Clopening: What It Is and How to Avoid It

Hourly workers, particularly in the service industry, often work inconsistent hours during every shift. While they might open on Monday, they could work a closing shift on Tuesday and then open again on Wednesday. Working back-to-back closing and opening shifts, or clopening, can lead to some negative effects for employees and businesses. Learn what clopening is, discover the industries in which clopening is common, review the negative side effects of clopening, consider advice for avoiding clopening and read frequently asked questions about clopening. 

 

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What is clopening?

Clopening is a combination of the words “closing” and “opening,” and describes the practice of employees working a closing shift followed directly by an opening shift with very few hours for rest in between. Depending on the specific hours, some clopeners have as little as four hours between shifts. 

Related: How to Set a Daily Schedule as a Manager

 

Industries in which clopening is common

Clopening is a common practice in many industries, but primarily those in the retail and service sectors who utilize hourly employees. You can find clopening in:

  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Hospitals
  • Clothing stores
  • Retail stores
  • Convenient stores
  • Gas stations

Any business open 24 hours a day or with less than 10 hours between closing their doors for the day and opening them again in the morning can practice clopening. 

Related: Types of Work Schedules for Employees: A Manager’s Guide

 

Negative side effects of clopening

Unfortunately, clopening carries many negative side effects for both the employees who work back-to-back closing and opening shifts and for the companies they work for. 

 

Lack of sleep

One of the biggest problems with clopening for employees is the lack of sleep. When an employee works until 11 p.m. or 12 a.m. and then has to return to work at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m., they have very little time to travel home and rest before getting ready for their next shift and returning to work. Chronic exhaustion can lead to difficulty focusing and more severe health issues like obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.

 

Poor job performance

When employees don’t have to time rest and recover from their first shift before coming back in to work, they’re likely to feel exhausted and unfocused, which can lead to poor job performance and mistakes at work. 

 

Childcare challenges

For working parents, childcare can be extra burdensome during clopening shifts. Since their children need care overnight, they must rely on the kindness of family members or on expensive babysitters to watch their children for long stretches, sometimes for over 24 hours. 

 

Low morale

Employees who regularly have to work clopening shifts are more likely to contribute to a feeling of low morale in the workplace since they may struggle to demonstrate exuberance and excitement to be at work after very little rest between shifts. 

 

Burnout

Those employees who consistently work clopening shifts may begin to feel burned out or unable to complete their job duties effectively. 

 

Employee turnover

Consistent clopening can lead to employee turnover. Eventually, the exhaustion, childcare struggles and inability to perform their jobs well can drive some employees to seek employment elsewhere, leaving you to find and hire replacements. 

 

Advice for avoiding clopening in your business

While clopening can lead to some negative consequences for both employees and your business, you can take steps to avoid scheduling clopening shifts. 

  • Use a scheduling program: Scheduling programs often have a feature that disallows scheduling clopening shifts. This is an effective strategy to keep you from accidentally scheduling clopeners. 
  • Seek input from your employees: Ask your employees if they want any clopening shifts. You may have some employees who don’t mind working one clopening shift a week, while for others, it’s too much of a strain. Knowing who’s able to work clopening shifts and who isn’t can help you maintain an effective work schedule. 
  • Provide schedules early: Make work schedules several weeks in advance. This way, employees have time to trade shifts and manage childcare or other personal tasks well in advance of their scheduled work time. 
  • Hire more employees: Hire an additional employee or two so you don’t need to schedule employees to work back-to-back shifts. 
  • Establish a mandatory rest period: Set a mandatory rest period between shifts for your employees. Hold yourself accountable by paying overtime or providing perks if you have to schedule employees for clopening shifts. 

 

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Frequently asked questions about clopening

Is clopening legal?

Clopening is legal. There are no federal or state laws outlawing the practice of scheduling employees for back-to-back shifts. However, some states are currently pursuing legislation that would set mandatory rest hours between shifts to eliminate clopening practices in their states. Some companies have pledged to stop scheduling employees for clopening shifts to improve employee well-being and maximize productivity on the job.

Do employers have to post schedules?

Employers need to share work assignments with their employees, otherwise the employees wouldn’t know they need to show up to work. How far in advance employers need to post work schedules depends on the state. Some states have laws governing how many days or weeks in advance employers must post schedules, while others don’t regulate the practice at all. Look into the labor laws in your state to see if there are regulations for posting work schedules.

What's the longest shift an employee can work?

There’s no single federal law that regulates the number of hours an employee can work in one shift. The U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act stipulates that employers must provide overtime to employees who work more than 40 hours in a seven-day period. Some specific industries, like healthcare and truck driving, set limits on the number of extended shifts — usually 12 hours or longer — that employees can work for their own safety. Look to your local, state and industry specific regulations for guidance on how long you can make shifts for your employees.

Clopening is a common practice, but one with few benefits. If you regularly schedule clopeners for your business, consider strategies you can use to end the practice and give your employees more time to rest between work hours.

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