COVID-19 Business Strategy

Coronavirus is spreading, causing people to become sick or have to take time off work so they can self-isolate. Which if you are an office worker just means working from home. But what about factories, NHS and utilities? We need 24/7 operations to keep going.

We need them to work harder and longer so that we can all survive this outbreak. Key workers are mainly shift workers. So what sort of shift pattern can they work to minimise fatigue, yet still keep this country running smoothly? We have created a course for shift managers to help them through this crisis.

We will be adding more films as the outbreak continues to cover the different problems that shift operations are trying to deal with. Each company is unique. Some companies need to reduce staffing and some need more workers than ever. Over the next few weeks we will add videos on reducing staffing, holiday management during the outbreak and varying start times to minimise numbers on public transport.


E-book on Banked Hours available at Amazon

Banked Hours

Banked Hours are a flexible working technique designed to improve shift workers work/life balance and ensure that the operation runs smoothly. They are more efficient than many absence management techniques, ensure continuity of operations and cover for training.

Any shift manager should consider using Banked Hours to improve their operation. Banked Hours often leads to a reduction in costs, improves efficiency and means less work for managers. Therefore, they are a very popular technique for managers to adopt.

However, making managers’ lives easier and saving the company money will rarely hold any sway with shift workers. Therefore, when introducing Banked Hours, it is important to stress the benefits for the shift workers too:

  • Extra paid time off
  • Guaranteed days off
  • Less working time
  • Less stress
  • Easier work
  • Planned cover arrangements
  • Flat pay to help with budgeting
  • Golden Days
  • Guaranteed holidays
  • Fairness
  • Guaranteed training
  • Not being over worked
  • More weekends off
  • Pre-arranged cover for absent colleagues
  • Improved work/life balance
  • Not being contacted by work on days off

If you would like to find out more about Baked Hours we have a new edition to our book Banked Hours available on Kindle. It is packed with examples of how Banked Hours can improve your operation. It describes how to introduce banked Hours, how to ensure the operation works for you. How to calculate the number of Banked Hours you will need. How to operate a fair system and avoid bias, favouritism and nepotism.

There is even a chapter on union negotiations.  Outlining the positions of both sides and how to bring in a Banked Hours system that benefits everyone.

This book is for shift managers, union representatives and anyone who would like to examine working on a Banked Hours operation. It is very important to understand why Banked Hours is being used and how it can benefit you.

Available at Amazon UK for £7.69

Available at for $10

Creating Next Year's Rota

Every year you need to create a new rota. So, every year you need to sit down and try to remember how you created last year’s rota.

It’s not easy to recall after a year. So, C-Desk Technology has created a video to help you. Full of useful hints and tips, it’s a step-by-step guide to creating next year’s rota.

This video contains two examples. This is a holidays excluded shift pattern with six people. This is a six-week shift pattern using both 8 and 12-hour shifts. The shift pattern repeats over six weeks and this is used to create a rolling shift pattern.

There is also an example with holidays included and using annualised hours. It is set up for one year and has a 365-day rotation. In this example you can see how to rotate the shifts each year so that the same people are not always working Christmas, and everyone gets different weeks off each year.

This is a training video for our clients who use VisualrotaX to manage their shift patterns. We hope that this video will save you time each year and help you create a full shift pattern for the year in minutes instead of hours.

Example shift pattern with seasonal variation

Christmas is Coming

The build up to Christmas has now started in the shops, it won’t be long before “Jingle bells” will be blaring out up and down our high streets. But for Christmas producers it’s a yearlong process with the run up starting back in January, with designs and organising the production and supplies.

“I have been trying to ignore all of those little Christmas bits and pieces which have started to appear in the shops, it makes me feel cold.”

Christmas is one of those events that is not just one day, it’s a seasonal variation that can be felt by nearly every industry. Shops have to change their product lines, and then have sales to get rid of their excess stock. Producers can’t produce things fast enough so overtime goes through the roof. And the poor consumers, have to save up all year, so that they can splash out on the latest gadgets and toys, yet still be broke in January.

Most companies recognise that Christmas is a seasonal variation and will change their operations to account for it. They may change their product lines or sales tactics. But how many have thought of changing their staffing levels to reflect this variation?

Generally, those that do, use overtime. Overtime is wonderful, in the run up to Christmas. Everyone needs that extra money, and during the autumn the weather is poor so they have lots of spare time on their hands.

However you could change your staffing levels over the year and only pay basic rates. It’s simple, you create your shift pattern a year ahead. Then you run the shift pattern so that everyone works a few hours less during part of the year and then a few hours more when you need them. Overall their hours come out the same.


