Catapult Employee Satisfaction With a Well-Crafted 24-Hour Shift Schedule

Achieving maximum employee satisfaction is a complex issue. Scheduling is one of the top factors that directly impacts the health, happiness, and performance of your employees. For businesses like fast-food restaurants where the environment requires round-the-clock operations, crafting a 24-hour shift schedule that considers employee well-being is vital.

The structure of working hours can directly influence health, happiness, and job performance. A well-crafted 24-hour shift schedule can be the linchpin for organizational success, affecting everything from morale to market position.

In the following article, we explore why strategic scheduling that can enhance employee satisfaction is a must, provide strategies for crafting an effective 24-hour shift schedule, and explain key associated benefits and challenges of the 24-hour shift schedule.

Also see our restaurant scheduling guide for tips, more details on the benefits and challenges of scheduling, and more. Explore our restaurant scheduling software for a solution that can help automate this process.

Understanding the Importance of Employee Satisfaction in Shift Scheduling (Especially for 24-Hour Shift Schedules)

One of the biggest challenges of restaurants is creating schedules for each week of business. The two main considerations relate to business and employee needs. While business needs are likely to be prioritized by default, it’s vital to take employee needs and preferences into account. This is especially true if your restaurant runs a 24/7 operation.

A well-designed shift schedule not only keeps the wheels of the business turning during all business hours, but also ensures that employees maintain a high level of engagement, motivation, focus, and performance. All of these are key to success in your restaurant.

Whether shift patterns include rotating, 12-hour, or 8-hour shifts, you must take factors that directly affect workers’ lives into account. Rotating between morning and night shifts, for example, can significantly disrupt an employee’s circadian rhythm, leading to various health issues.

Some employee schedules can make it difficult to meet with friends and family (because yes, most employees do hope to have an enjoyable personal life outside of work). Giving those employees time off can mitigate that; however, if employees aren’t scheduled enough hours, this can increase stress levels as they wonder how they’re going to cover their bills.

To achieve higher levels of employee satisfaction, staff should be able to voice their preferences for 24-hour shift schedules or submit shift swap requests. This will increase their sense of ownership and accountability for the work they do and likely will lead to a happier, more productive workforce, all while reducing the potential for employee burnout.

Key Tips for Creating an Optimal 24-Hour Shift Schedule

Creating an effective 24-hour shift schedule is more important than breathing for restaurants that need around-the-clock coverage. The ultimate goal is to balance your business’s operational requirements with the health and satisfaction of the workforce. When planning a 24-hour shift schedule, consider the nature of the business, customer traffic patterns, and the necessity for continuous operations.

The following strategies are designed to assist employers in developing a shift schedule that maximizes employee well-being, maintains fairness, minimizes operational costs and risks, and reduces scheduling effort.

  • Be consistent. Whether you choose fixed, rotating, swing, or varied shifts, try to be as consistent as possible across the board. This eliminates confusion and helps employees know what to expect. Each type should be evaluated to find the best fit. Seek confirmation through verified data and feedback to avoid incorrect assumptions that could cause your restaurant and employees unnecessary or unexpected problems.

  • Consider all circumstances. Check your employees’ availability and work preferences. Take a moment to forecast demand, ask employees if any special events or important obligations are coming up, look up the weather, Google upcoming local or national events, and anything else that might have a significant impact on foot traffic, attendance and punctuality, and more. Determine which shift schedule types work best for your restaurant, and make sure you’re labor law compliant. Or consider using a restaurant management system that can help factor in all these factors for you, like SynergySuite.

  • Create and foster a culture of inclusion. Each employee comes from a unique background and circumstances. Learn what days and times are important to each one and plan accordingly. By celebrating differences and championing physical and mental health, your employees will most likely enjoy working at your 24-hour restaurant even despite the unique scheduling challenges that are to be expected for such a business.

