What is a 2-2-3 work schedule and how to implement it?

by Liam Martin
2-2-3 work schedule

Working in shifts is necessary for industries where you need to provide 24/7 to meet customer demands. And as a team manager, you may face difficulties in guiding and managing team productivity.

Fortunately, a 2-2-3 work schedule can help you and your team work smoothly and manage their work-life balance.

In this article, we’ll discuss the 2-2-3 work schedule and its variations. We’ll also share a few tips that’ll help you manage your team while following the 2-2-3 work schedule.

This article includes:

(Click on the link to go to a particular section)

Let’s get started.

What is shift work?

Before we talk about the 2-2-3 shift schedule, it’s important to understand what shift schedules are and how they operate generally. 

Shift work is a work schedule that involves employees working in shifts in the morning, night, or evening or split shifts.

Your team will have to work based on a shift plan that spans over a fixed number of days. The shift plan will help you decide which days are working and non-working. 

The different types of shift plans are:

  • 5-day shift plan: This plan requires 5 teams to cover specific shifts every day, and each team gets a day off.
  • Week shift plan: This shift pattern is best for firms that run 24 hours a day, throughout the week. It includes a three-shift system comprising first shift, second shift, and third shift – where each team works for 8 hours a day.

It can include morning, evening, and night shifts in forward and backward rotation or even a fixed schedule. 

A rotating shift is one where employees move through a cycle of day and night shifts. In contrast, a fixed shift means that employees work the same shift throughout the week.

What is a 2-2-3 work schedule?

The 2-2-3 or the Panama schedule is a slow rotation cycle of 28 days where each employee works in a 12 hour shift every day. 

This schedule usually involves 4 teams who work for 2 days, then get 2 rest days, followed by 3 days of work. 

Here’s a 2-2-3 work schedule example:

2-2-3 work schedule

D – Day shift, N – Night shift, O – Off day.

The 2-2-3 work schedule can provide your employees higher satisfaction and experience at work as it is employee-friendly.

The benefits of a 2-2-3 work schedule are:

  • Employees will have to work for only 180 days a year.
  • They won’t have to work for more than three days consequently.
  • They can get a 3-day weekend every alternating week.

4 variations of the 2-2-3 work schedule

You can find many variations of the 2-2-3 work schedule created to suit the various needs of different industries.

Let’s have a look at the four main 2-2-3 work schedule alternatives:

1. Panama plus shift schedule

This shift schedule provides 24/7 coverage using 4 teams, two 12-hour shifts, and one 8-hour shift. 

This schedule follows forward rotation and has a rotation period of 280 days in which each of your employees will work for 40 hours on an average per week.

The Panama Plus shift schedule is famous among firms that provide 24/7 services and require an extra eight-hour shift for training or administrative tasks, such as law enforcement agencies.

Here’s a table that can help visualize Panama Shift Schedule:

Panama Shift schedule 2-2-3

D – Day shift, N – Night shift, O – Off day.


  • Your employees will only have to work for 8 hours for 2 weeks once every 2 months – which can relieve some stress since it’s a shorter shift schedule.
  • They’ll have to work for a maximum of two consecutive night shifts.


  • Your employees will have occasional 12-hour shifts.
  • A slow transition between the day and night shifts can take a toll on your employees’ health.

2. Pitman shift schedule (2-3-2 pattern)

The Pitman shift schedule involves four teams where each team works 12 hours in order to give 24/7 service. 

This slow rotating shift schedule has a shift length of 12 work hours and a rotation period of 14 days. 

Your team will work 2 consecutive day shifts, followed by 2 days off, 3 day shifts, then 2 days off, 2 day shifts, and 3 days off – if they follow this shift schedule. 

Here’s how it looks like:

2-2-3 Pitman Shift Schedule

D – Day shift, N – Night shift, O – Off day.

This shift schedule is very popular among law enforcement agencies, emergency medical services, and EMS (Express Mail Service) call centers in the USA.


  • Your employees don’t have to work for more than three days consecutively.
  • They’ll get a three-day weekend every other week.


  • Your employees’ sleep cycle can be affected when the shift schedule changes slowly.
  • They could work up to 62 hours a week.
  • Each worker may have to work overtime of 2 hours every week on average.

3. DDNNOO schedule

This rotating shift schedule needs 3 teams to work in a 12 hour shift in order to provide 24/7 service. 

Consequently, the employees will have to work for 2 days, 2 nights, and then have 2 days off in a repeat cycle.

Here’s how a typical DDNNOO schedule looks like:

DDNNO 2-2-3 schedule

D – Day shift, N – Night shift, O – Off day.

This shift plan is used in industries like call centers, manufacturing, etc., that provide 24/7 services in 2 twelve hour shifts and have a 6 day rotation period.


  • You’ll only require 3 teams to operate this rotating schedule.
  • Your employees will get 2 days off after every 2 days of day or night work.


  • Your employees will have consistent 12 hour shift schedules, which can drain them out.
  • Employees may have to work overtime for 16 hours on average every week.

4. Dupont schedule

This 12-hour rotating shift is a 4 week cycle involving 4 teams working in two 12 hour day shifts. According to the Dupont shift schedule, each employee works for 42 hours every week.

