The 4 on 4 off shift pattern - What it is and when it is useful.
Find out what the 4-on- 4 off-shift pattern is and how it can benefit your organization.
23. May 2022 • 3 minute read
Working in shifts isn't a new concept. It has been around for centuries, with the first known reference dating back to 1817. The 4 on 4 off shift patterns is one of many different ways to organise shift work several weeks ahead.
In this post, we'll be discussing the 4 on 4 off-shift pattern. We'll explain what it is, what a 4 on 4 off schedule looks like, and how to make sure that they fit your organisations needs.
What is a 4-on-4 shift pattern?
The 4 on 4 off schedule is a continuous shift pattern that runs throughout all 52 weeks of the year and provides 24/7 staff coverage. The teams work four consecutive days followed by four consecutive days off. One shift in the 4 on 4 off schedule lasts 12 hours and the teams alternate between day and night shifts, which looks like this (a more detailed example can be found below):
- 4 consecutive day shifts
- 4 consecutive days off
- 4 consecutive nights shifts
- 4 consecutive days off
The overall cycle of the 4 on 4 off schedule lasts 16 weeks, after which it starts over from day 1. Each 16 weeks cycle consists of 56 working days and 56 off days, equally divided between day and night shifts. On average, your employees end up working 42 hours a week.
The 4-on-4-off pattern can however be adapted to meet your organizations specific needs. For example, you could choose to have your team work eight hour shifts instead of 12 hour shifts. However, if your organization requires 24/7 coverage, you will have to add an extra team to each day to cover both the early, mid, and late shifts.
Here is an example of the 4-on-4 off-shift schedule working in 12 hour shifts:
D = Day shift
N = Night shift
O = Rest day.
Team 1: DDDDOOO-ONNNNOO-OODDDDO-OOONNNN
Team 2: NNNNOOO-ODDDDOO-OONNNNO-OOODDDD
Team 3: OOOODDD-DOOOONN-NNOOOOD-DDDOOOO
Team 4: OOOONNN-NOOOODD-DDOOOON-NNNOOOO
Team 1: OOOODDD-DOOOONN-NNOOOOD-DDDOOOO
Team 2: OOOONNN-NOOOODD-DDOOOON-NNNOOOO
Team 3: NNNNOOO-ODDDDOO-OONNNNO-OOODDDD
Team 4: DDDDOOO-ONNNNOO-OODDDDO-OOONNNN
Team 1: NNNNOOO-ODDDDOO-OONNNNO-OOODDDD
Team 2: DDDDOOO-ONNNNOO-OODDDDO-OOONNNN
Team 3: OOOONNN-NOOOODD-DDOOOON-NNNOOOO
Team 4: OOOODDD-DOOOONN-NNOOOOD-DDDOOOO
Team 1: OOOONNN-NOOOODD-DDOOOON-NNNOOOO
Team 2: OOOODDD-DOOOONN-NNOOOOD-DDDOOOO
Team 3: DDDDOOO-ONNNNOO-OODDDDO-OOONNNN
Team 4: NNNNOOO-ODDDDOO-OONNNNO-OOODDDD
Make work scheduling a breeze with Workfeed
There are different ways to execute the 4 on 4 off shift pattern to meet your organizations needs. It is however important to consider all of the options before making a decision.
4-on-4 off or continental shift pattern?
The continental shift pattern is another commonly used shift pattern. The continental shift schedule usually involves 4 teams that work 2 morning shifts, 2 swing shifts days, then 2 night shifts, followed by 2 days of work. For example, an employee who works the early shift on Monday can work the middle shift on Tuesday and the late shift on Wednesday. The main difference between the 4 on 4 off shift pattern and the continental shift pattern is the length of a shift, as the continental shift pattern rotates around 8 hour shifts. But yet again, it is possible to do this with the 4 on 4 off schedule as well.
It is therefore hard to say which of the two patterns is better, as it simply depends on the needs of your organization. One of the key things to consider when deciding on a shift pattern is whether it will fit with your demand profile. For example, you need to make sure that you have enough employees to run the chosen pattern whilst it is important to consider which pattern has the best impact on well-being of your employees.
Read more about the continental shift pattern
Is it beneficial to use a 4-on-4 off schedule?
Whether the 4 on 4 off shift pattern is a good match for your organization depends on various factors. When you're looking for a shift pattern that allows 24/7 presence of staff, it is an option, but so are the 2-2-3 work schedule
, the continental shift pattern
, and the DuPont schedule
(to name a few).
It is crucial to discuss with your team which pattern best suits them. Things like the length of their shifts, the number of consecutive days off they prefer and the desired start times of the shifts should all factor into your decision. In addition, as mentioned earlier, you must have enough staff to work with this pattern. And not just to properly fill the 4 on 4 off schedule, but also to provide replacements during holiday or sick leave
But to support you with the decision, we've listed the pros and cons of the 4 on 4 off shift pattern for you:
Benefits of the 4 on 4 off shift pattern are:
- Employees only need to work 182 days a year.
- They do not have to work more than four days in a row.
- They have four consecutive days off after every four days of work.
- Their schedule is stable and predictable.
Cons of the 4 on 4 off shift pattern are:
- 12 hour shifts are long
- The workload can be demanding on your employees.
- Creating and maintaining work schedules can be challenging.
Create your own 4 on 4 off schedule with Workfeed
Working long and irregular shifts requires a lot from your employees and it is not for everyone. This means that managing a team on the 4 on 4 off shift pattern involves a lot of responsibilities. You bear responsibility for ensuring the well-being of your employees, the quality of work and the growth of the company. And while the 4 on 4 off schedule is a healthy, productive and convenient method, you must implement it properly to enjoy its benefits.
Hence, be sure to take advantage of the tips provided and continue to continuously validate progress with your team.PS.
To make it easy on yourself, you can use a workforce management system like Workfeed
to make the process less time-consuming, allowing you to focus all your attention on the well-being of your team.
Berry van Waarden
Head of Marketing