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Workplace Trends in 2024: Rotating Shifts, Budget Cuts, and Employee Scheduling

Did you know that the beginning of a new year is the busiest time for hiring new people? Introducing new employees to your workplace brings many challenges, and one of them is managing their shifts and schedules.

As a manager, you might also be more overwhelmed, as new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) are trending, and the labor market seems to become more challenging by the day.

To make it easier to understand what's happening this year, we gathered the 11 most prominent workplace trends in 2024 for companies that operate on rotating shift work. Find the latest updates, workplace statistics, and trends to help you stay ahead this year.

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What is rotating shift work?

First things first, let's get clear on what rotating shift work is. Rotating shift work is a scheduling system used by industries and companies operating continuously, without breaks, or outside typical business hours (9 to 5). In rotating shift work, employees work different shifts at various times of the day and night, on a rotating basis.

The goal of rotating shift schedules is to ensure uninterrupted operations around the clock. This system allows companies to maximize productivity and meet the demands of a 24/7 economy.

Rotating shifts typically involve three or more different shifts, such as morning, afternoon, and night shifts. Usually, every 2 to 5 days, employees rotate between them. This means that for a few days, employees work night shifts, rest for a day or two, and then come to work on day shifts. Sometimes rotation periods can be longer, lasting weeks or even months. Each company sets the best rotation model to suit its employees and business needs.

What companies use shift work?

One thing that connects all the companies that use rotating schedules is that they need to run their operations for prolonged hours or continuously 24/7. Some examples are:

  • Hospitals
  • Utility services
  • Security companies
  • Delivery and logistics businesses
  • Social services
  • Restaurants
  • Retail shops
  • Manufacturing plants
  • Hotels

As you can see, these businesses vary a lot, as well as their operational capacity. For example, most restaurants and retail shops aren't open 24/7, but their workload fluctuates based on the time of day and special occasions. Restaurant and retail workers also have to work outside the typical 9-5 schedule, so rotating shifts make sense in this case.

Organizations like hospitals or manufacturing factories have to stay open 24/7. In this case, workers have to work night shifts, while others work during the day. But they can't only do night shifts all the time, so rotating schedules ensure an equal distribution of work.

What are the benefits of rotating shifts?

For a business that needs to keep going 24/7, there's no better way to ensure that than through rotating shift work. Here are some benefits for managers and the workforce.

You can run your business without a break

Rotating shifts allow businesses to operate around the clock. By always having people on-site, production keeps going, and customers receive timely services and attention.

Better productivity

Most industries that use rotating shift work are demanding. Imagine working in an emergency room in a hospital for five nights in a row. That would take a huge toll on your productivity and health. Having rotations and breaks in between every 2-3 days is essential in these high-demand jobs.

More flexibility for the employer and employees

In some industries with rotating shifts, employees can choose shifts based on their personal preferences or other commitments outside of work, such as childcare or education.

Managers have more flexibility to plan shifts based on business demand, scheduling more people when needed and fewer when there's less work.

You can avoid overtime costs

Employers can minimize overtime expenses by distributing work hours more evenly across shifts through rotation schedules. This helps control labor costs while still meeting operational demands.

Increased employee engagement

Rotating shift work creates a fairer and more equitable workplace, as everyone works different shifts. Instead of one group of employees always working on weekends and night shifts, they rotate regularly. This contributes to higher levels of job satisfaction, morale, and teamwork.

Rotating shifts can be a great solution for your business. But to adjust to labor shortages, increasing costs, and the complexity of managing a workplace, you have to always keep up with the latest trends. We collected 11 workplace trends for rotating shift work to keep an eye on in 2024.

1. Time to ditch Excel

Microsoft Excel has been the industry standard for data analytics for a long time. Even when you have more optimized and specialized tools, Excel still has millions of users. However, the growing complexity of rotating shift scheduling, demanding labor laws, and trade union negotiations make it almost impossible to do everything using manual tools.

While Excel has its place, smart workplaces should consider more specialized tools. Tools that handle one or two main tasks and are designed to do so.

For example, when it comes to assigning shifts, manual systems don't point out errors if you overbook workers or fail to meet their monthly quota. Another common situation where tools like Excel lack functionality is when you need to delegate the scheduling process to someone else. They can’t just start using the system you created for yourself. You have to teach them how to use your specific formulas and methods.

Specialized systems have established processes that you can apply to every business without changing formulas or calculation methods.

