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How to create a great shift work schedule

Shift work schedules can be hard to create and distribute. We're here to help! Read on to find out our top tips to creating the perfect shift work schedule.

Are you looking to up your shift work schedule game? Then you’ve come to the right place!  

Plenty of companies struggle with creating shift schedules for a 24-hour period. You’re faced with issues such as ensuring your scheduled employees are productive while also ensuring they are getting adequate time off to avoid burnout. You want to make sure you have enough employees to cover the shift so you are not understaffed. Then you must ensure employees aren’t entering into too much overtime which can cost you. There are a lot of variables to consider when creating a shift work schedule. So read on to find out how you can combat these issues with a great schedule! 

What is a shift work schedule? 

The term “shift work” usually refers to work schedules that fall outside the hours of 7 am-6 pm. It can be early morning, evening, or night shifts as well as fixed or rotating schedules. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 16% of employers are on shift work schedules. Schedules are created in blocks for full days so there is always an available employee 24/7.  

Usually, shift work is based on industry demands rather than workers’ preferences. For example, manufacturing and healthcare industries require 24-hour shift work to be carried out. Shift work can be sometimes be seen as a negative aspect of working in some industries. However, companies that offer flexible work options to their employees will see improvements in employee morale and loyalty to the company. Flexible schedules are a great way to allow employees more control over their work-life balance.

What to consider when creating shift work schedules 

Shift length:

How long are your shifts? Depending on your business they may be long shifts of 12 hours or 24 hours to give employees longer time off in between. For example, some shift work involves overnight shifts such as in the home health care industry. When operating with long shifts you must take into consideration the productivity levels of employees, overtime costs, and health and safety concerns having employees working that long.

Shift pattern:

What shift pattern is required for your business? What allows employees adequate time off and rest periods? This can look like every weekend off, a day off after every certain number of days worked or a break between every work day. As usual, this will obviously differ depending on what your business needs are.  

Qualified workers:

Some industries require workers to have certain qualifications for specific jobs. For example, healthcare professionals or security professionals. This means you can’t just schedule employees at random, you must have a system in place whereby only qualified workers will be assigned a shift. (Psst, Celyix does this for you in our employee scheduling platform).  


Overtime refers to hours worked by employees that exceed their normal working hours. Usually, employees will earn “overtime pay” when they work such hours. When used correctly, overtime is an effective way of meeting labor demands while not having to hire additional employees. However, don’t underestimate overtime, it can be extremely costly to an organization. It can not only negatively impact your bottom line but it can also have harmful effects on your staff.  

Our top 5 tips to create a shift work schedule 

  1. Automation: 

Automating your scheduling process is key to a great shift work schedule. Not only does it reduce the possibility of human error it also can save you up to 95% of your regular scheduling time! Celayix allows you to build templates that speed up your scheduling process greatly. Our shift templates feature means you can take any number of shifts and save them for reuse in your future schedules.

Rather than starting a schedule from scratch, you can use shift templates. You can apply a template with one click and your schedule gets filled with all your required shifts. Once your schedule is in place you can easily edit shifts to meet your needs. Create your templates with pre-assigned employees and if you need to swap someone out you can use our feature called “Find a Replacement”. Automating the shift creation process saves you so much trouble! 

2. Time off 

It is normal that workers may be expected to work outside their regular hours. This usually happens when there is an upcoming deadline that needs more resources or if there are labor shortages. However, with shift work you need to ensure employees are getting appropriate time off between shifts. As an employer, there is a duty of care to ensure your employees are physically and mentally stable for work. Giving adequate time off for rest is one way you can do this.  

3. Flexibility: 

We mentioned how important flexibility is to shift workers at the start of this blog. Shift work is hard so giving employees some sort of flexibility in how they work is paramount. Here are some ways you can add flexibility to shift work schedules: 

  • Self-Scheduling: This is where you can create the open shifts you need and your workers can pick them up on a first come, first-served basis. 
  • Shift-Bidding: This is similar to self-scheduling but your workers will bid on your open shifts. It is then up to the discretion of the scheduler to approve or deny the request. 

4. Choose the correct employee 

Your employees will have different qualifications, experiences, and competencies. When you use software like Celayix the employees on the platform will have these details saved which allow schedulers to always choose the right employees needed for a certain job. Assign employees to shifts based on your business rules. For instance, you can create rules around overtime, and union rules. Age restrictions and qualifications.  

5. Time and Attendance Tracking: 

Time and attendance tracking is another important aspect of shift work schedules. As well as creating schedules you need to ensure employees are starting and ending their shifts on time. In 24-7 industries it can be hard to monitor this. If you’re not there in person, how you can you tell if employees aren’t leaving early or asking one of their colleagues to clock them in on time? (Also known as time-theft).

Celayix time and attendance platform has powerful built-in features such as geofencing which ensure your team is on-site when they say they are. This gives you peace of mind. It also captures precise attendance data for accurate payroll, billing and compliance. Our software also means you have a method of real-time communication with your employees through in-app messaging on the Celayix mobile app.  

If it’s not clear from the above blog post, we truly believe workforce management software is key to creating great shift work schedules. If any of the above features sound like something you need to improve your operational abilities, we will be happy to show you them in a free demo. Just fill out the form at the link here and one of our Solutions Advisors will be in touch asap! 

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