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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. In fact, between 26 and 38 million adults (18%–26% of the population) in the United States are considered to be shift workers! Some rely on 24/7 operations to satisfy their business needs. 

24 hr shift workShift workers can be defined as people who work outside of a steady 9-5 schedule. Having to work on weekends or overtime is also considered shift work. A shift worker’s hours can also vary a lot from day to day and may not have a set schedule list most workers do. Industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, security, and hospitality have taken advantage of shift work and the flexibility it brings.

Management will try to create the ‘perfect’ schedule for shift workers in many different ways. However, with scheduling shift workers, there are many associated difficulties that they may face.

Why is Managing Shift Workers Effectively Important?

Working these unsociable hours has an impact on employees in many ways. This is why it’s important to be managing your shift workers effectively.


Working irregular or long shifts can mean employees are missing a lot of time with their friends and family. It also means that they have to adapt to frequent changes in their body clock. A person should be able to meet work demands as well as balance their family and social activities too.work life balance


Fatigue often goes hand in hand with shift workers especially when someone is working nights, or nonstandard day shifts. It is common knowledge that shift work schedules can mess with our circadian rhythms. It can be dangerous as it impairs employees which compromise their physical, mental and emotional tolerance. 

It’s also common for shift workers to work rotating shifts, or 12-hour shifts, which also contribute to fatigue. This makes it easy for workers to make mistakes which can be dangerous in a lot of these workplaces. Did you know workers with sleep problems are 1.62 times more likely to get injured than workers with no sleep issues?


Shift workers are at might higher risk of burnout. Employee burnout can be caused by a poor work-life balance. Burnout is a type of stress that is caused by a person’s job that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion. It is really prevalent in 24/7 industries and has a huge impact on the health of an employee.

LOW EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENTemployee engagement

Low employee engagement can result from long, monotonous hours late at night. Of course, it’s normal to lose interest in a task during these hours. However, if this lack of engagement is constant it means reduced productivity and a low-quality workforce.

Scheduling Shift Workers

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. 


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. attendance and your absenteeism policy

Absenteeism costs U.S employers in excess of $2,660 a year. Therefore a company needs a coherent schedule in place to reduce this. 


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

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. 

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 Suited to Shift Workersflexible scheduling

Managers opting to use manual scheduling can waste 20% more of their time creating a schedule when compared to automated scheduling methods. 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.


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 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-SCHEDULINGself scheduling on phone

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.  


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. employee scheduling

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.

Written by Chloe Driver

Written by Chloe Driver

Chloe is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Celayix, focusing on content strategy and website management. She has been working with Celayix for over 3 years and learned a lot about SEO and Website Development in that time.

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