Continental Shift Schedule for 24/7 Shift Coverage

The Continental shift schedule is a fast rotating shift pattern that uses 4 teams and three 8-hr shifts to provide 24/7 coverage. Each team rotates through a sequence of 2, 2, and 3 consecutive day shifts, swing shifts, night shifts, or days off. The following is a typical team schedule for a 4-week (28 days) repeat cycle:

  • Week 1: 2 day shifts, 3 swing shifts, 2 night shifts
  • Week 2: 2 days off, 3 day shifts, 2 swing shifts
  • Week 3: 2 night shifts, 3 days off, 2 day shifts
  • Week 4: 2 swing shifts, 3 night shifts, 2 days off
Continental Shift Pattern

Although Continental Shiftpopular in shiftwork, the transition between the day oriented circadian physiology and the requirement for work and sleep at the “wrong” biological time of day may cause sleep loss, fatigue, and shift work disorder.

When emergencies arise and an employee needs to take a few days off, it can be a challenge finding a replacement to ensure adequate shift coverage while taking into consideration time-off constraints, union, labor and overtime rules, employee availability, skills, preferences, etc.  Snap Schedule 365 employee scheduling software solves these challenges and help companies build smarter schedules, avoid unnecessary overtime, and always know who is working where and when.  Get your free trial now.  


Plan IDC4TR08-1
NameContinental Plan, also referred to as the 2-2-3 Rota
Applicability24/7 operations
Teams Required4
ShiftsDay (8-hr), Swing (8-hr), Night (8-hr)
Repeat Cycle28 days
RotationFast, forward rotation from day shift to swing shift to night shift
Average Hours per Week42
Staffing FluctuationBalanced from shift to shift and day to day
  • Minimum 2 consecutive days off
  • Free weekend every 4 weeks
  • 8-hr shifts
  • 7 consecutive work days
  • 3 consecutive days on night shifts every 4 weeks
  • Requires an average of 2 overtime hours per employee per week
Common UsagePopular with 24/7 operations that prefer 8-hr shifts
NotesThis is an alternative to the Metropolitan plan for 24/7 operations using 8-hr shifts. It provides up to 3 consecutive days off and ensures 1 free weekend every 4 weeks. Its main drawback is the long 7 consecutive work days.