Staffing Management

Shift swap software empowers managers and employees to take charge of scheduling

By Rick Bell

Jun. 7, 2020

Employers must have been taking notes from athletic coaches when they started naming shift schedules. The 2-3-2, the DuPont, four on four off, and going EOWEO all sound like a defensive strategy or a trick play. (For the record, EOWEO stands for Every Other Weekend Off, not a signal to Tom Brady to throw the football to Rob Gronkowski.)

Whatever the terminology, shift schedules remain the lifeblood of an hourly workforce. Whether it’s 12-hour schedule types or a traditional 24 hours on and 48 hours off scheduling system for firefighters, shift swapping also is a key tool for employees and managers to maintain both consistency in staffing levels and  a vibrant, engaged talent pool.

Accommodating a shift swap

Shift swapping lets an employee request to work one of their shifts and in exchange, work one of that colleague’s scheduled shifts.

Establish a written policy that provides clear guidance to staff while simultaneously ensuring the organization’s needs are met. Make sure the policy is clear and easy to understand. Don’t overcomplicate it; the simpler the better. Implementing an easy-to-use shift swapping software simplifies the process, which can otherwise bog down into an arduous, overly complicated back-and-forth among employees that wastes everyone’s time.

Benefits for employers 

A manual, paper-based shift swapping policy that relies on employees scrambling to cover for each other is a risk at best and a chronic, chaotic scheduling disaster waiting to happen. Managers play an integral role in closely monitoring shift swapping. Their oversight assures that every shift will be fully covered. 

Through innovative workforce management technology, managers can approve shift swaps with complete oversight of costs and compliance. The technology empowers managers to: 

  • Control staffing levels — eliminating understaffing and overstaffing.
  • Monitor so staff members swap shifts with colleagues who have similar skills and experience.
  • Lower the potential for no-show employees.
  • Reduce overtime.
  • Create a deadline for shift swaps.
  • Distribute unwanted shifts fairly and evenly among all employees.
  • Customize to control cost, employee availability, qualifications and fatigue management.

Benefits for employees

Employees have lives away from work, and there are times when they need to get a shift covered. Family issues, a sudden illness or a day away for mental health, if the shift is claimed, the employee will be free to take the day off. If not, the employee remains responsible for the shift. Shift swapping software allows employees to: 

  • Post the shift for all fellow employees to see.
  • Control their own schedules.
  • Get a shift covered quickly and easily.
  • Create a more complete work/life balance.
  • Build camaraderie and teamwork through communication.
  • Earn additional money by picking up extra shifts.

With the freedom that employees will enjoy through shift swapping technology, managers still control the approval process and hold the power to override a shift swap in case a specific exchange is seen as unworkable or create unnecessary costs.

Shift swap software allows managers to prevent employees from constantly posting their shifts and become a stand-in for requesting time off.

Additionally, no one benefits from the employee who continually volunteers to work day after day after day, double shifts and late night-early morning shifts. Managers can track that employee and curb shifts and hours, since there is the potential for burnout as well as safety concerns for fellow employees.

Finally, misunderstandings over a missed shift are a thing of the past. Shift swapping technology puts the responsibility to fill the shift squarely on employees. Managers OK the swap, leaving them with more spare time to do things other than babysit the employee schedule.

Organizations need a reliable scheduling plan while employees want job flexibility that adapts to life outside of work. With Workforce.com’s shift-swapping software, a carefully planned shift swap policy manages employee costs, accommodates employer and employee needs and ensures that both get the schedule they want.

Rick Bell is Workforce’s editorial director. For comments or questions email editors@workforce.com.

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