  • Be fair to all. If one employee has to work a specific shift or set of shifts, then every employee should be required to rotate through and work the same (no favorites, sorry!). For instance, a 4-week cycle that includes a mix of day, swing, and night shifts with strategically placed rest periods can help employees adjust to their work hours better. This can help increase employee satisfaction, spread the workload evenly, and prevent the risk of resentment that even perceived favoritism can have on your team.

  • Give your employees breaks. Studies have shown that consecutive night shifts or extended hours on late or weekend shifts can lead to varied health issues, including (but not limited to) sleep disorders, elevated stress levels, mental illness, and more if employees aren’t granted sufficient recovery time. On the flip side, 12- or 24-hour shifts that disrupt regular sleeping patterns can negatively affect an employee’s alertness and ability to make decisions, potentially leading to workplace accidents or decreased quality of work.

  • Offer flexibility. Allow employees to swap shifts as needed or desired. This doesn’t have to mean that you relinquish all control, and in fact, it shouldn’t. You should monitor and control shifts, but make sure you do so with demonstrated empathy for your employees so they still feel part of the team. If serious problems like schedule abuse happen, you also need to protect your other employees. That said, most, if not all employees, want to do their work well and are unlikely to cause problems.

  • Use employee scheduling software. This helps you not only save time and money on scheduling labor but also helps keep staff informed about shifts or switch shifts in real time. It can also help you communicate openly with employees about the schedule and plan accordingly if something unexpected comes up. Tracked attendance data, including punctuality/tardiness levels, can also provide valuable insights into how shift schedules are affecting employees. Addressing these analytics promptly can lead to improvements in scheduling practices, thereby enhancing satisfaction, loyalty, and retention.

  • Take a step back. Regardless of what level the schedule is (or isn’t) working for your restaurant, regularly reviewing and revamping shift patterns is crucial. Go over each of the previous tips individually and collectively to make sure the schedule works for both your employees and the business. Scheduling regular reviews empowers you to discover hidden scheduling techniques that may optimize your business even further than you expected.

These tips we’ve provided are far from an exhaustive list, but they should be enough to get you started.

(Bonus: SynergySuite has restaurant scheduling software that can help you)

Challenges to Overcome When Making a 24-Hour Shift Schedule

Creating a 24-hour shift schedule presents several logistical and human challenges. One of these is to manage staffing levels correctly. Another is to comply with laws and regulations in the workplace. Perhaps the greatest challenge is managing business and employee expectations of a work schedule.

Let’s now go over each of these in greater detail.

Challenge 1: Managing Staffing Levels Correctly

To properly meet fluctuating demand in your restaurant, you will need to make sure to staff carefully and correctly. An unbalanced schedule causes a myriad of problems, but making a schedule with just the right balance will keep you, your employees, and your customers deeply satisfied, now and in the future.

Don’t Understaff

If you understaff, employees will get stressed out in the short term, perform less well in the medium term, and potentially burn out and/or defect in the long term. Furthermore, customers are likely to grow impatient and dissatisfied, causing a loss of reputation and sales. Few things are more damaging nowadays than a bad review left by a disgruntled employee or customer or a negative impression shared with family and friends.

Solution: Meet your team’s needs carefully by holding serious conversations with each employee, poring over all available data on historic and current trends in as many areas as possible (you need to see the whole picture), analyzing your findings, and developing a strategy to course correct, such as focusing on improving schedule organization through restaurant management software or hiring additional employees (either temporary or long-term as the situation demands). Authorize overtime where needed.

Don’t Overstaff

If you overstaff, the biggest issue is that you’ll be losing money that could have been allocated elsewhere. You also might lose market share to more efficient competitors. Employees with extra downtime can cause problems with safety(especially in restaurants, as employees are often younger and potentially less mature). Having less work to do also often results in boredom, and although most people don’t enjoy boredom, some employees can’t or won’t handle it.

