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Split Shifts – An Overview

Any manager knows that scheduling workers during rush periods and around service times can be a big challenge, particularly if employees are accustomed to a straight shift (8 hours). Fortunately, such challenges can be solved by split shifts. A split shift occurs only when there’s a deliberate change/ interruption in an employee’s working schedule. Such shifts are initiated by employers or managers and their goal is to divide a workday into several parts.

Split shifts in California for employees are typically unpaid and they should be non-working periods to be effective. Consequently, split shift differs from rest and meal breaks. All California workers should have a basic understanding of the split shift law to know how the provisions of this law impact them, respectively.

Basics of the Split Shift System

The split shifts for employees in California can only be understood by answering several questions, including:

  • What’s a split shift?
  • What are the benefits of split shifts to workers and managers/ employers?
  • Is a split shift system ideal for your business?

Split Shift Defined

A split shift occurs when the regular workday is broken down into two or several shifts that are separated by non-paid time. For instance, suppose a restaurant employee works the breakfast rush from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and takes a break.  The employee resumes work from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Such a work schedule constitutes a split shift because it’s broken into two parts and the features break between the shifts is unpaid.

According to California split shift law, non-working breaks between shifts are non-payable. Also, rest & meal breaks do not impact split shifts in any way. The concept is more relevant to industries where employees work in shifts, such as grocery stores, manufacturing, and retail. However, workers’ scheduling rules can vary by state– a scheduling option considered legal in California can be illegal in another state. Understanding how split shift laws in your jurisdiction is the first step in finding an appropriate, applicable, and legal scheduling option for your team.

Benefits of Split Shifts

The benefits of a split shift system are enjoyed by employers and employees alike in the following ways:

1. Cost Control/ Saving

A split shift helps reduce expenses and control the overheads of a company. Giving breaks to some workers, particularly non-essential employees, during peak hours can help cut labor costs and ensure you work with only the employees who are needed to avoid redundancy. As a result of reducing labor costs, the company/ business maximizes profits.

2. Improved Customer Experience

Customer experience determines whether your clients will come back or not. A split shift ensures you have enough workers to meet the demands of a busy shift, hence enhancing the customer service and brand image. For instance, being understaffed during rush hours will overwhelm the available staff and negatively impact customer experience–the split shift system helps a business maintain smooth operations even during peak hours.

3. Prevent Burnout

Working long hours is the fastest route to burnout. Being understaffed puts pressure on employees during rush hours and it could stress the overworked staff. In addition, employees can decide to quit when they can’t take it anymore.

The split shift system simplifies a work schedule to ensure employees are not overworked and they have a backup at all times to reduce stress. Also, the system helps to increase customer turnover because you’ll always have enough staff to help clients.

4. Increased Productivity

Research shows working long hours works negatively impacts productivity and efficiency–sadly, most employers think the opposite is true. Employees can be compared to a battery; they can only work optimally if they are allowed to recharge regularly–and that’s why the split shift system is important. The system ensures workers get ample time to recharge and resume once refreshed, reenergized, and more productive.

5. Work-Life Balance

I’m sure you have a life outside work–your employees also have a life outside work! Balancing work and life outside work, also called work-life balance, is crucial to your employees’ health and well-being, and productivity by extension. Also, research shows that work-life balance is a top consideration for prospective job applicants–meaning companies that do not provide flexible work schedules might lose out on competent workers. With the split shift system, your employees will have ample time to sort their errands without negatively impacting their productivity/work.

Convenience of a Split Shift System to Businesses

Split shift schedules cannot be used in all businesses, they work best in shift-based industries, as afore-mentioned. For instance, a typical office environment is not based on working in shifts hence, a split shift schedule may not be ideal.

The split shift system works best in industries where workers are idle or experience significant lulls at certain times of their workdays. Such industries can include:

  • Restaurants or food industry;
  • Call centers;
  • Public transportation; and
  • Hospitality sectors.

Shift-based workers in California are protected by the split-shift California law. Both workers and employers/managers should understand the provision of this law to legally protect themselves.

Eleena Wills
Hi, I’m Eleena Wills. Being a writer and blogger, I strive to provide informative and valuable articles to people. With quality, constructive, and well-researched articles, one can make informed choices. I cover a wide range of topics, from home improvement to hair styling and automotive.


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