How inaccessible rotas could be holding your business back

Phil Kendall, Anna Roberts & Clea Grady

Apr 2023 ⋅ 4 min read

Rusted green metal gate locked shut with a chain and padlock

The average manager spends almost five hours a week on rota planning and rota-related admin — that's more than two whole working days every month.

While making the rota usually takes the bulk of the time, there's also the need to communicate the new shifts out to employees.

After all, if your staff aren't aware of the rota, you might as well have not bothered making one at all.

Over 40% of managers* distribute their rotas by displaying it in the office or staff room. And at many businesses, it's up to employees to write down their shifts, ask a colleague to make a note of them, or take a photo of the rota.

This approach usually works fine for businesses where shifts rarely change, but when rotas are frequently updated, things can start to go wrong.

If the most up-to-date version of the rota is difficult for your staff to access, then scheduling mix-ups and missed shifts are likely.

The complaint

Picture the scene: your employees know that they need to access the rota when they're at work to note down their shifts. But a series of last-minute rota changes means the final version of the rota isn't up in the staff room until Thursday evening, and some of your team aren't in for the rest of the week.

Ordinarily, either you or a supervisor would communicate shift changes — but now there's not enough time to contact every employee about every update.

Even if you send the "new" rota out via email or WhatsApp, there's no guarantee that the relevant staff will see it in time.

On the employee's end, it takes staff several attempts to get through on the phone to check the rota, and the person taking the call is also serving customers so can't spend long relaying shift updates.

It's easy to see why staff can start to feel frustrated...

Screenshot of tweet reading "Wish someone would answer the phone! Don't want to walk into town just to check the rota."
Screenshot of tweet reading: "Argh. If you call your manager and she gives you shifts, make sure you still check the rota...I was meant to start at 9.""
Screenshot of tweet reading: Work took the rota down two days after it was put up and now I don't know if I'm in today."
Screenshot of tweet reading: "Can you do me a huge favour and check when I'm on my rota? No one answers their phones.""
Screenshot of tweet reading: "I MEMORISE my rota at work n then always forget AS SOON AS I GET HOME.""

The fallout

Inaccessible or poorly communicated rotas can cause all sorts of problems, either directly or indirectly.

  • Endless phone calls & messages. You receive dozens of calls, emails, and WhatsApp messages from staff wanting to check or double-check their shifts. These might each only take a minute or two to handle, but they all add up — leaving you with less time to spend running your business.
  • Staff turn up at the wrong time. If staff can't easily access the most up-to-date version of the rota, there will inevitably be scheduling mix-ups and staff in the wrong place at the wrong time. Plus, communicating the rota over the phone can easily lead to misunderstandings.
  • Frustrated staff. If someone can't get hold of you or a colleague to check their shifts, they either have to risk missing their scheduled shift or come into work just to find out whether or not they're meant to be in. This is frustrating for employees and creates unnecessary stress in their lives.
  • Higher turnover. Let's face it, knowing when you're supposed to be at work is a pretty basic expectation for people to have. So it's likely that people will start looking elsewhere if it's routinely not being met.

None of these are good problems to have, but luckily there's a solution for every one — because there are many ways you can make the staff rota more accessible.

The solution

Changing the way you make, manage and communicate the rota may depend on your business size and sector, but making it more accessible for your employees is probably simpler than you think. You could:

  • Share the rota via social media or WhatsApp. If all your staff are happy to be in one, a group can be an easy way to distribute rotas and send alerts when changes have been made. These groups only work if everyone uses the app, and you'll probably want to keep off-topic chat to a minimum.
  • Send out group emails whenever the rota's been updated. Whenever a new version of the rota is released, you could email it to all staff. If you don't create your rota digitally, take a photo of it and attach the pic to the email.
  • Store your rota on Google Drive or similar. Give your employees access to the file or folder, so they can view the rota at any time on any device.
  • Use rota planning software like RotaCloud. With rota planning software, you and your staff can feel confident that everyone's accessing the most recent version of the rota. Notifications of shift changes are also sent out automatically, so staff never miss a shift.

With today's technology, it's easy to give your employees access to the rota 24/7. And there are different solutions that work for businesses of all sizes with every level of digital confidence.

Final thoughts

It'll make your life a lot easier if staff can access the most recent rota whenever they need it. No more phone calls, no more shift mix-ups, and no more worrying about whether staff have seen the latest version.

Rota planning software like RotaCloud can handle all this for you, and employees can check their shifts from their phones whenever it suits them.

*RotaCloud survey data

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