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  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Adapting shift patterns, rotas and rosters

The unprecedented situation around Coronavirus (COVID-19) is placing huge strain on employers and shift workers as demand profiles change dramatically and labour supply is disrupted by absence.

As the UK’s leading experts on shift working, Working Time Solutions is being contacted by many organisations for help.

The employers approaching us want to adapt their shift patterns, rotas and rosters to support employee health and wellbeing, whilst minimising the impact of disruption caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

This is particularly evident in key sectors with volatile demand and supply and where resilience is vital - healthcare and emergency services, manufacturing (food and beverage, medical equipment, pharma), distribution, utilities, ports, air services, call centres and waste management.

In response, we will be providing free insight, shared learning opportunities and have adapted key aspects of our services and software to best support employers.

Our goal is to ensure Working Time Solutions’ specialist shift working knowledge and software helps as many organisations as possible protect health, livelihoods and essential services during this difficult time.

This includes scenario modelling to calculate optimal labour demand and supply and create contingency patterns that can be activated quickly in response to changing dynamics.

We want to help provide the flexibility and strength required for the uncertain environment that lies ahead.

The challenges

The enquires we are receiving broadly fall under seven categories:

  1. Health & well-being - How to adapt shift patterns, rotas and rosters to protect your workforce from the possible risk of transmitting Coronavirus (COVID-19). Organisations also want to ensure that operating with reduced headcount through illness and self-isolation does not create additional well-being or compliance issues for those employees working more hours to provide cover (e.g. fatigue/accidents).
  2. Labour availability: How to effectively re-schedule shift patterns, rotas and rosters to minimise the impact sickness, self-isolation or shielding is having on cover and your ability to meet demand. Support for short-term scenario planning is also being requested as organisations look to model how best to cope with high and volatile absence rates.
  3. Resilience - How to create shift patterns, rotas and rosters that improve resilience, support critical manning levels and incorporate temporary factors such as hygiene measures and protection for ‘at risk’ demographics. Organisations also need new solutions to support high volumes of remote workers and organise, manage and communicate with these employees effectively.
  4.  Increased demand - How to create effective and compliant shift patterns, rotas and rosters to deal with a significant increase in demand related to Coronavirus (COVID-19) and sudden influx of temporary labour and fast-tracked recruits.
  5. Cost management - How to adapt shift patterns, rotas and rosters to deal with a significant reduction in demand and meet the need for maximising efficiency whilst protecting jobs and service levels.
  6. Workforce management - How to accurately record and monitor key information such as employee status (available, sick, self-isolating etc), hours worked/availability and day-to-day identification of cover requirements and best scheduling options to manage through volatility. Many contacts are also struggling to effectively schedule, manage and communicate with front-line shift workers remotely when HR, admin, resource planners and managers are furloughed or required to work from home.
  7. Mid-term workforce planning - How to create shift patterns, rotas and rosters that support demand volatility and a phased return to ‘business as usual’. Some organisations are now looking at introducing Demand-Led Rostering and Annualised Hours resourcing models to put them in a position to manage seasonality and introduce the flexibility needed to respond to potential future disruption.  

Adapting our software and services

In response to the unique challenges posed by Coronavirus (COVID-19), we have adapted our support to be able to provide remote consultancy and rapid access to our specialist shift design and workforce management technology.

This includes: 

  • Advice - Our shift work consultants are using teleconferencing and online collaboration tools to conduct remote working time assessments and discussions around challenges/potential solutions, best practice and recommendations.
  • Demand planning - We are providing remote demand data analysis and modelling services to organisations looking to plan and re-plan their shift patterns, rotas and rosters. Given the fluidity of the situation this is a sustained service with consultants available to revise and adapt models based on the latest information. We have also created a ‘fast track’ methodology which ensures valid solutions can be devised for organisations with limited demand and supply data.
  • Shift pattern design - The unique algorithms in our powerful shift design software will help organisations quickly model the best shift patterns, rotas and rosters to meet evolving labour demand and supply. We’ve created a mechanism to ensure stakeholders can remotely collaborate with our consultants, using the software to model and shortlist options in a real-time environment.
  • Workforce management - We can deliver a rapid deployment version of our enterprise-level workforce management software WORKSuite® and employee self-service app myTIME. This streamlined, remotely configured version will ensure organisations can quickly gain visibility over cover, absence, hours worked and compliance thresholds. The myTIME app will enable crucial remote communication around working hours and practices whilst simplifying administration around absence, shift-swaps and managing holiday. As the system is cloud-based, it can be used by HR, admin, resource planners or managers working from home to plan, manage, monitor and communicate with shift workers remotely.
  • Stakeholder engagement & communications - We’ve changed our existing support packages to use online collaboration tools and content hubs to ensure shift workers and unions are fully engaged during the process of adapting or introducing new working time measures.

What now?

If you have an urgent need please get in touch. We’re currently experiencing high levels of demand, but we’ve put in place new systems and resources that will ensure we can help as many organisations as possible during this period.

If you want to explore your situation in more detail you can book a remote 1-2-1 session with our experts where you can confidentially discuss your challenges and talk in broad terms about potential solutions/next steps.

Over the coming weeks we’ll be producing relevant content containing insights and advice around managing shift work through the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis and into the future. There will also be webinars and online sessions where you can engage directly with our consultants.

If you are not already on our contact database, you can register your interest here

On behalf of the whole team at WTS…please take care, stay safe and look out for each other.

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