Shift patterns for security businesses
For any business to function optimally, there needs to be a schedule in place that offers a clear shift pattern for its employees.
The goal should be to produce a practical, performance focussed schedule that provides maximum coverage with the least cost to the company.
But with so many options out there, how do you decide upon which scheduling model suits your business best?
We will break down the most common shift patterns in the industry, and discuss how you can deliver hyper-vigilant staff through flexible working.
Common shift patterns in the security industry
The 84-hour Week
A classic security guard schedule giving overnight coverage of the area. Usually running from 1800-0600 hours, Monday to Sunday.
The 108-hour Week
This timetable provides the site with security 7 days a week. The teams work in shifts supplying 12 hours of coverage Monday to Friday and upping the coverage to 24-hours on a Saturday and Sunday.
This is one of the most common security guard shift patterns used as it provides weeklong protection of a given location during dark hours and full coverage over the weekend.
Shift wise you typically have one team working from 1800–0600 hours, Monday to Friday and two teams on split shifts over the weekend, covering 12 hours respectively.
The 168-hour Week
This guarding rota provides a business with 24/7 coverage. Often this schedule is split into two 12-hour shifts running from 0600–1800 hours and 1800–0600 hours.
Options for flexible working
The classic examples above generally have a set 12-hour shift regimen, but it is also worth considering a more flexible working pattern for your staff.
Studies have shown that flexible workers achieve more, take sick leave less often, work longer hours and are happier in their work.
Below we will discuss various options for rotating your personnel to increase their wellbeing off shift. In turn, this will increase your staff retention and performance on shift.
Your staff pattern will rotate, usually once a week, with one team covering the late shift (1400-2200 hours) and another the night shift (2200-0600 hours).
This gives coverage for the dark hours on site. As each team can carry out a 40-hour week it gives you 80 hours of coverage and this service commonly covers Monday-Sunday.
As above, but includes a third team covering the daytime hours, giving you full 24-hour coverage.
4 on 4 off
This is one of the most well-known shift patterns.
It has a continuous style that uses a fixed 12-hour run where employees work 4 consecutive days and are then compensated with 4 consecutive days off. After which they work 4 consecutive nights with 4 more days off and the pattern repeats.
Fast-rotating shift patterns with 4 teams and three 8-hour shifts to ensure round the clock coverage.
A slow-rotating pattern with 4 teams and two 12-hour shifts. Two teams are usually paired together and one (A, B) provides coverage whilst the other (C, D) is off. Workers benefit from every other weekend off and 2 additional days during the week following a 2-2-3 pattern across a fortnight.
These shifts give cover for the twilight period between 1700-2100 hours.
This is a popular time for staff who have caring responsibilities as these can be passed over to a partner with normal day time working hours.
It can provide a useful link between day workers and night shift, offering a clearer handover and a buffer at busier times of the day. This can be a productive working structure as the shifts are short and therefore the staff are highly motivated.
A typical Monday-Friday pattern would cover the hours of 2200-0600 hours, although it has also proven popular with staff to offer an alternative Sunday-Thursday stint instead. This gives you 5 x 8-hour shifts totalling a 40-hour week.
You can then either use this shift pattern in combination with a 2-shift system—giving you a total of 80 hours of coverage—or as a stand-alone, providing 4 x 10-hour shifts.
Coverage normally rotates every 12-hours with staff members restricted to a maximum of 12 hours per day, both Saturday and Sunday. The teams alternate between days and nights every other week.
You can combine this with a 2-shift system to give full coverage for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. An issue with this system, however, is that it can create a separation between your weekend and your weekday teams.
Factors to Consider for Optimal Performance
Lack of Sleep
A quality sleep is imperative for a quality performance on shift. Indeed, the most pervasive form of impaired judgement is sleep deprivation.
Make sure you give your staff a rotation that offers sufficient downtime and consider a shift pattern that allows for them to follow their own circadian rhythms.
Length of Shift
Shorter shifts make for higher levels of performance, better concentration and happier staff.
Research has shown that when we're tired, our mental reserves are depleted and we therefore make terrible, often unethical decisions. Considering a system like the continental approach (above) will give you the same coverage but with more teams on a faster rolling schedule.
Tired workers often reach for caffeine to get them through a shift.
Energy drinks have huge doses of caffeine that are extremely harmful to you. Studies have shown in a tactical environment, the ones taking the most energy drinks were the most likely to nod off on the job.
Providing a shift pattern that allows for sufficient rest and encourages a sound sleep schedule will importantly reduce the need for caffeine.
Make a Flexible Decision
To run your enterprise successfully you must have strong senior leadership to create a culture that supports a clear staffing strategy and flexible working.
Ultimately, there is no one timetable that is going to suit your business indefinitely, so you must be prepared to revisit and adjust your schedules regularly.
It is up to you to provide a shift pattern that will keep your contracts fulfilled, your staff motivated and your business thriving.