How to start planning your shift schedule one week in advance


4 min read

How to start planning your shift schedule one week in advance

Richard Anderson

Richard Anderson

Mar 25, 2024


    When it’s at its best, shift work provides flexibility and variety to teams, giving them the chance to shimmy up the career ladder coupled with an enviable work/life balance.

    But when things aren’t firing on all cylinders, shift work can be challenging – and stressful. In The Shift Towards Retention, we found 85% of hospitality workers have experienced symptoms of poor mental health over the past 12 months, including depression, anxiety or stress.

    And with 69% of employees given a week or less notice of their shifts they have little chance of creating a rewarding and enjoyable life outside of work.

    Is it any surprise that 53% of UK shift employees are looking to leave their current job?

    Taken in isolation, these stats make for tough reading. But there’s one easy change you can make that’ll boost your team’s mental health and help keep them happy – give them more advance notice of their shift patterns.

    While this sounds simple on paper, having to build the foundations for planning in advance and tackling things like legal requirements, best practice and your team’s preferred ways of working can feel daunting.

    So to get you started, we’ve pulled together three simple ways to ensure you can plan at least a week ahead and unleash the power of planning.

    Develop a robust routine for rota planning

    One of the most important elements to a successful business is consistency – doing the same thing in the same way every time.

    And the same goes when it comes to creating rotas and planning ahead for your team.

    Rota planning is an integral part of every shift-based business but it’s often neglected or left until the last minute.

    Before you can get your team’s rota and routine into a good shape, you need to make sure your own routine is robust and consistent.

    Lock in some time every week to plan your rota for the following week. Put it in your calendar and make it an integral part of your planning, giving your team notice of their shifts at the same time every week will allow them to better plan their own lives and help reduce unnecessary stress.

    Make rota planning a collaborative effort

    Making your team a part of the planning process is a simple and effective way to ensure everyone feels valued and integral to the success of your business.

    Scrambling around last minute to try and fill shifts puts unnecessary pressure on everyone. Getting your team involved at the start of the rota planning process and getting early availability gives them a chance to ask for specific shifts or days off.

    It’s not surprising that 67% of hospitality workers believe more notice of shift patterns would improve their lives, as 56% of employees have had to cancel personal plans due to last-minute shift changes.

    By making rota planning collaborative and identifying the availability and preferences of each team member at the start of your planning process, you can help improve the work/life balance of your team and help them make the most of their valuable time off.

    As Kris Hall, Founder of The Burnt Chef Project says: “If employees can see their shifts weeks ahead, life becomes immediately better.”

    Use the right tools for the job

    So now you’ve carved out some regular time to plan your rota and spoken with your team about their shift preferences and availability, it’s time to actually sit down and put your plan into action.

    Surprisingly, paper rotas are still the most common way managers communicate shift patterns to their staff. While this may seem like the most straightforward option, if you’re looking to start planning further ahead and involve your team as much as possible (which you should be!), then it’s far from ideal.

    Using a paper rota means it’s impossible to automate recurring shift patterns and making changes involves a whole mess of scribblings and crossing-outs.

    If you’re still using a pen and paper to create your rota, think about moving to a shared spreadsheet. Here you can easily make changes and your team can swap shifts with each other without you having to completely rewrite whole sections.

    Additionally, while a WhatsApp group is not as good an option as a dedicated platform, it’s worth creating one to communicate as you begin to plan further ahead. A work WhatsApp group will allow you to share the rota and give your team one place to communicate and discuss shift swaps.

    Long term planning for success

    Planning one week ahead is a great start but to help improve your team’s mental health and increase retention, you need to be thinking long term. Now you have the structure in place to plan seven days in advance, the jump to planning two weeks ahead isn’t nearly as big.

    Here’s how you can easily scale up your planning and get to two weeks.

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