What is a 2-2-3 schedule and how can you use it?
The 2-2-3 work schedule also called the Panama schedule, is a 28-day rotational cycle in which each employee works in 12-hour shifts (day/night). The 2 2 3 work schedule usually involves 4 teams that work 2 days, then get 2 rest days, followed by 3 days of work.
Examples of both the 2-2-3 and the Panama shift schedule can be found below..
Last updated April 13, 2023 • 3 minute read
Working in shifts is necessary for industries with varying and longer opening hours. Especially in sectors where you have to be present 24/7 in order to be able to help everyone, as is the case in healthcare for example. It is not easy to work long and irregular shifts on a regular basis and as a team manager, this can cause problems when it comes to leading the team.
Fortunately, a 2-2-3 work schedule can help you and your teamwork smoothly and manage their work-life balance.
In this blog, we will discuss the 2-2-3 work schedule and how to implement it. We also provide some tips that will help you manage your team while following the 2-2-3 work schedule.
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What is a 2-2-3 schedule?
The 2-2-3 work schedule is a 28-day rotational cycle in which each employee works in 12-hour shifts (rotating between day and night). The 2-2-3 work schedule usually involves 4 teams that work 2 days, then get 2 rest days, followed by 3 days of work.
This is repeated weekly, however, the second week begins with 2 rest days, then 2 workdays, then 3 rest days. This is then repeated in week 3 from the beginning. Typically, a month consists of 14 12-hour shifts.
Download a free 2 2 3 schedule template
What is a Panama Schedule?
As indicated, the panama shift schedule is almost the same as the 2-2-3 work schedule. However, there are some minor differences. Unlike the 2-2-3 schedule, panama shifts rotate every 28 days between day and night shifts (instead of 14 days in the case of the 2 2 3 rotating schedule). Thus, the cycle of the panama schedule rotates every 56 days instead of every 28 days.
Here is an example of a 2-2-3 work schedule:
D = Day shift
N = Night shift
O = Rest day.
Teams are labeled nr. 1 to 4.
Here is an example of a panama work schedule:
D = Day shift
N = Night shift
O = Rest day.
Week 1 - 4 / day 1 - 28
Week 5 - 8 / day 29 - 56
Both the 2-2-3 work schedule and the Panama schedule offer your employees more flexibility and stability despite having to work long and irregular shifts. This, in turn, creates a higher level of satisfaction and positive experience at work and is therefore liked to be described as employee-friendly.
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The benefits of a 2-2-3 work schedule are:
- Employees only need to work 180 days a year.
- They do not have to work more than three days in a row.
- They have a 3-day weekend every other week.
- Their schedule is stable and predictable.
Create your own 2-2-3 work schedule with Workfeed
How to implement a 2 2 3 work schedule.
5 practical tips to help you implement and manage a 2-2-3 schedule.
Although the 2-2-3 work schedule is one of the most convenient and flexible schedules, following it can be problematic if not implemented carefully.
Here are a few tips to help you implement and manage a 2-2-3 schedule:
1. Set a proper start time
It is critical that your employees are satisfied with the time their shifts begin. Therefore, there is no right advice for this as every team has different preferences. For example, if most of your employees are early risers, you can start the shifts at 05:00. However, you may have to resort to a different time if many employees prefer to not start that early. It is hugely important that the team is comfortable with the times of the shifts to ensure they are the most productive.
2. Assist new employees.
New employees may require time to get used to the 2-2-3 work schedule, both mentally and physically. Their bodies may not (yet) be able to handle the work schedule. This can cause problems in their work and private life. For example, a new employee, who worked a night shift the previous night, is more likely to make an avoidable mistake the next workday than an experienced employee. Your new employees may also suffer from fatigue, sleeplessness, and other issues as a result of the rotating schedule. Therefore, as a manager, it is important to regularly check for any signs of fatigue. You can assist them with getting familiar with the workload and unusual shift times; a good move is to have more experienced employees provide guidance.
3. Encourage productive breaks
Taking regular short breaks can help your employees feel refreshed. During the break, they can go for a walk or take a nap, or do anything that gives them renewed energy. Some employees prefer to take a break every 45 minutes. On the other hand, some workers do not take a break until 75-90 minutes. It is wise to set a minimum and maximum for breaks. This ensures that enough rest is taken, but also enough work is being done.
4. Anticipate potential problems
As in any workplace, replacements need to be arranged regularly when someone is on leave. This could be because of illness, vacation, and so on. You want to make sure that it fits the schedule of the person taking on the shift when a replacement needs to be arranged. Each team is the backup for their colleagues once every four weeks. You can divide the teams per week based on the week in which they themselves have the fewest shifts so that if it happens that they have to replace someone, they don't have too many shifts during that week. Furthermore, this rotation also applies within the teams itself, to make sure that there is a fair alternation of people who takeover shifts of their colleagues.
5. Communicate with employees
Talking to your employees frequently will give you a better understanding in terms of the schedule they prefer. You can also allow your employees to be flexible with each other regarding scheduling and swapping shifts. For instance, you can follow a 2-2-3 work schedule if most of your employees prefer it, but if a few of your employees prefer the night shift, you can make dividing the shifts easier by assigning them to more night shifts. Furthermore, it's a good idea to talk to your employees and ask them about their experiences and problems. This way, you can guide them to overcome issues and increase their productivity.
Following the 2-2-3 work schedule can be made easy using scheduling software like Workfeed.
Working in irregular long shifts demands a lot from your employees, it is certainly not for everyone. This means that managing a shift working team comes with a lot of responsibilities. This includes guaranteeing the well-being of employees, the quality of work, and the growth of the company. And while the 2-2-3 work schedule and panama schedule are both healthy, productive, and convenient schedule types, you need to implement it properly to enjoy its benefits.
Therefore, definitely take advantage of the tips provided and continue to validate the progress continuously with your team.
Make it easy on yourself by using an employee scheduling system
like Workfeed to make the process less time-consuming so that all your attention can be focused on your team.
Berry van Waarden
Head of Marketing