If your staff work a 40 hour week and you have 20 people let’s say. That’s 800 hours per week of work you can expect. Yet your workload has a seasonal variation. So let’s say you make Christmas puddings. They have a very long sale by date. So you would make them from about May to September. So that is about five months of production per year. It would be a continuous production business, so would operate 24/7. The rest of the year you make a few other things so you want only a few people around, but for the Christmas puddings period you really need about 1000 hours of production per week. So how do you do it?

Well firstly you look at holidays, as an employer you have control over when your employees have a holiday, so you can have a ban on holidays during your busy periods. However, you need them to work about 50 hours per week, so even banning holidays won’t solve the problem.

So you need to use 12 hour shifts and then they would have to work just over 4 shifts per week. So you run the operation using a variation of the 554 shift pattern. For 20 weeks of the year they would work the 554, and six would be in on days and night shift seven days a week. Then for the other 32 weeks they would work a slightly different variation so that only four of them would be in on each shift. Over the year they work an average of 40 hours per week.

An example of the annual shift pattern for one person is shown here. January to May they work the 554 with seven days off in between. Then for 20 weeks they work the 554 with just a few days off between blocks of shifts. Between September and December they are back on the 554 with seven days off in-between.

During September to May they get lots of time off and all their holidays, so they can have some great skiing holidays, cruises round the Caribbean, pop over to Australia etc.

This is an easy to implement example, and it can work for any company that has a seasonal variation. If you would like a shift pattern tailored to your personal requirements, why not contact us today and reduce your overtime bill! Email us at or call us on +44 (0)1636 816466

Company Skiing Trip

Have you ever considered organising a company skiing trip?

There are lots of benefits:

  • Using up winter holidays
  • Cost effective holiday to promote teams
  • Motivation and morale

Winter holidays are a pain to promote, why would you want to go on holiday when the weather is bad when you could save up your holidays and go off during the summer? However organising a company ski trip will promote winter holidays and if some get the skiing bug they could use up all of their holidays during the winter meaning you have more holiday resources when you need them during the summer. See our blog on holiday resource and calculate if you have enough resource.

If you as a manager promote the ski trip, you could go along to a travel agent a long time in advance and get the best deals for your department/group and because you are group booking you can negotiate a substantial discount. That discount may be enough for you to pass on the savings to your team and enjoy the skiing trip yourself. What’s more if you were to organise several ski trips (one for each team) you could promote team building and help your team to work better through the relationships they build whilst on holiday.

Having a subsidised ski trip which would only cost the company the time it takes you to organise it, makes the employees feel valued. After all how many employers would go to all that trouble (a few phone calls, some posters and emails). A company skiing trip is a great way to ensure your staff are committed to you, after all if they have to be with the company to go, who is going to quit before the ski trip?

One company we worked for went to the trouble of organising a company holiday which included hiring their own aeroplane. They also allowed families to go. This was just to thank them for working with the company and acted as a bonus for moving shift patterns. There was several other departments in the company who then considered moving shift patterns.

If you are having trouble organising your holidays and cover arrangements why not email us and find out how we can help.

Variable Staffing Profile

Staggered Lunch Breaks

Why is there always a queue when you want to get something done quickly during your lunch break? It's because we need more staggered lunch breaks and services need to have more staff available during heavy work periods.

Staggering breaks is easy; you need to build in the breaks as part of the planning process when managing the workload. Sometimes you could say that breaks will be taken as the workload allows. This works well with responsible staff and an unpredictable workload. Most workloads are predictable. So breaks can be worked in during the slow periods so that all staff are well rested and ready to work during the busy periods.

Retail Workload

Let's take a typical retail workload. Typically the workload builds up during the day with a peak around lunchtime and then reduces in the afternoon. Depending on opening hours and what is being sold, there may be a peak in the morning when people drop in before work or a peak in the afternoon when people stop by on their way home. The graph shows one such workload. The bars represent the shifts (5 in all) where they all start at 08:00 and finish at 20:00. They all have two 30 minute breaks but because they are staggered, only one is off at a time. Breaks are also outside of the busy periods. The black line shows the requirement, five are required during the morning, lunch time and in the evening.

Now breaks can be built in so that during peak periods all of the staff are available to serve. During slower periods they each have a break in turn. Then each day the breaks are swapped around so that the system is fair. It is important to remember that everyone is entitled to a 20 minute break after six hours of work. So if everyone was on the same eight-hour shift, then the breaks have to start between the third and sixth hour of the shift to be within the working time directive.

Split breaks may also be more beneficial to your staff than one long break, from a fatigue point of view, three twenty minute breaks can be better than one long break. Just a fifteen minute break can return a person's fatigue levels to where they were at the start of the shift. So if you want your staff to be alert and minimise mistakes consider more frequent shorter breaks.