2. Perfect year for automating employee scheduling

Was there a time when scheduling a few hundred employees with rotating shifts was easy? Probably not. But it's getting more and more complicated to the point where it's almost impossible to do the job manually without making mistakes or driving yourself crazy.

From increasing workload and complexity to trade union rules, labor laws, and industry requirements, managing people has never been more challenging.

Automating employee schedules is the way to go this year. Not only does automation help reduce the time spent on creating rotating shift schedules, but it also makes these processes easier.

For example, instead of trying to fill in all shifts while juggling labor laws and employee preferences, automation can do that for you. As a result, schedules contain fewer mistakes and inaccuracies and are fairer to everyone.

Automation also makes it easier to delegate tasks. Instead of one person making schedules for everyone, you can form a team that can help you. Unlike manual tools, special scheduling platforms are adapted to these specific tasks and are much easier to use.

There are many ways to automate your schedules. You can try your own ways of automating these tasks or choose already-designed and functional systems.

3. Smart time tracking to manage absenteeism

How do you handle employee time tracking without making them feel controlled? Punch cards or registering everyone at the door are things of the past. But relying only on people to show up to work on time is also not the best solution.

Absenteeism is a big problem in the modern workplace. It's one of the leading causes of overtime. According to research, 47% of overtime is due to people not showing up for their shifts. When this happens, their colleagues have to cover the missing shifts. It might not only violate labor laws but also cost you a lot in paying for overtime.

Smart time tracking is a system that digitally tracks employee time. When a worker comes into work, they check in and then check out before leaving. The TimeClock functionality tracks time and location to make sure no one's cheating.

Employees can feel an ownership of their time as they can see their shifts, worked hours, and request time off or shift swaps.

For managers, it’s easier to track everyone’s attendance. You can see accurate data on who’s always late, requests the most days off, or doesn’t show up for their shifts. Attendance statistics give you a clear view of planning future schedules and paying fair salaries to everyone.

4. Attention to scheduling preferences for employee retention

The labor market is going through a rough patch. 77% of companies struggle to find employees to fill vacancies, with manufacturing being one of the most affected sectors. Some of the key reasons for the current shortage are employee burnout, skill shortage, and better opportunities elsewhere.

For an employer to compete for the top talent in the current labor market, it's not enough to increase salaries. You also have to pay attention to employee preferences and well-being.

One way to help your employees feel more appreciated and heard is to plan their shifts fairly.

Smart rotating shift planning helps employees avoid burnout as they get to work at various times and lengths and have recommended time for rest. Automated employee scheduling systems also allow people to register their working preferences, vacations, and time off.

By using advanced digital tools you can also set bonus programs to motivate your team and increase their morale.

5. Not getting behind AI implementation

Artificial intelligence is present on every corner nowadays, from helping you pick a movie to making your work more efficient. AI is also important in workplace management. Managers and employers use AI to hire new people, track employee attendance, and create smarter schedules.

As many as 42% of companies in IBM's annual survey use AI in some or most of their business processes. So, it's not a question of whether you should integrate AI into your workplace management, but how you do it to make sure it works for your team.

While last year, the AI boom made everyone rush to integrate as many tools as possible, this year we're going to approach this technology strategically.

Trying too many AI systems at once can cause what we call tech exhaustion for you and your team. Instead of making things easier, too many tools complicate your team management. This year, get clear on why you're implementing AI and what results you wish to see. This way, it becomes a great tool to speed up your processes and make everything much easier.

We have prepared an article on how to implement new technologies in your business and train your team to use AI.

6. Time to find cost-saving strategies

Every company this year has to be strategic and smart with its spending. As we talked about before, budgets are tough now, and most businesses look for ways to optimize their costs.

Most businesses, including top tech corporations such as Google, Amazon, and TikTok are laying off thousands of employees. As a manager, you can look into various ways to cut costs without letting people go.

Here are two approaches that work well for our clients:

  • Cross-training is a good strategy for every business that wants to save costs and benefit its workforce. This strategy means teaching employees new skills and helping them alternate between responsibilities.
    For example, a worker in a manufacturing plant responsible for quality control can also be trained to help operate certain machinery or do administrative work.
    Cross-training works not by putting more work on people but by letting them alternate through their skills. For example, if one worker doesn't come to work at the last minute, someone with the right skills can cover a missing shift. This strategy, amidst budget cuts and a tough labor market, can save you a lot of time and money.
  • Banked hours are a smart way to save. It works like this: instead of the usual accounting period, like a month, it's longer, often three months. Employees can work more hours one month and then use these extra hours for time off or extra pay the next month. This way, you can reduce overtime costs.
    Let’s say your accounting period starts in October and lasts until the end of December. You can predict that the time leading up to the winter holidays will be more hectic. So, you schedule fewer people in October and compensate for the missing hours in November and December when customers come flooding into the store. This way, you don’t need to pay for overtime and can adjust better to demand fluctuations.

