Here we are going to take a look at the types of shift pattern. Like most things in life people have different views about how they see things and this is mine.
A shift pattern is a sequences of shifts in the context of days-off. Basically it can be described as a day-on day-off pattern. All shift patterns have a sequence, but not all sequences are based on the same factors. Some are based on days of the week, others are based on a sequence of days independent of days of the week.
Arguably you can have a shift pattern that is totally random but that is hard in practice. It will not be the first time I have been told “…they work whatever they want…and there is no pattern”. You usually can identify a pattern in around three to four weeks which proves remarkably robust for the remainder of the year – it’s just they can’t see it. And before you blog me with examples of random shift patterns generated by a computer, the key words I use are “hard in practice”. The reason is because we all live our lives in patterns of time.
I was chatting to a cable guy who was fixing my TV about his new shift patterns being worked out by HR. I uttered some words of sympathy about the 24/7 community and globalization affects us all. Not a bit of it. “They were still working it out for over 9 months” he retorted “…and as I already have mine they took one look at it and said that looks good, now everybody has to work it.” I was impressed and asked him how he went about it. “Easy, I know the away matches for Arsenal football “soccer” club and I can still fit their home matches in so the wife can still do her part-time job”.
So a whole workforce deployment strategy is being being driven by the FA Premiership fixtures and Arsenal football club away matches, with a little help from the wife’s part-time job – but only he could see the pattern. The others just followed.
There are two shift pattern types:
1. Weekday Generated Sequences (WGS) is a shift pattern that references the days of the week for its structure e.g. repeating days-off always occur on the same days of the rotating week; or the Wednesday and Thursday of the third rotating week is the afternoon shift etc. The most obvious is always having the days-off at the weekend. These patterns are always structured with rotating cycles of seven days e.g. 7, 14, and 21 days.
2. Pattern Generated Sequence (PGS) is a shift pattern that uses a sequence of day-on day-off independent of the days of the week. For example 4 days working followed by 5 days not working. These patterns do not fit into multiples of seven. They also give rise to the notion of the “eight day week” when the sequence is eight days long. It doesn’t help because a week is seven days not eight days.
As a general rule the best approach is not to try and use one shift pattern to manage complex working arrangements in one go. It is better to design simple shift patterns that each achieve a goal, and then combine them together in one schedule.