If your business operates 24/7, it can be tough establishing a flexible working schedule that provides the cover you need from your employees. The type of workforce you need might vary across the day and/or week, and your employee’s outside responsibilities can also vary. The challenge is to populate your schedule with motivated individuals who are able to deliver the quality you need regardless of the time of day or night.
Understand Your Business Needs
Before you start scheduling your people, make sure you know who you want and when. While some businesses need the same level of workforce around the clock, others experience peaks and troughs that they need to schedule accordingly. For example, you might be busier in summer than winter, and experience lunchtime and evening rushes with lulls in between. In addition, you might need different types of skills at different times of the day. For example, a store might need shelf-stackers in the early morning and night, and cashiers during the day. Accurate scheduling helps avoid your people feeling stretched to their limits through understaffing, or being bored out of their minds through having nothing to do.
Understand Your Employees
Identify your employees working time preferences, and outline your expectations. Knowing your night owls from your early birds and playing to their strengths is a great way to keep people motivated. Be sensitive to the needs of parents and caregivers, and avoid putting them on shifts that cause problems at home. Understand that students can work longer and more flexibly during college breaks but have a commitment to classes during semesters.
Flexible and Remote Working
Flexible work scheduling such as letting people work the hours that suit them, can give you much of the cover you need. Early birds are often happy to start at 5 or 6 a.m. leaving them the afternoon free for other pursuits, while the night owls take over from them at lunchtime and work until late. Letting employees work from home, freeing them up from the daily commute, can be a great motivator and a bonus for parents. Technology, such as cloud computing, makes it easy for them to keep in touch and share work files.
Managing the Night Shift
Covering the night shift can be more problematic, as working irregular hours, especially at night, can be harmful to your employees’ health. There are several steps you can take to make the night shift easier and safer, including keeping the shift as short as possible and avoiding consecutive nights. Share the pain across the team so that nobody feels singled out, and encourage night workers to take frequent breaks with naps. Even a 20-minute nap can improve alertness, and making healthy food and drinks available can help avoid your team overdosing on junk food and caffeine.
Outsourcing the Work
If you don’t need staff physically present to run aspects of your business, consider outsourcing your work to a call center or remote workers such as virtual PAs. With effective training, they can answer calls in your company’s name, working to a script if necessary. You can also call in temporary agency staff if, for example, you have special events that your regular team cannot manage on their own. Another option is to have a team of on-call staff who can be available at short notice to come in and work a shift or two. However, be mindful that this practice is increasingly coming under fire for causing stress and financial insecurity to many employees.
Keeping your business operating successfully 24/7 relies on a happy, healthy, and motivated workforce. Flexible working practices and playing to people’s preferences can help you spread the work across the day, while careful management can help your workers stay alert and safe on the night shift.