7. Establishing a hybrid workplace for managers

A hybrid work model is when a worker works for a few days on-site and a few days remotely. This working model is becoming popular among white-collar workers as it gives them more flexibility.

While most rotating shift companies can't provide work-from-home opportunities for their staff as they have to be on-site, managers and administrators could benefit from improved hybrid and remote work policies.

According to statistics, 98% of workers want to work remotely at least some of the time. And it's becoming a big leverage point for hiring people. However, many roadblocks can stop you from adopting a hybrid model.

For example, if managers in your company need to manually create and manage schedules, and chase after employees to get their approvals and signatures for schedules, they have to be on-site to do that. Digital tools like automated employee scheduling, on the other hand, allow working from anywhere in the world and communicating through in-app notifications or emails.

8. Scheduling based on demand

Not scheduling your team based on business demand can damage employees and your business productivity. Let's take a restaurant business as an example. It’s a busy day - Friday evening. Your restaurant is buzzing with people, but you didn't schedule enough waiters.

Instead of enjoying their Friday night, customers have to wait to be seated and might choose to go to another restaurant. Then on Monday, there are only a few customers, so some of your staff members have nothing to do.

In these two situations, you're losing money because of the customers who leave due to poor service or you're paying for workers to come to work when it's not necessary.

Scheduling on demand is a smart thing to do, and it's important for all rotating shift companies this year.

9. Data-based decisions and analytics in scheduling processes

Business analytics isn't a new thing, but using analytics tools for specific areas in your business, such as rotating shift planning, can make a huge difference.

Employee attendance and scheduling statistics allow you to see data from different scheduling perspectives. Besides clearly knowing how many hours each employee clocked in, you can track their vacations, sick leave, overtime, and register mistakes. Knowing this information lets you pay fair salaries.

Predicting workforce fluctuations becomes easier. Schedule analytics shows you the months employees tend to request time off or get sick the most. Use this data to prepare for future scheduling and plan how to distribute shifts better.

10. Communication between upper management and workers

How do you communicate with your team about upcoming monthly schedules, shift changes, and shift swaps? Do you just expect them to be aware of everything that's happening?

Even digital tools like text messages or emails aren’t reliable. After rows of text messages from the team or countless email sequences, finding information becomes almost impossible. Platforms like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Facebook Messenger aren’t designed for internal business communication.

Try to streamline your communication as much as possible. That might mean using one platform to connect with your workforce, to announce schedules, and to notify them.

Special scheduling tools with chat functionality allow you to text the right people and even assign chats with the people on a specific shift. In case you need to remind them of something or chat privately, you can do that and trace back all the information.

11. More integrations to create a smooth business ecosystem

Having a lot of different systems in the company doesn't guarantee success. What guarantees success is the ability to integrate them with one another.

If you have to manually transfer information from one system to another, change data formats, and so on, you end up doing more work than you would without such systems.

When all your platforms complement each other and work synergistically, you can automate your work and enjoy all their benefits.

That’s why this year, it’ll be important to pick SaaS scheduling providers who pay attention to integrations.

For example, you want a rotating shift scheduling system to integrate with personnel management and payroll platforms. This way, you don’t need to manually transfer data. Because you know what happens when you have to manually transfer data of hundreds of employees? Mistakes and wasted hours.

This year, we say goodbye to messy employee schedules, burned-out employees, and labor law mistakes. We hope that this article has given you useful insights into the workplace trends to follow and keep in mind this year.

If you want to improve your rotating shift scheduling and workplace management, we invite you to start automating these processes with OPTAS.

OPTAS automated employee scheduling system:

  • Automatically generates rotating shift schedules in minutes based on your rules and settings.
  • Detects mistakes and labor law violations.
  • Tracks employee attendance.
  • Simplifies banked hour accounting.
  • Automatically calculates planned and worked hours, considering day, night, weekend, and holiday shifts.
  • Lets employees register their preferences.

This year, we offer an exclusive service of auditing your employee schedules to identify mistakes and find ways to solve them with smart employee scheduling. Let's talk today!

Eglė Račkauskaitė
February 8th, 2024