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What Is A Rotating Roster? Everything You Need To Know To Choose Between Fixed & Rotating Rosters

If you want increased scheduling flexibility, a rotating roster could be the ideal option for you. But what actually is a rotating roster, and how is it different from a fixed roster?

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You’re probably already familiar with fixed and rotating rosters, even if you don’t know them by these names:


 A fixed roster allocates workers specific shifts that are repeated each week


A rotating roster, meanwhile, is common in hospitality, emergency services and other industries that provide services outside of office hours. It allows managers to create set shift times — such as breakfast, lunch and dinner; or morning, late and night — and then give workers different shifts each week. For example, a staff member might work the morning shift one week, the late shift the next week and then the night shift the following week. 


You might hear a rotating roster referred to as a “swing shift”, but be careful with this phrase. It can also refer to the second shift of the day, a.k.a. the afternoon/late shift, because it sits between the morning and night shifts. Alternatively, some people use it to describe any non-traditional shift that overlaps with more regular shift times.


Rotating rosters used to be tricky to create, but modern rostering software means they are no more time-consuming than fixed rosters. A fully cost compliant roster can be automatically created in minutes with the support of AI & machine learning.


You just need projected labour demand which can be ingested automatically with API’s; worker details, including availability; and any other preferences you have. A few clicks of a button later, and you will be able to review the proposed roster and make any changes you wish. Plus, if staff call in sick or want to swap shifts, it can all be done automatically – without any potential compliance issues or increases in the labour budget.  The exciting thing that AI and Machine Learning now provide is the ability to optimise shifts for your team in a way that suits their individual preferences.    Increased flexibility for deskless shift works leads to heightened employee engagement and improved customer experiences. 


Pros and Cons of Rotating Shift Work Rosters vs Fixed Rosters

Not sure if a rotating roster is right for your team? Here are the pros and cons, broken down so that you can make the best decision for your company.


Pros of Rotating Shift Work Rosters 

– Employers have more flexibility with scheduling shifts. It can be easier to find cover because staff members are used to working irregular schedules. In contrast, when businesses want to change a staff member’s regular roster or working hours, there are Fair Work protocols around this that employers have to follow. Specifically, they have to discuss it with the employee first and take their opinion into account.

– Managers can balance skill levels and certifications by moving workers to different shifts. Plus, staff will gain experience and become more well-rounded through taking on a greater variety of shift-specific tasks: accepting overnight stock deliveries, providing customer service at peak times, off-peak cleaning and maintenance tasks.

– If trainers or managers only work certain days, they will get a chance to work with every staff member.

– Workers typically get to interact with more team members, which means they have more opportunities to learn from their coworkers.

– Product and service uniformity across shifts generally increases.

– It may be easier to recruit staff for rotating shifts than for night or weekend shifts.

– It can be fairer because all employees will get to work the most desirable shifts. For example, in a bar, weekend and evening shifts are often more popular due to tips. In a hospital, however, weekend and evening shifts are considered the least attractive ones. With a rotating shift roster, workers know that they are all treated equally, even when they would prefer different shifts.


Cons of Rotating Shift Work Rosters

– Companies need efficient scheduling and shift cover processes to handle more complex rosters. This is particularly true if some shifts have increased labour demand, meaning you cannot simply rotate entire teams through different shift times.

– Workers may find themselves interacting with different team members on each shift, which can reduce their sense of belonging and engagement.

– Workers have less routine, which may make it harder to balance commitments such as caregiving or studies.

– Workers cannot keep the same sleep schedule. In particular, week-long rotating shifts, in which workers change shifts every week, have been linked to increased fatigue, health issues and social isolation. It’s often recommended that businesses use longer rotating shifts (10+ days) or shorter ones (2–3 days) to reduce the disruption to the circadian rhythm or sleeping cycle.  


Which Industries Benefit Most from Using Rotating Rosters?

Any company that provides services outside of the traditional 9-to-5 workday may find they benefit from rotating rosters. However, it is particularly common in the hospitality, healthcare, and events industries.


This is because these industries need to provide high-quality service at all hours of the day and react quickly and flexibly to changing demand. AI rostering software, such as Humanforce, can automatically create a costed, compliant rotating roster designed to meet projected labour demand.    


As Hotel Grand Chancellor found, “With Humanforce, we now always have the right amount of staff on each shift.”


Staff Equality and Engagement Factors of Rotating Rosters 

Committing to fair schedules can pay off; perceived fairness has been shown to increase commitment and engagement.


In every business, there is generally an undesirable shift time, whether it’s the night-time “red-eye” shift, a split shift or the weekend. Managers can use rotating rosters to ensure that everybody does an equal number of these less popular shifts. This sends the message that every staff member is treated equally and helps boost engagement.


Plus, by sharing less attractive shifts across the whole team, workers get a chance to rest and reset. In turn, this allows them to work at their best when on shift.



A rotating shift roster schedules staff members for different shifts each week or month, often on a repetitive schedule. It helps businesses to provide service at irregular hours and can improve the quality of service. The hospitality, transport, healthcare and events industries are most likely to benefit from it, while the right scheduling software can help companies manage complex rotating rosters.


At Humanforce, our AI rostering software will help you create either a rotating or fixed schedule with just a few clicks of a button. To find out more, get in touch with any questions or schedule a customised demo.