If you are running a business that is open 24/7, you need a different shift pattern than the traditional 9-to-5 schedule or three-shift system for your staff. Enter the 2-2-3 work schedule.

Keep on reading to learn more about how this system works, how best to implement it, and the ways it can help manage your employees’ productivity and well-being. 

How Does the 2-2-3 Work Schedule Work?

The Panama schedule, better known as the 2-2-3 work schedule, involves four teams of employees who work a cycle of 28 days with 12-hour shifts. 

Each team starts with two working days, followed by two days off. The two-day break is followed by three working days, hence the name. 

The pattern repeats over the course of 28 days and then starts over again, providing full-time staff coverage 24 hours, seven days a week.  

An example of the 2-2-3 work schedule 

Here is a breakdown of a 28-day cycle:

In the first week, team 1 works Monday and Tuesday from 7 am to 7 pm, while the second team works from 7 pm to 7 am. These two teams take two days off, while teams 3 and 4 take over the same pattern. 

Then teams 1 and 2 work for three days, while teams 3 and 4 have three days off. 


First week

Second week

Third week

Fourth week

Team 1





Team 2





Team 3





Team 4





*D-day shift; N-Night shift; O-day off

What kind of businesses and industries use the 2-2-3 work week?

As mentioned in the starting, this work schedule is mainly used by businesses that require round-the-clock staff coverage, such as 

  • Hospitals 
  • The police and other law enforcement agencies
  • Fire stations
  • Customer service call centers 
  • Utility companies
  • Gas stations 
  • Transport companies, including airlines
  • Some media outlets and newspapers
  • Industrial and manufacturing industries

Pros & Cons of the of 2-2-3 Work Schedule

Before you decide to implement the Panama work schedule, consider the benefits and drawbacks. 


  • It is less grueling than other schedules

Employees have a limited amount of consecutive shifts they have to work (no more than three), plus the days off can provide a nice break and relieve stress and burnout. 

  • Can improve work-life balance. 

This allows workers to spend more time with families, relax and re-energize. More time off also ensures that workers return to their jobs feeling well-rested, which in turn increases efficiency and productivity. Actually, organizations that promote work-life balance report that workers are twice as productive.

  • More leisure time. 

Employees get a long weekend every other weekend and only work two days a week every alternating week in the month so they can get some well-deserved R&R. 

  • Better for workers’ time management. 

The schedule is fixed a month in advance, which means employees can plan and organize their time. 

  • Can help your business.

Depending on the type of business you are running, staying open 24/7 can help you attract and retain more customers. It will also show your clients that you are available round-the-clock, which may build loyalty even more. 

  • Lower your workforce.

For some industries and businesses, the 2-2-3 work schedule might make it easier to hire fewer people for the same amount of work. This will not only free up a lot of resources for other projects but can also help you avoid a common issue among employers which is finding talent—statistics report that as many as 63% of recruiters can’t find enough qualified candidates to fill open positions.

What about the downsides?

The fact that a 2-2-3 Work Schedule involves two to three consecutive 12-hour work schedules and alternates between day and night shifts can be detrimental to the health and well-being of the workers.

A 12-hour shift can be draining and workers could find it difficult to remain alert, particularly during night shifts. There are other negative side effects from fatigue:

How to Manage a 2-2-3 Work Schedule 

Here are 10 tips that will help you manage the 2-2-3 work week. 

1. Define a start time 

Not all shifts have to start at 7 am. If your workers are early risers you can start the shift at 5 am, or 9 am if that suits them better. It’s important to ensure that the start time fits their schedules—happy employees are more productive. 

Note that some organizations can’t set a desired start time due to the work they do. In this case, you can allow employees to switch shifts so they get the flexibility they need. 

2. Introduce short breaks

Give your workers a chance to take several short breaks throughout the shift—some might hit the gym, others could take a nap, but they will come back refreshed and ready for work. 

Try the Pomodoro technique which uses a timer to break up the working process into 25-minute sessions with 5-minute breaks in between. 

3. Plan for possible issues

You need to factor in sick days, vacations, and possible replacements in the work schedule and rearrange workers so that the one covering the shift is not overworked or exhausted from working too many hours that week. Divide the teams per week according to the number of shifts they have—one member of the team with the fewest number of shifts that week can act as the replacement. 

Leaves (both planned and unplanned) will cause several disruptions in the schedule, which means that arranging for replacements and notifying your staff ahead of time is a must as it will allow them to plan their activities accordingly.

4. Get new employees used to the system 

It may be hard for newcomers to get used to the unusual work week, both physically and mentally, so give them some time and monitor them for signs of fatigue and health issues. 

You can also coach them to help them deal with the working hours or arrange for counseling if you feel that the working schedule is affecting their mental well-being. Remember, that 8% of Americans would leave their job due to health and well-being issues

5. Advise workers to monitor their caffeine intake 

Coffee can help keep workers up at night, but too much caffeine can be detrimental to their health. What’s more, too many cups of Joe during the day can disrupt workers’ sleep schedules, leaving them feeling even more tired. 

6. Rotate shifts now and then

Unless you vary shifts regularly, your employee can become too adjusted to one shift and find it hard to switch from day to night as time goes by. To avoid this issue, rotate shifts every two to four weeks. 

7. Make sure there is plenty of light

Light affects a person’s circadian rhythm which basically tells the body when it should be awake and when it should sleep. Providing appropriate lighting in the working area, especially during night shifts, can help your employees feel less tired and more alert. 

The key is providing the right kind of light—too dim and it might cause even more fatigue, but too bright and it could lead to migraine and eye issues.

8. Have a designated area for naps

To battle sleep deprivation, have an area in the workspace where employees can take naps or simply rest for 20 minutes without being interrupted. Power naps can be a great way to re-energize and reduce burnout which affects about 77% of American workers today. 

9. Try automating the process

There are several time management and shift scheduling tools that can help you stay on top of things. The best employee management apps can automate several processes such as scheduling shifts and replacements as well as notifying staff in advance of any changes. 

10. Communicate 

The most important part is to get constant feedback from employees. Are they well rested? Are they happy with their work schedule? What issues are they having?

Their answers will help you adjust the work schedule to their needs, thus ensuring that they remain efficient. On top of that, keeping an open channel of communication with your staff can boost employee retention—according to the latest job satisfaction statistics, workers whose input is appreciated are over four times more productive in the workplace. 

The Takeaway

It can be hard to manage a company that provides goods or services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Luckily, the 2-2-3 work system can help you. If implemented properly, the Panama work schedule will provide your workers with the flexibility they need to do their jobs and still have time for rest, family, and leisure.