Managing shift work: How a business should address its staffing needs

There are many complexities associated with managing a shift-based workforce, which can cripple a business if not managed well. Christian Brøndum of Planday discusses how your business can address them effectively.

As businesses in the hospitality, retail, leisure and healthcare sectors strive to be nimble and respond to ever-changing market demands, they are increasingly looking at managing shift work as the best way to fulfil their staffing needs. In fact, shift-management platform Planday estimates that around 30 per cent of the 3.5 billion global working population is now employed as shift workers.

From an employer’s perspective, the appeal of a flexible employment model is clear as it enables businesses to fine tune which staff are on duty in relation to forecasted demand. There are, however, significant complexities associated with managing a shift-based workforce, which can cripple a business if not managed well.

Here, Christian Brøndum, CEO of Planday, offers his tips for addressing some of the key challenges.

Christian Brøndum

Go paperless and move to the cloud

Consider your current management system. Does it truly enable you to run your business efficiently? Is everything you need, from employee management to bookkeeping, in one secure place? The answers to these questions are what led to 80 per cent of all IT budgets to commit to cloud solutions in 2017. In the digital age, traditional management systems have been outrun by cloud-based innovative technology, which can take the pain out of scheduling, expenses and other essential day-to-day tasks. By shifting to the cloud, issues around data back-up and disaster recovery have also become a thing of the past.

Tighter integration between technology and actual performance has given businesses the opportunity to improve demand predictions, which is crucial in the hospitality sector in particular. It is now possible to be able to accurately decide which staff will be needed at any one time based on previous business performance. The more accurate these predictions are, the more motivated staff will be as their time will be utilised more effectively, leading to better customer service and ultimately profit maximisation.

Stay up to date on the laws

The gig economy and workers’ rights is a constant hot topic. Most recent public legal cases include Uber’s London license and the Department for Business public name and shame list highlighting businesses such as Wagamama paying employees less than the minimum wage. It is crucial, now more than ever, that managers ensure they are up-to-date on the latest policies and laws when it comes to their shift workers, not only to avoid hefty legal fees but also reputational damage.

Today’s technology allows employers to set the parameters for individual working-time allowances and remain automatically compliant. It can also ensure that it is simply not possible for employees to volunteer for more shifts than they should or inadvertently be told to work more than they should do. From the managers point of view, this eliminates the vulnerable paper trail where key documents could be get lost and instead provides a transparent digital system that involves all concerned parties at all times.

Open communication with your staff

The basis of shift work is its flexibility – one day you may need a team of five and the next only a team of two. Businesses need to make it easy for employees and employers to communicate about this and plan the next steps while remaining transparent. Not only does this help managers effectively organise staff time and costs, it also allows staff to fit in other commitments around their schedules. Implementing a mobile scheduling system helps managers plan ahead and keep all of teams informed as early as possible about any changes. It also highlights scheduling conflicts and holiday bookings to ensure the team continues to run efficiently.

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Keep employees motivated with the right benefits

Shift work can be tough, as the boundaries put in place by traditional employment are blurred and hours can be unsocial (depending on the industry). It is therefore essential that your company offers benefits and incentives to help create a decent work life balance for your staff. Liaise closely with your HR department and managers to decide what type of employee would be the best fit and then consider the best competitive benefits package to offer. Although it may seem unnecessary to provide a package for temporary staff, it can act as a way to retain staff, so when you need them again they are more likely to accept.

Managing a business dependent on shift workers can be challenging. Identifying and using the right tools to support the essential processes for the business and using it to take care of key staff issues can boost productivity and morale in such a significant way that in my view, it is well worth looking into.

Case study: Daniel Rajkumar, managing director,

Daniel Rajkumar reveals why freelance employment contracts work well in his peer-to-peer lending business.

The team at

We have a mix of office-based and remote working staff. The remote working guys are able to choose their hours and where they work from. Coffee shops, libraries, the bath. They’re on freelance contracts.

We believe people are the most important component of any business, and giving such a high level of flexibility means we attract a different group of talented individuals, some of whom would not let themselves be ‘tied down’ to a regular job. We have experts in several fields, media experts, compliance experts, technology experts, who are more concerned with the freedom of the job role than anything else. One of our freelancers introduced us to a managing director of a company they knew, and a synergy partnership was immediately established.

“By having part time freelancers we’re benefitting from the network effect”

We highly recommend taking people on through flexible contracts. You’ll attract people who wouldn’t apply for a full-time formal role, you’ll find yourself employing people or freelancing to people who are also working on other projects, and with that comes the benefit of crossovers of opportunities and experiences and networks.

By having part time freelancers we’re benefitting from the network effect, being introduced to companies, organisations, and ideas, that would never come our way if that freelancer was in a full time office based position. Give the freelancers and flexible workers the freedom to explore opportunities, and they’ll bring those opportunities to you.

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.