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Q&A – What is a grasshopper crew?



A grasshopper crew is the term used for the fourth crew of shiftworkers many businesses use to fill in “leftover” slots in fixed 8-hour shift schedule.

For example, if a company uses a fixed 5-on, 2-off pattern, the day shift crew might work Sunday through Thursday, the evening crew Tuesday through Saturday and the night crew Thursday through Monday. That leaves a hodgepodge of shifts uncovered: Sunday and Monday evenings, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and Friday and Saturday days.

Fixed 8-hour schedules that follow a 6-2 or 7-1, 7-2, 7-4 pattern leave different but equally problematic combinations of uncovered shifts.

A common way to cover these days is with a fourth crew that “hops” from one shift to another. (At some companies this crew is referred to as the swing shift or “mad dog” crew.)

Needless to say, the grasshopper crew is generally the least desirable crew for workers, who must work all three shifts within a week (or less) and face constantly changing schedules. Employees on this crew also are prone to alertness problems because of the highly irregular pattern of shifts.

In cases where it’s a necessity to maintain a permanent day crew that works 8-hour shifts, one way to eliminate the need for a grasshopper crew is to have two of the four crews combine to cover all evening shifts and the empty slots on the day and night shifts.

In other words, Crew #1 works exclusively days, and Crew #2 works exclusively nights. Crew #3 works half the evening shifts and fills in for Crew #1 on their days off. Crew #4 works the other half of the evening shifts and fills in for Crew #2 on their nights off.

Shift scheduling experts refer to this alternative as a “semi-fixed” schedule because half the employees are on fixed shifts and the other half work two different shifts.

In most 24-hour situations, though, companies find it difficult maintain a permanent day crew that works 8-hour shifts. Other options — such as rotating 8-hour schedules, fixed or rotating 12-hour schedules, or schedules that combine 8s and 12s — are usually more feasible.

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