The 4 on 3 off shift pattern: A Flexible Way to Provide 24/7 Coverage on the work floor

Find out what the 4 on 3 off-shift pattern is and how it can benefit your organization.
23. May 2022  • 3 minute read
Does your business require a 24/7 staff presence? If so, the 4 on 3 off shift pattern might be a great way to organize your schedule. The 4 on 3 off shift pattern, as the name reveals already, rotates between 4 working days, followed by 3 off days. The 4 on 3 off shift pattern is highly beneficial for your employees, as they have a 3 day weekend every week!

In this blog, you will learn more about what the 4 on 3 off shift pattern is, its pros and cons, and how you can get started implementing the pattern into your business.

What is a 4 on 3 off shift pattern?

The 4 on 3 off shift pattern is a 21-day rotational cycle in which each employee works in 10-hour shifts.

The 4 on 3 off shift pattern usually involves 6 teams that work 4 days and then get 3 off days. This is repeated weekly, however, the shifts in the second (swing) and third (night) week have different start and ending times. Typically, a 3 week cycle consists of 12 10-hour shifts.

A benefit of the pattern is that, due to the overlapping shifts, it creates an overlap in staff presence at certain hours (see the example of the pattern below). This can be leveraged to cover high activity periods. So for instance, if the busiest time of the day is between 3:00 PM and 5:00 PM, you can schedule accordingly.

Additionally, due to the setup of the schedule, there is one day in the week where every team is present at work. You can again use this to your advantage by ensuring that this happens on the busiest day. So if Friday is the busiest day of the week in your case, you can design the schedule in a way that the overlap occurs on that day.

Here is an example of the 4 on 3 off shift pattern:

D = Day shift (1:00 AM - 11:00 AM)
S = Swing shift (11:00 AM - 9:00 PM)
N = Night shift (3:00 PM - 1:00 AM)
O = Rest day.






The example above is designed to create the above mentioned overlap on the fifth day of the week. So if you have a look, you can see that there never is an off day on this given day. But there are different ways to execute the 4 on 3 off shift pattern to meet the needs of your business. You can easily play around with the days on which you want the overlap to occur.

How to implement the 4 on 3 off shift pattern

There are a few things to consider when implementing the 4 on 3 off pattern. Firstly, you will need to determine the amount of staff that is required to use this pattern. Secondly, you will need to decide which hours of day each shift starts and ends. Finally, you have to prepare your staff to work with the new work schedule.

The required amount of staff

In order to run the 4 on 3 off shift pattern, the bare minimum amount of staff that you should have is 6. Each of the 6 teams requires at least 1 employee in order to provide full coverage, However, this will cause problems when one of your employees is on holiday or sickness leave.

The pattern is therefore more suitable for teams with at least 12 employees, given that each team has at least 2 team members, there is always backup in case of absence.

Determining the timeframe of the shifts

It is important 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. It is critical that the team is comfortable with the times of the shifts to ensure they are the most productive.

Preparing your staff

To ensure that your staff can work successfully in the 4 on 3 off shift pattern you will need to prepare them well. They work extended shifts, which makes it essential to take regular breaks to ensure productivity. It is also important that they learn to deal with irregular work days and times.

Anticipate on potential problems

A little bonus tip: 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.

Is it beneficial to use a 4 on 3 off schedule?

There are many benefits of using the 4 on 3 off schedule. This schedule type is flexible and can be tailored to cover any amount of time that your business is open. Finally, this schedule type minimizes the number of employees needed for extra manpower, allowing you to keep the wage costs in check.

The 4 on 3 off pattern is however not the only 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, the 4 on 4 off 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 vacation or sick leave.

But to support you with the decision, we've listed the pros and cons of the 4 on 3 off shift pattern for you:

Pros of the 4 on 3 off shift pattern are:

  • It is a flexible way to provide 24/hour coverage.
  • You can tailor the schedule to cover any amount of time that your business is open.
  • The pattern allows you to maximize the working hours of your team.
  • This schedule type minimizes the number of employees needed for extra manpower.
  • Your employees have a 3 day weekend every week.

Cons of the 4 on 3 off shift pattern are:

  • The schedule can be disruptive to employees' lives and lead to fatigue.
  • You need enough employees in order to run the pattern.
  • Creating and maintaining work schedules can be challenging.


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 3 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 3 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
Berry van Waarden
Head of Marketing

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