day shifts.
  • Seven consecutive off duty.

Here’s a representation of a typical DuPont work schedule:

Team/WeekMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturdaySunday
1Night NightNight Night OffOffOff
2Day DayDayOffNightNightNight
3OffOffOffDayDayDayDay
4OffOffOffOffOffOffOff

a. Pros

Employees will get seven vacation days together once in four weeks. They can use this for short vacations, rest, personal projects, etc. 

b. Cons

The schedule has three to four continuous day or night shifts. And employees may find it hard to readjust their circadian rhythms after consecutive day or night shifts.

Additionally, they will only get a day off between three consecutive day shifts and three consecutive night shifts. Such a short break during a hectic week could cause fatigue and burnout.

2. Panama Schedule

The Panama schedule, or 2-2-3 schedule, is a 12-hour, slow rotating shift system with four teams covering 56 days in a cycle. It provides 24 hours coverage a day, with an employee working 42 hours on an average weekly.

The schedule is popular among military and security service organizations, law enforcement agencies, medical institutions, etc.

Staff following this schedule will work for:

  • Two working days. 
  • Two days off.
  • Three working days. 
  • Two days off. 
  • Two working days. 
  • Three days off. 

Employees who follow the day shift during 28 days of the cycle will have to work night shifts for the next 28 days.

Here’s a Panama schedule representation:

Team/WeekMonTuesWedThursFriSatSun
1Day/NightDay/NightOffOffDay/NightDay/NightDay/Night
2OffOffDay/NightDay/NightOffOffOff
3Day/NightDay/NightOffOffDay/NightDay/NightDay/Night
4OffOffDay/NightDay/NightOffOffOff

a. Pros

A team won’t have night shifts for 28 days straight in a cycle.  

b. Cons

Even though this schedule isn’t hectic, it gives employees only 26 weekends off in a year on average. This can restrict them from socializing and affect their work-life balance.

For more information, check out our detailed guide on the Panama schedule.

3. DDNNOO Schedule

This fast-rotating schedule offers 24/7 coverage using three teams and two 12 hour shift schedules. A DDNNOO cycle consists of six days and needs team members to put in 56 hours of work in a week on average.

It’s widely used in industries that require employees to work throughout the day, like customer support, manufacturing, and healthcare.

Those adapting the DDNNOO schedule will have to follow:

  • Two consecutive day shifts.
  • Two consecutive night shifts.
  • Two days off duty.

Given below is a representation of an example of the DDNNOO schedule:

Team/WeekMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturday
1Day/NightDay/NightDay/NightDay/NightOffOff
2OffOffDay/NightDay/NightDay/NightDay/Night
3Day/NightDay/NightOffOffDay/NightDay/Night

a. Pros

The DDNNOO schedule gives employees two days off after every two night shift. Additionally, the schedule is cost-effective as you employ only three teams.

b. Cons

The long twelve hour shifts can drain employees. In addition to this, each employee may have to work overtime for 16 hours a week on average.

Wrapping Up

The Pitman shift schedule provides 24/7 coverage, gives employees time off, and also has less overtime. 

But you need to be aware of its disadvantages, which, if left unchecked, could lead to employee stress. 

Fortunately, you can follow the tips we covered here to mitigate the Pitman schedule’s negative effects and ensure employee well-being. You can also check out the alternatives of the Pitman schedule if it doesn’t suit your work culture or industry.

 
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