Ensuring Shift Coverage Despite Last-Minute Call-Outs




During this global pandemic, organizations on the frontlines may find their workforce stretched thin. Employees are calling out to wait on test results; others are enduring quarantine periods due to possible COVID-19 exposure, still, others may have tested positive themselves. Many employees are working long hours and often irregular schedules to do their part to keep operations running. These volatile dynamics can easily add up to a scheduling nightmare for managers.

With schools being closed, public transportation being limited, and other shifts from our “normal” routines continuing to happen, managers can expect an increase in the number of employees needing more flexibility in their schedules. As a manager, if your scheduling process still happens with pen or paper or across a plethora of spreadsheets, managing these sudden and prolonged absences can be overwhelming. However, with a clearly communicated policy about how employees can swap shifts or handle mandated quarantine periods, you can ensure less disruption to your business and help curb the spread of the virus.


Managing Last-Minute Schedule Changes

As managers continue to work to respond to increased or reduced demand for labor and a higher incidence of short-notice worker call-outs, there are several strategies organizations are using to address these rapid changes.

  • Shift trading: This strategy is highly efficient as it enables employees to self-serve and avoids the need to involve managers.
  • Create standby lists: Employees sign up for days/hours/shifts to serve as backup for any call offs. Enables managers to automatically assign workers from a standby list if workers call out. This helps to enable quick coverage of shifts by employees who are interested, qualified, and willing to work.
  • Enable shift pick up: Notify employees of shift openings, who can then communicate their interest in picking up the shift by those employees who are both qualified and willing to work.
  • Track absenteeism: Understanding reasons behind worker call outs, such as in the case where employees are in isolation due to possible contact with the virus, will help to enable easier updates to the schedule as all shifts assigned within a timeframe can be freed up.
  • Call out window: Encourage employees who need to call out to do so within a certain timeframe, so that front line managers have as much as time possible to backfill the shifts. The timeframe, whether it’s 24 hours or some other window, will depend on what’s best for the organization’s situation.

How Shiftboard Can Help

Automating workforce scheduling processes empowers managers to respond strategically to the dynamics of a change. The level of agility enables organizations to consider not only the requirements of the business but also the needs of the workforce. Enabling strategies such as bottoms-up scheduling, standby lists, and worker availability tools create a win-win workplace where employees feel empowered, and business needs are met.

In response to COVID-19, Shiftboard expedited the launch of a new worker call out tool to further enable the win-win between employees and employers. This new functionality enables workforce leaders to mark employees as absent, which then automates the process of creating replacement shifts, and then assigning qualified, available workers. The tool can also be configured to allow employees to mark themselves as absent.

Though businesses are being forced to adjust to a rapidly changing definition of ‘normal’ in the wake of COVID-19, managers, schedulers, and leadership teams are not alone. Whether you are a Shiftboard customer or you are just researching solutions to manage worker call outs, here is more information on specific tools available to help you.