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Shift Workers – Why Scheduling Them Can Be Difficult!

When it comes to managing shift workers, scheduling them might just be the most difficult part. However, there are tools and resources out there to make life easier!

Shift work is relied upon by many companies and organizations throughout the world. Some rely on 24/7 operations to satisfy their business needs. Shift workers can be defined as anybody who works outside of a steady 9-5 schedule. There are many different ways in which management will try to create the ‘perfect’ schedule for shift workers. However, with scheduling shift workers, there are many associated difficulties that they may face.

Employee clocking in to work

Regardless of the size of your company, scheduling shift workers to suit company and employee needs should be a priority. A well-planned schedule ensures that a company maximizes productivity and profitability while helping to manage employee attendance effectively. That being said, the challenging nature of scheduling shift workers can cause errors and be a burden to employee health. 

Especially within larger companies, an efficient workforce schedule is tricky to maintain. The most important things that managers need to consider when creating a schedule are:

  • Budget control
  • Ensuring maximum productivity
  • Fair distribution of work
  • Effective ways of filling shifts if problems arise with initial shift assignments
  • Processing time off requests

In this article, we will discuss the potential reasons why scheduling shift workers can be difficult. 

Shift Worker Flexibility

Catering for the ever-changing needs of an entire workforce can bring more difficulties than one. For managers, making sure that shift work is flexible is always one of the scheduling’s most demanding tasks. However, not all companies have a process that supports this. Shift workers’ lack of flexibility may expose them to potential health risks. This can have a monumental effect on a company’s productivity and profitability. The exposure of employees to potential health risks can cause absenteeism. Absenteeism costs U.S employers in excess of $2,660 a year. Therefore a company needs a coherent schedule in place to reduce this. 

Shift Workers Health

62% of night-shift workers suffer from inadequate sleep!


Studies have found that shift work can have long-term or short-term health effects. Frank Sheer stated that one of the fundamental effects of a shift worker’s lifestyle is sleep disturbance. NSC confirmed that roughly 62% of night-shift workers suffered from inadequate sleep. Directly linked to this is the increased risk of injury at work. From an employee’s perspective, irregular sleep patterns could impact valuable family time and life’s necessities; exercise and a healthy diet. The lack of flexibility increases the potential of stress, and thus, ‘getting sick’, says HealthLink BC. To summarize, the aforementioned health risks that shift workers become exposed to can result in an overall decreased quality of life. 

work life balance for shift workers

The risks that shift work impose are a reminder of the importance of having a flexible schedule that not only suits the requirements of the company but also provides an adequate work-life balance for the employee. As advocates of workplace flexibility, Celayix recognizes that employee demands and expectations are consistently changing. Companies need to utilize shift work flexibility by integrating the necessary knowledge, resources, and tools to ensure their employees are being cared for. The happier the workforce, the more engaged and motivated they will be to fulfill the shifts as required.  

Types of Scheduling

According to Connect Team, managers opting to use manual scheduling can waste 20% more of their time creating a schedule. Putting this in perspective, managers waste 140 work hours per year! Many companies choose to integrate employee scheduling software to support their complex scheduling needs. 

Depending on the size of the company, it can make a manager’s job a lot easier if they choose methods of scheduling to suit their workforce. Using these methods of scheduling aligns with creating a flexible work schedule. We discuss the three methods that can help with this.

Employee Availability

One of the simplest forms of employee scheduling is to allow the employee to declare their availability. A key element of keeping shift workers happy is to provide them with the best opportunity for work-life balance. This gives the employee more control over when they work and helps the manager gain an understanding of who is available for every given shift. 

Shift Bidding

Shift bidding is a way of creating a selection of open shifts that shift workers can express an interest in working, by ‘bidding’ on them. During a set period of time, the manager allows the employees to bid for a shift. At the end of the bidding period, they will make a decision on whose bid to accept for the job; expectedly based on the most suitable candidate. Shift bidding is a very popular method of scheduling because it provides an equal balance in giving the employee the opportunity to choose when they want to work, while still giving the employer control on who to schedule.


Self-scheduling is a method of scheduling that allows shift workers to choose their shifts. Quite like shift bidding, employees can self-select the shifts they want to work. Once the system recognizes that the employee is qualified to work the shift, it will become available for them to apply. Once applied for, the shifts will be given to employees on a first come first serve basis unless any rules prevent this. For example, a manager may choose to allocate shifts based on the seniority of those who have bid. Nevertheless, this option gives the employee the most control possible, in that they can instantly gain a shift of their choice that caters to their lifestyle needs.   

Lack of Loyalty from shift workers

It’s fair to say that if a company doesn’t offer shift flexibility and doesn’t acquire appropriate scheduling types, there may be a lack of loyalty throughout the workforce. If an employee feels disconnected from a company because the shifts they’re being offered don’t suit their personal life, or that they have a lack of control over the shifts they can work, then they may look to work elsewhere. With various companies that may be willing to offer an increase in the quality of work-life balance, the opportunity for an employee to jump ship is very much a reality.

Employees looking to improve their work-life balance applies great emphasis to the importance of a company’s need to ensure that a flexible employee scheduling process is in place. If companies cannot retain employees, this can lead to understaffing and a huge decrease in productivity and profitability. 

Keep your shift workers happy!

It becomes clear that most of the difficulties that companies and organizations face are in direct relation to the lack of flexibility and scheduling options they provide for their workforce. 

For employees, it’s evident that shift work flexibility isn’t just a state of being content with their working hours, but more so the freedom of hours that they’re allowed outside of work. Research states that managers waste 20% of their timecreating a manual schedule. This leads us to the conclusion that integrating a form of employee scheduling software is essential in ensuring a flexible schedule for the workforce. Without this, a company may face organizational issues, with no easy method of automation if something within the schedule changes. At Celayix, we can strongly advise that the implementation of workforce management software will relieve many of your scheduling difficulties.

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