What is shift planning? 4 must-know best practices

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Darragh O’Sullivan , Marketing

Shift planning is the process of defining a schedule that dictates what hours need to be worked by who over a specific period of time. It also includes things like shift overlap, shift change times, vacation, training, holidays, and timezones.

Shift planning is not a new phenomenon, but the way it’s done is changing rapidly. With the rise of remote working and geographically distributed teams, shift planning has become much more than defining shift rotations with pen and paper or on spreadsheets. It’s becoming more human-centric with employees within teams having much more of a say as to what their schedule looks like. 

For modern teams, shift planning can be crucial, depending on the industry they work in, or the type of customer they serve.

Below, we’ve outlined 4 best practices to keep in mind when implementing shift planning. 

Use historical data to predict demand

One of the nice things about using shift planning software is that you can integrate the platform you use with historical data within your other systems to predict demand. That might be how many products need to be produced in a given time, how many staff members are needed for a busy weekend in a restaurant, or how many members of a customer support team (we call them surfers) are needed to ensure that demand is met. 

Taking the example of customer support, integrating with ticketing systems like Zendesk, live chat & automation tools like Intercom, and customer connection platforms like Dixa, support teams can combine all of their data across the different platforms they use to accurately forecast demand levels, ensuring they provide great customer experience every time they interact with a customer. 

Embrace ‘always on’ scheduling (in a healthy way)

With the shift towards hybrid and remote working models, teams have become more physically dispersed across different time zones. This is conducive to the ‘aways on’ model of shift planning. Teams can serve customers in multiple different time zones, ensuring they provide great experiences for customers regardless of the time. 

Something to remember here is the importance of not letting these shift plans negatively affect your teams work life balance or mental well being. We have previously delved in to shift scheduling in detail, which uncovered some troubling statistics about the state of shift working in the UK:

  • Over 70% of shift workers report that working shifts have affected their physical or mental health.
  • 30% of shift workers are doing unpaid overtime.
  • 61% of shift workers don’t get paid breaks.

With these stats in mind, companies should be mindful of the effects that always on scheduling can have on their surfers, and plan shifts in a fair way. 

Use the time saved on scheduling wisely

When it comes to shift planning, one of the most common benefits companies will promote is the time saved as a result of using shift planning software. Surfboard customers for example, see a 75% reduction in time spent planning shifts, in ​​comparison to using spreadsheets.

But what’s the big deal with saving time if you don’t use that time to help your team become better versions of themselves? 

Shift planning software allows managers to focus on what’s important; Their team’s skills, abilities, levels of engagement, and happiness.

This time saved gives managers the opportunity to implement training & development, make sure their surfers are engaged and motivated, and do all they can to make sure they’re happy in their roles. 

Prioritise the teams happiness

If you Google shift planning, the first page of results will undoubtedly include lots of articles about how the successful implementation of shift planning helps to improve productivity, increase profit, reduce costs and empower managers to effectively manage their resources. 

Defining your team of individuals with unique working styles, needs, and personalities as “resources” is not only counterproductive from a strictly business point of view, it’s inhumane to begin with. It’s this definition of surfers as resources that drives us to achieve our mission: To make work more human.

At Surfboard, we see shift planning as a way of bringing your team together rather than using it to improve quantitative metrics at the expense of the happiness and autonomy of individual team members. Our shift planning software has fairness baked in, empowering customer support teams to plan shifts that are equitable and considerate of the whole team.

Click through the Surfboard product to see how it enables shift planning, or get in touch with us below for a full demo of the Surfboard product.

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