Career Development

What Is a Work Schedule?

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With a job comes a work schedule that often dictates how you spend your time each day. Understanding your options regarding the various work schedules can help you decide which career fits your lifestyle best. This article explains different types of work schedules and how to choose one that fits your needs.

What is a work schedule?

A work schedule refers to the specific days and hours designated to an employee for paid work. It includes the details of your specific shift, including which days of the week and hours of the day you’re expected to work for a company. Depending on your job and the business, you could work the same hours and days your entire career there or your schedule could vary based on the employer’s needs. 

Your individual work schedule may vary from that of your coworkers’ schedules, especially if you work for a company that’s open for long hours or all the time. Seasonal jobs have various work schedules too, though they are temporary jobs that only last for a specified period of time throughout the year.

Why is a work schedule important?

A work schedule is important to think about when you want to achieve a harmonious work-life balance. When you’re searching for a job, it’s important to discuss the work schedule to find out if it fits your needs. You should make sure the schedule works around your prior responsibilities, or that you can accommodate a new work schedule. If the job description doesn’t list the schedule, you can ask the hiring manager for more details. 

Types of work schedules

Here are some of the most common types of work schedules:

Full time 

Full-time hours are the traditional work hours most people envision when getting a job. Full-time employees often work between 30 to 40 hours throughout the week, though the standard is typically 40 hours. It depends on a company’s policies and expectations, as the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not define full or part-time employment. Full-time employees are often eligible for company benefits, like health care and paid time off. 

Example: Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Part time 

People with part-time jobs usually work fewer than 30 hours per week. Part-time schedules provide greater flexibility for parents, students and others who need it. Work schedules often involve working four-hour shifts each day or eight-hour shifts certain days of the week, depending on your individual schedule. The downside to part-time jobs is that they do not include benefits and often have inconsistent hours. 

Example: Monday through Thursday from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Fixed 

Fixed schedules follow a specific timetable regarding hours and days worked each week. The details of fixed work hours are agreed upon by the employer and employee before the shifts start. Fixed shifts could be for part-time or full-time schedules. If your work schedule follows a fixed format, you have the benefit of consistent, predictable shifts.

Example: Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  

Flexible

While you are expected to work a certain number of hours on a flexible schedule, the details of your work arrangement may vary from week to week. In this situation, a manager usually creates schedules just one to two weeks in advance based on needs, meaning your shifts can vary from week to week. Flexible schedules are common in retail, restaurant and hospitality industries. A flexible shift could be useful if you’re a student with a varied schedule. 

Example: Monday 9. a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Thursday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Rotating 

Having a rotating shift means that your work schedule changes weekly or quarterly depending on your employer. These shifts are very common in the health care, military and construction fields, and require you to work different hours that rotate on a specific timeframe.

Example: Your hours may include day shifts (7 a.m. to 3 p.m.), swing shifts (1 p.m. to 9 p.m.) or night and weekend hours.

Split 

Split shifts divide the hours you work in a day into two separate shifts. Instead of having one lunch break in the middle of the day, you have a break of at least two hours that separates your shifts. These shifts can be beneficial or challenging, depending on your individual circumstances. 

Common careers with split shifts include restaurant servers, who must work during busy meal periods, and school bus drivers, who drive children to and from school. No matter the career, employers must check with federal, state and local laws before implementing split shifts.

Example: Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. 

How to choose a work schedule

Here’s how you can choose a work schedule that’s right for you:

1. Firstly, decide when you’re most productive

Regarding your work-life balance, you may have noticed a pattern of productivity over the years. Learning when you’re most focused and energized can help you find a work schedule where you can excel the most. 

If you’re more attentive when you first get out of bed and enjoy starting the day early, you should pursue jobs that allow you to begin work in the morning. If your brain functions better in the afternoon, after you’ve had a full morning of sleep, you may enjoy afternoon shifts. Some people choose graveyard or evening shifts because they’re sometimes quieter, slower-paced and provide less interaction with people.

2. Secondly, consider your responsibilities

While work can be fulfilling, it’s probably not the only part of your life. You should think about other responsibilities in your life that you need to make time for. Many employers will try to accommodate scheduling requests as best as they can to keep employees satisfied and happy. 

If you are a student, school should be a main priority for you, whether it’s high school or college. When you’re looking for jobs, make sure you find one that can work around your classes. You also need time for homework and studying too. 

If you’re raising a family, you have a lot of decisions to make when choosing a work schedule. You have to consider the cost of child care, individual family schedules that involve school and work and still make time for extracurricular activities. 

3. Finally, remember self-care

Whether you get the schedule you wanted or one that your manager created for you, it’s important to recognize your emotional and physical needs. When you’re working hard and taking care of other responsibilities in your life, it can be hard to find time to relax or have fun. When you set aside time for yourself, you can rest and return to work feeling energized and focused. If you need to, add dedicated times to your schedule to spend on self-care until it becomes a habit.