Each team works 4 night shifts and gets 3 consecutive days off, followed by 3 day shifts and a day off. Then the team gets 3 consecutive night shifts, then 3 days off, followed by 4 day shifts, and 7 days off. 

Here’s an example of the Dupont Schedule in practice:

2-2-3 Dupont Schedule

D – Day shift, N – Night shift, O – Off day.

This rotating shift schedule is commonly used in manufacturing industries and police departments in the USA.


  • Your employees will get a long 7-day weekend.


  • Your employees may feel tired and stressed as the Dupont shift schedule doesn’t give time to rest during work.
  • Employees must work for 72 hours a week.
  • It’s challenging to find a replacement when one of your employees is on leave – due to overtime rules, time-off constraints, etc.

8 practical tips to help you manage a 2-2-3 schedule

Even though 2-2-3 shifts are one of the most convenient flexible schedules, you may face difficulties managing your team while following it.  

Here are a few tips to help you manage a 2-2-3 schedule:

1. Set a proper start time

It’s crucial that your employees are happy with the time their shifts start. 

For example, if most of your employees are early risers, you can start their shifts at 5 AM. 

However, you should resort to another time if many employees are against the early shift.

You should assign your employees shifts they’re comfortable with so that they’re most productive. The assigned shifts should allow them to restore their energy quickly for the next shift or other activities outside work.

2. Help new employees

New employees could take time to get used to the shift system mentally and physically. 

Their bodies may not be able to cope with the untimely shifts – which can cause problems in their work and personal life.

For example, your new employee, who worked a night shift the previous night, is more likely to commit an unavoidable mistake the next working day than an experienced employee. 

Similarly, your new employees may experience fatigue, insomnia, and other conditions due to the rotating shift.

So, you should regularly monitor your new hires for any symptoms of fatigue. You can coach them while they work to help them cope with the workload and unusual shift timings.

3. Light up your workplace

The human circadian rhythm is highly influenced by the amount of light they face. So you can use strategic lighting to delay your employees’ sleep cycle. 

By lighting up your workplace, you can ensure that your employees don’t feel sleepy. You can also help them increase their performance by delaying their sleep during night shifts.

According to a study published in NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information,) exposing your employees to light between 1200 and 10,000 lux for 3 to 6 hours can help you delay their sleep-wake cycle so that they don’t feel groggy during the shift.

4. Encourage productive breaks

Taking short breaks regularly can help your employees feel refreshed. 

During the break, they can hit the gym, go for a walk, or take a nap – anything that would re-energize them.

Some of your employees may prefer taking a break after every 25 minutes. On the other hand, some employees take breaks only after 75-90 minutes. 

However, you should fix a maximum break limit so that your employees work for a minimum number of hours every day. 

5. Arrange a napping area

Sleep deprivation can be one of the major problems your employees face while working in shifts. 

You can ask your employees to take 15-20 minute naps during their night shift.

Sleeping in the morning reduces the quality of your sleep – which makes taking naps at night a better option. Additionally, napping can act as a break that will rejuvenate them.

You can also allocate a particular area in the workspace for this so that their nap is uninterrupted.

6. Restrict caffeine intake

Caffeinated drinks can help your employees stay alert and make them feel refreshed. 

However, they should have caffeine only during the first few average hours of their shift. Drinking coffee or energy drinks during the end of the work shift can delay your employees’ sleep – which will disrupt their sleep cycle. 

You can introduce a strategy called ‘coffee nap’ in which employees have coffee and take a 20-minute nap. They can wake up when the effect of the caffeine kicks in.

Similarly, you should advise your employees not to drink alcohol before going to bed. Although it is a sleep stimulant, it can also disrupt sleep and reduce its quality.

7. Rotate shifts frequently

Your employees take time to adjust to a particular schedule. 

When you don’t change the schedule frequently, your employees’ circadian rhythm may get accustomed to it. And they may find it stressful to change shifts later.

Ensure that your employees don’t get the time to adjust to a schedule. You can do so by assigning a different shift once in two weeks or a month.

Rotate schedules after two or three days as the rapid readjustment will cause fewer disruptions in their sleep cycle.

8. Communicate with employees

Talking to your employees will give you a clearer idea as to which schedule they prefer. You can also ask your employees to reach a consensus among themselves regarding scheduling shifts.

For example, you can follow a 2-2-3 work schedule if most of your employees prefer it.

Similarly, if a few of your employees prefer the night shift, you can make employee scheduling easier by assigning shifts to have more night shifts. 

You should also talk to your employees and ask them about their experiences and problems. This way, you can guide them to overcome issues and increase their productivity. 

Shift scheduling can be made easy using cloud-based scheduling software like Sling. 

Here is a list of employee scheduling software you can check out.

Wrapping up

Managing a team that works in shifts involves many responsibilities concerning employee well-being, work quality, and business growth.

And while the 2-2-3 work schedule is a healthy, productive, and convenient arrangement, you should implement it properly to enjoy its benefits.

So use the tips mentioned in this article to manage shift workers and increase their productivity with a 2-2-3 schedule.

View a free demo of Time Doctor

help managers focus on what matters most
time doctor ratings

Related Posts