Solution: plan the schedule carefully to avoid expected lulls in demand, but also be prepared to call in other employees if necessary. Depending on the circumstances, you might consider offering to send one or two employees home early as long as your business is still covered. If you have things that need to be done, assign those employees additional tasks for slow times. Have your managers be proactive at setting an example for your other employees to work hard. Cross-train employees where applicable.

Challenge 2: Compliance with Laws and Regulations

Legal and regulatory frameworks add another layer of complexity to the scheduling puzzle. Labor laws often stipulate minimum rest periods and maximum working hours. While compliance is essential to protect your business, it’s also a great practice because it helps keep your employees physically and mentally healthy.

Also, employees have a legal right to adequate breaks during their shifts. It’s not just a nice to have that helps them rest, recharge, and maintain productivity and safety standards, whether or not they smoke. While most employees will merely complain or view your management negatively for ignoring or depriving them of this privilege, some might bring up a lawsuit, and that’s the last thing anyone wants. On the flip side, by giving your employees those breaks (and sometimes more as needed), you keep them fresh, happy, and ready to work hard to satisfy your customers.

Solution: Stay informed about labor laws and regulations in your area. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the requirements for rest periods, maximum working hours, and breaks during shifts. By understanding these legal obligations, you can create a schedule that meets both your business needs and legal requirements.

Challenge 3: Managing Business and Employee Expectations

Managing business and employee expectations can be tricky. While it’s important to prioritize the success of your business, it’s equally vital to ensure that your employees feel valued and respected. This delicate balance can be difficult to achieve, but it’s essential for maintaining a positive work environment and high levels of employee satisfaction.

Solution: Communicate openly and regularly with your team. Provide clear explanations of the reasons behind schedule decisions and be transparent about any changes that need to be made. Encourage feedback from your employees and consider their concerns when making scheduling decisions. Make an effort to show appreciation for your employees’ hard work and dedication through praise, rewards, or incentives to keep morale.

Challenge 4: Managing Absences

Even though paid time off is planned, it often leads to unexpected scheduling gaps that need to be filled to maintain seamless operations. While fixed schedules can bring consistency and potentially increase satisfaction, they can also limit flexibility and introduce monotony over extended periods, so keep that in mind. Unexpected absences are even harder to navigate, but your restaurant’s success depends on it.

Solution: Have a pool of on-call or part-time employees who can be called upon to fill in when needed.  Making sure all employees are cross-trained (where possible) is also recommended. Offer incentives such as extra pay for last-minute shifts to help motivate employees to step in when necessary.

Benefits of a Well-crafted 24-Hour Shift Schedule

There are tremendous benefits to be had from creating a polished 24-hour shift schedule, foremost of which is continuous coverage for your business needs. The overarching benefits of an optimal 24-hour shift schedule cannot be overstated.

Here are a few of the benefits:

  • Heightened levels of employee physical and mental well-being
  • Better work-life balance for employees
  • Greater organizational efficiency and profitability
  • Uninterrupted operations, guaranteed (assuming employees show up for their scheduled shifts)
  • Improved safety, performance, satisfaction, and engagement
  • Reduced unexpected or easily preventable costs across the board
  • Greater employee loyalty and retention (since you’re scratching their back, they’ll scratch yours)

Whether you can reap one or all of these benefits, if you put in the work to strategize your 24-hour shift schedule effectively, your business, employees, and customers will thank you.


Today we talked about the importance of getting the 24-hour shift schedule right, how and why employee satisfaction matters when scheduling, and went over the challenges and benefits of the 24-hour shift schedule.

It’s not an easy thing to optimize a 24-hour shift schedule, but it’s worth the effort’s weight in gold for your restaurants. Not only will you have more satisfied employees and customers, but your business will also reach greater heights of profitability. And the good news is, now you’re armed with tools that can help you get there. Best of luck!

Also, see SynergySuite’s guide to shift schedules for restaurant employees.

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Leverage Technology to Manage Restaurant Labor Costs

Between increased costs, labor shortages, and socio-economic complexities - staying on top of labor costs is more important than ever for franchise owners.

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