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Win the Overtime Game in Senior Care Staff Scheduling

Overtime can be a useful tool in covering shiftsIn football, overtime is a bonus for fans and elevates the excitement to another level. For long-term care and senior living communities, overtime can be a useful tool in covering shifts, or it can become a budget blow-out if you don’t keep it under control.

Much like an NFL team, chances are good that within your organization you have five or six people who are your go-to players when the need for overtime arises. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, if you need to fill a shift, especially after an unexpected call-off or some other unforeseen situation, of course you’d want to offer the extra time to someone who isn’t resistant to the idea, someone who’s ready to roll. Just keep in mind that there may be alternative, more effective ways to deal with overtime situations to keep your costs under control. Here are five suggestions or "plays" you can run when an overtime situation arises:

Play #1: Plan the staff schedule 3-4 weeks in advance

As in so many other scheduling situations, the key is having a realistic, advance view of the schedule. This  gives you a chance to make smart, informed decisions to minimize the need for overtime, and to better distribute overtime when the extra hours are unavoidable.

Plan your schedule three to four weeks in advance. That will allow time for you to work your senior care staff scheduling data so you can avoid building overtime into your schedule.

Play #2: Communicate your overtime target

In your community, what is an acceptable level of overtime? In my experience levels of about 2% are common. Executives and administrators should determine a level that makes sense for your senior care organization. As a next step, be sure to communicate the target in terms of hours, so the scheduler so knows where the goal line is.

Play #3: Review the schedule daily

A staffing schedule is a living thing, subject to unexpected changes. For that reason schedulers should review the schedule every day, even every shift, making adjustments to avoid piling hours onto those who have already accrued OT.

Schedulers should be proactive in these daily reviews so they can get visibility into overtime before it happens. For example, resident census changes can have a significant impact on staffing. Be sure to review admissions/discharges in advance, as much as possible, to get a heads-up on when extra staff may be necessary so overtime can be avoided. In addition, when census takes a dip, you may have an opportunity to cut a shift or two, thereby reducing your overall labor costs.

Play #4: Use your PRN pool and part-time staff

When allocating shifts and extra hours, make sure that your scheduler knows about the people in your PRN pool and on your part-time staff.  You’re likely to find that employees beyond a core pool of overtime workers are interested in picking up the extra time. I’ve seen many organizations that operate with significant overtime, but their part-time staff are under-utilized. By relying on workers who are not full-time, you have an opportunity to keep costs down.

Play #5: Communicate open shifts broadly

If there is no way around the overtime, make sure you communicate the available shifts beyond your go-to group, so all employees have an opportunity to pick up an extra shift. By more evenly distributing overtime you’re not only keeping costs down, but you’re also showing transparency. You will find that staff members appreciate open communications and opportunities to pick up shifts, even if they are not available. Beyond overtime control, a boost to staff satisfaction is a big win for any senior care community.

Winning the Game

The key to controlling overtime in your organization is to have a solid game plan. No NFL team would ever take the field without a plan for how they want to play the game (although my hometown Cleveland Browns sometimes make us wonder). The suggestions outlined above will help you develop your playbook for winning in overtime. And, if you execute your plays effectively, there’s a good chance someone will catch you doing a victory dance.

(Image courtesy of arkorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Staffing for long-term care and senior living providers is critical to the overall success of each organization. Unfortunately staffing is challenging with workforce shortages, high turnover rates, wage pressures and new staffing reporting mandates. That’s why we’ve put together a guide to help you navigate the wild world or staffing in senior care - download it today!

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