Seasonal and Unbalanced Scheduling: A Case Study

Operation Managers and Human Resource Managers know that if your workload has seasonality, then you need a plan to deal with it.  Maybe your strategy is to maximize gains or maybe its to minimize lost opportunities.  Whatever your priority is, we can help you develop a staffing and scheduling strategy to achieve it.

The case study below is just one of the dozens of sites that we have worked with to help with their seasonality.  

The situation:

  • A distribution center with 350 employees
  • Last year they ran 38 Saturdays
  • Highly seasonal with 3 months having no weekend work
  • Local unemployment is around 3%
  • The workload is dictated by upstream sources outside of the distribution center’s control
  • The lack of predictability coupled with few days off was resulting in high attrition
  • High turnover and high training requirement resulted in a dramatic drop in productivity causing more overtime

What we did:

  • Evaluated the “shape” of the workload; identifying where in time the work took place.
  • Evaluated the cost of labor: straight time, overtime, temporary workers and part-time workers
  • Involved the workforce through a series of surveys
  • Educated the workforce about different schedule solutions to their current situation.

What we found:

  • The workload that fell on Saturdays could be split between Saturdays and Sundays without penalty
  • The workforce consisted of:
    1. Those that never wanted to work overtime
    2. Those that loved overtime
    3. Those that wanted a 12-hour schedule for more days off

What we implemented:

  • 30% of the workforce went to a 7-day, 12-hour schedule
  • The 12-hour schedule paid more and had 78 more annual days off
  • The 12-hour schedule workers were guaranteed that their schedule weekends off would be off
  • 70% of the workforce stayed on a 5-day schedule.
  • The combination of schedules coupled with the staffing levels left enough weekend overtime for those that still wanted it while dramatically lowering overtime that was assigned to those that didn’t want it.

In the end, the people that wanted more predictability got it.  Those that wanted more days off, got it.  Those that wanted their weekends off, got it.  Those that wanted a lot of overtime, got it.

Call Us and We Can Help you develop a staffing and scheduling strategy to accommodate your seasonality.

Call or text us today at (415) 858-8585 to discuss your operations and how we can help you solve your shift work problems. You can also complete our contact form and we will call you.

Staffing and Scheduling – The Compressed Work Week

 This posting is the first in a series of posts that will examine the relationship between the schedule your employees are working and the number of people it takes to staff your operation.  Today, I will focus only on a scheduling practice commonly referred to as a Compressed Work Week.

A Compressed Work Week (CWW) schedule is one in which people work more hours on the days that they work so they can have more days off.

I’m going to look at this several different ways because of the impact of a CWW change, depending on your situation.

Scenario #1: I have one employee and he trims trees for 8 hours a day, five days a week.

In this case, we can be almost indifferent about our employee’s schedules.  He probably shouldn’t work at night but, so long as he spends 40 hours a week trimming trees, we don’t care if he does it in 10-hour or 8-hour chunks.  We do care about 12-hour chunks because, in order to average 40 hours a week, he would have to work ten 12-hour shifts in a 3-week period. This means that at least one of those weeks will have 4 days of work in it.  This means 48 hours of work in a single week which will increase costs when you pay overtime for all hours worked over 40 in a week.  Note: No extra staffing is needed in this case.

Scenario #2: I have one employee and he is a receptionist for my office which is open for 8-hours a day, five days a week.

In this case, a CWW will actually hurt you.  If you only need a person for 8 hours in a day and they are there for 10 hours, you are paying for 2 hours that you don’t need.  Furthermore, this person is now only working 4 days a week while your office is open for 5 days.  This means you will have to use overtime for the fifth day or hire a part-time employee or do without a receptionist for 1 day a week.

Scenario #3: I have five employees working 8 hours a day for five days a week.  My business only needs four employees at a time and I need them for 10 hours a day.

No problem here.  Put everyone on 10-hour shifts.  They each work four days a week and they each get a different day off.  In this way, four show up every day for 10 hours and no overtime is incurred.  This example is made to work out perfectly.  However, imagine that you have 7 people and need only five to show up – the number just won’t work out.  Basically, if you are 20% overstaffed on a daily basis and your daily coverage is 20% less than it needs to be, you can change your schedule from 8’s to 10’s without a cost.  Anything else will be problematic.

A few notes about compressed workweek schedules…

  • As you can see from the three examples above, your conditions will determine if this is a good idea or not.
  • Even though they might not realize it, your employees will love a CWW schedule after they have been on it for a few weeks.  They might not like the longer days but they will love the extra days off.  There are two things that result from this: (1) Retention will go up as schedule satisfaction goes up and (2) Retention will go down if you take away their new schedule which they have come to love – so be sure it will work for you before you implement it.
  • Although it may seem counter-intuitive, your employees will average more sleep on a CWW schedule than on one with 8-hour shifts.  The reason for this is that people sleep slightly less on days they are working longer shifts AND they are sleeping significantly more on days that they don’t have to work.
  • In the United States, we see CWW schedules implemented most often in operations that run 24/7. There are two reasons for this.  The first is that people love the extra days off. The second is that an 8-hour schedule that covers 24/7 must rotate (Trust me on this one.  Give me a call if you want more details as to why.)

Call or text us today at (415) 858-8585

Staffing, overtime and your schedule

One of the most common and misunderstood issues surrounding schedules is the relationship between staffing, overtime and the schedule itself.

The reality is that a schedule has no impact on the quantity of overtime your site is experiencing.

Overtime is a function of (1) How much work is there to do and (2) How many people do you have to do that work.

Your schedule only tells you “when” the overtime will occur.

If you take a look at all the hours it takes to get a job done, and then look at how many people you have to do the work, you will know how many hours per person will be needed.

If you have 4,200 hours of work to be done next week and 100 employees to do it, then everyone will average 42 hours of work for an overtime rate of 5%.  Notice that the schedule played no role in determining this figure.

So where does a schedule come into play?

In most cases, a schedule will tell you “when” the overtime will occur.

For example, if your schedule has short shifts (i.e. 8 hours or less), the overtime is typically worked before or after a regular shift.  There are two reasons for this.  First, the shift is short enough that you can add hours to it without adversely impacting safety or productivity.  Secondly, the shorter the shift, the more days of work your schedule will have.  This means you have fewer days off.  The fewer days you have off, the more you want to protect them.  Therefore, if you have to work overtime, you’d rather do it on a day when you are already at work rather than giving up one of your preciously few days off.

If you have longer shifts (i.e. 10-hour or 12-hour shifts) then overtime is much more likely to occur on a regularly scheduled day off.  There are two reasons for this.  First, the longer the shift, the fewer hours you can add before the shift become too long and begin to adversely impact alertness, safety, and productivity.  Secondly, longer shifts have many more days off.  More days off has the impact of lessening the value of a day off, (In much the same way that diamonds would be less valuable if they were laying around everywhere.)  This means that it is less painful to give up a day off when you have a lot of them.

There is one condition where the schedule can play a role in the “quantity” of overtime – When you have the wrong schedule to begin with.

The wrong schedule can cause you to take the “perfect” number of people and put them in less than perfect locations.  For example, if you have the right number of people but your schedule causes you to be overstaffed during some time periods; you will then be understaffed during other time periods. This will cause overtime.  More importantly, they will cause Idle Time when you are overstaffed along with the Overtime for when you are understaffed.  Both of these conditions create high avoidable costs that can be eliminated with the right schedule.

Call or text us today at (415) 858-8585.