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Definition of a Work Schedule

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A work schedule includes the days of the week and times of the day a particular employee is scheduled to work at a job. The traditional full-time work week in the United States involves five eight-hour days. However, many employers offer part-time and alternative schedules to cover their work needs and attract workers.

Traditional Shifts

Though the specific times vary, full-time U.S. workers often work three distinct shifts. Daytime schedules typically begin around 8 a.m. and go through 5 p.m., including a one-hour lunch. An evening shift usually runs from around 3 p.m. to midnight. Companies that have overnight shifts usually schedule them from around midnight to 8 a.m, with no dedicated meal break. In some workplaces, employees get scheduled for the same shift each day. In retail, it is common for full-time employees to work different shifts, such as the opening shift or closing shift.

Alternative Schedules

In addition to part-time work schedules, employers use a variety of alternative work schedules to attract talent. A compressed workweek involves four 10-hour days, for instance. Flex schedules allow employees to adjust their hours to an earlier or later shift, but core hours in the middle of the day are often required.


Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.

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