Types of Work Schedules

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A work schedule generally refers to the days per week and the hours per day that an employee is expected to be at their job. There are several different types of work schedules, which vary based on the organization and the position. Your schedule can also vary based on the time of year. For example, some jobs have work schedules that change, depending on the season.

Make sure you know the work schedule for any job before accepting a position. This will help you avoid any surprises when you start work.

Check the Work Schedule Before Accepting a Job

The type of schedule required for a job is typically included in the job posting or explained during a job interview. However, if you’re not clear about the hours, check with the employer prior to accepting a job offer.

It's important to know if the work schedule will fit with your lifestyle and other responsibilities, like family or school.

Even if a job is listed as full-time or part-time, you might want to follow up with questions about what your weekly schedule would look like. For example, one job seeker accepted a salaried job where she expected to work 40 hours per week, only to find out that the expectation was for 50. On the flip side, another applicant accepted a part-time job that he expected to be 25-30 hours a week. The employer scheduled him for 8-10 hours, and even less some weeks.

You might also double-check the days each week that you are expected to work. For example, some jobs require you to come in on weekends, while others are only Monday through Friday.

Types of Work Schedules

Full-Time Work Schedule: A full-time work schedule often requires a commitment of 37-40 hours per week. Because of the long hours, most jobs with full-time schedules are eligible for employee benefits. These benefits can include vacation and sick days, health insurance, and different retirement plan options.

Full-time schedules vary from company to company, but most of the time, employees will work the same shift every week. The most common full-time work schedule is a variant of 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday, adding up to 40 hours per week.

While most full-time work schedules are normally the same shift each day, in some cases (like retail), shifts can vary, but the number of hours will still add up to 35-40 per week.

Full-time non-exempt workers generally receive overtime pay. This happens when the hours worked exceed the established 40-hour maximum. Overtime is paid at a minimum of base hourly pay plus a half of that base pay, also known as “time and a half.” This is typical for people who get paid hourly.

Exempt employees are not generally eligible for overtime. Most exempt employees receive a salary instead of an hourly rate.

Part-Time Work Schedule: A part-time work schedule is any schedule less than full-time employment. The benefit of this type of schedule is that it allows for greater flexibility to maintain other responsibilities outside of work.

Part-time work often does not include benefits offered to full-time employees, and hours can be erratic and inconsistent from week to week. An example of a part-time work schedule could be Monday through Wednesday from 7:00 AM to 11:00 AM and Saturday and Sunday 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM.

Fixed Work Schedule: A fixed work schedule is a timetable that generally consists of the same number of hours and days worked per week. Fixed work schedules tend to stay consistent once the number of hours and the days have been agreed upon by both the employer and the worker. An example of a fixed schedule would be Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM or Thursday through Sunday from 3:00 PM to 11:00 PM.

Flexible Work Schedule: A flexible work schedule is less rigid than a fixed schedule. Employees and employers work together to determine the number of hours and days of the week the employee will work. Depending on the employer’s policy, employees may be expected to work a minimum number of hours or be at work at a certain daily block of time, but shifts can often be switched with other coworkers in order to satisfy the needs of the employer and the busy life of the employee.

Flexible work schedules can vary infinitely, but an example might look like: Monday - 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM, Tuesday - 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM, Saturday and Sunday - 2:00 PM to close.

Rotating Shift Work Schedule: Rotating work schedules cycle employees through day, swing, and night shifts. This cycle helps to distribute different shifts between all employees so that no one is stuck with the less desirable hours every shift.

This work schedule is not as common but can be seen in many careers like the military, construction work, roadwork jobs, power plants, and health care. These shifts can cycle weekly or quarterly, depending on the type of work required.

For many employees, the transition between the different schedules can be tricky. Sleep and eating patterns change and the employee may see their family and friends less because of their rotating schedule.

This type of timetable does have some benefits. Employees are able to spend more time with family and friends during their normal work hours, and may be able to run errands they normally would not be able to complete. Hours can cycle between day shifts (7:00 AM to 3:00 PM), swing shifts (1:00 PM to 9:00 PM), and weekend, night, or overnight shifts.

Key Takeaways

Ask About Your Work Schedule Before You Start a New Job: It’s important to know whether you’re working full- or part-time, for example, before you accept.

Flexible or Fixed—Know Which Type of Schedule You Have: Some positions have the same hours each week, while others vary. You may even be able to work a varying schedule that leaves room for your other commitments.

Certain Jobs May Require Rotating Shifts: If you work in construction, health care, or a few other industries, you may be asked to work different shifts depending on the organization’s needs.