10:30 am on a bright October morning. Class 4^H of a Scientific High School in Rome. The students listen distractedly (except the usual “first of the class”) to the Physics lesson, which came after the Mathematics lesson, which came after the Science lesson. After that will come two hours of Italian (Dante and Ariosto) and to finish one hour of Latin. Tomorrow morning the morning part lighter: two hours of Motor Sciences, then Religion, but after some other really indigestible discipline. But who did the time?
Two at night in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Bologna. Maria, a specialized nurse, who has been on the ward for many years, is facing the third consecutive night. A difficult night, moreover, because there are many critical cases to be monitored frequently. It was not her turn this night shift, but Luisa got sick and had to take over. But why is it always her turn?
Scheduling shifts is complex
There are many activities that require shift scheduling. The school is a particular case, with a multiplicity of constraints depending on physical locations (classrooms, gyms), teaching criteria (have consecutive hours for homework in class, avoid the accumulation in the same day of too heavy subjects) work (ensure an acceptable time for teachers). It is no coincidence that there are specialized software, which in any case are not sufficient and require the manual intervention of those who use them. But there are continuous-cycle factories, hospitals, police stations that must have an attendant who weekly or monthly schedules shifts for workers, nurses and doctors, police officers, who intervenes quickly to handle replacements when someone is unable to go to work. And of course there are criteria and constraints to be respected, starting from the legislative ones on night work (Legislative Decree 66/2003, art. 7: “the worker has the right to eleven consecutive hours of rest every twenty-four hours”) or the CCNL of the sector, which define the amount of hours per week, the type of shift, the time of compensatory rest, with an infinity of particular cases.
Very complex matter, then. Therefore, shift management is really challenging. Also because it is easy to find oneself with disgruntled colleagues or employees, who press for changes, who suspect favoritism, and perhaps go to the upper level, directly to the boss. And in any case, even if everything goes smoothly, it takes a lot of time to make the shift plan fit, respecting the contractual and specific constraints of one’s work reality.
The shift scheduling software
Of course, there are now shift scheduling software that can help.
However, they need to be complex enough to allow the application of the constraints typical of your industry and adjust the parameters or scope of application, such as the individual hours of work per day or week or month, the presence or absence of night shifts and how to perform them, etc..
Shift Assistant (to learn more: Shift Assistant) does just that, helping those in charge of the employee shift program to create a shift schedule for their company. One of its strengths is precisely the management of constraints, both proposing the most common ones and providing the user with customized constraints.
Everything solved? Of course not. There is no software or hardware that eliminates the dissatisfied, those who think they know better, those who are convinced that the neighbor’s shift is always greener. But an effective tool that helps can be a good starting point.