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5 Senior Care Staff Scheduling Mistakes To Avoid In 2021

Cari Rosenberger


5 Staff Scheduling Mistakes Senior Care Providers Should Avoid In 2021 (1)Scheduling in senior care is not for the faint of heart. Just think of all the moving pieces that go into staffing your building: creating the schedule, filling open shifts, managing call-offs, monitoring staffing targets, managing overtime and fixing time and attendance issues. Each of these tasks is essential from both a labor management standpoint and when it comes to providing the highest quality care.

The State Of Senior Care Staff Scheduling

Unfortunately, the pandemic has made an already complicated process even more so, as 74% of providers cite difficulties consistently filling shifts. This has resulted in many organizations relying on overtime to fill shifts (73%), depending on managers to work open shifts (37%) and adjusting employee roles to cover staffing needs (31%). Despite these efforts, a large portion of our survey respondents also note they often work shifts without enough staff (33%) and that agency usage has also increased year over year.

None of the above scenarios is ideal and often leads to increased labor costs and compromise quality and continuity of care. And, although the end of the pandemic is in sight, there are practices you can put in place today to make scheduling much less painful now and in the future.

Here’s how to fix some of the top senior care scheduling mistakes.

Filling Call-Offs Manually

Employees call off for a myriad of reasons and as of late, many of those call-offs have been related to the fear and stress of the pandemic, having to quarantine or, worse yet, contracting the virus. Regardless of the reason for doing so, calling off last minute or not showing up at all tends to send schedulers into a frenzy. Especially when it comes to those communities that still resort to calling down a long list of employees or searching the floor to find someone to work a double. Not only is this process time consuming for the scheduler, but it often leads to unnecessary overtime and doesn’t provide fair and equal opportunities for employees to claim open shifts.

Modern scheduling software simplifies the call-off process and puts hours back in the scheduler’s day. OnShift Schedule, for example, gives management the ability to notify all eligible employees (those available and not in overtime) through their preferred method of contact when a shift becomes available. Employees can then quickly and easily volunteer, and schedulers can select the best-choice candidate who would not incur overtime as a result of taking that shift. The auto-approve feature in OnShift automates shift request approvals from those not at risk for overtime, eliminating yet another task for the scheduler to complete in this process and giving employees that instant gratification.

Not Including Staff In The Scheduling Process

Senior care frontline workers have a lot going on outside of work. Many are working multiple jobs, raising a family and possibly even going to school. In fact, 52% of providers say having to work multiple jobs is a critical personal challenge facing caregivers and hourly employees and 53% say juggling family responsibilities is a top challenge.

Engage staff in the scheduling process by working with them to build schedules that accommodate their busy lifestyles. Doing so shows your organization cares about them personally and makes it more likely they will show up. Ask team members for their scheduling preferences and regularly check in to see in their life circumstances have changed. Working with your staff to create best-fit schedules can help them strike that balance, decreasing the chance they’ll need to call off last minute to tend to their other responsibilities. And as a courtesy, be sure to post staff schedules at least two weeks in advance to give staff ample time to coordinate their other obligations and maintain that work-life balance. This also gives them ample time to notify schedulers of any changes so they can find a replacement in a timely manner.

Another way management can include staff in the scheduling process is by giving them the opportunity to request open shifts in a fair and equitable manner. Staff scheduling software like OnShift gives hourly workers the ability to browse open shifts and request to fill those shifts from any computer, tablet or smartphone. This helps schedulers fill shifts faster and improves overall staff satisfaction and engagement by giving employees a say in when they work.

Using A Template With Built-In Overtime

There are many occasions where overtime is required to meet your staffing targets and resident needs. It’s just the nature of the industry. However, it should never be built into the master schedule or template you use to create a new staff schedule. And since long-term care providers are already facing tight margins, putting dollars towards overtime unless it is both necessary and intentionally scheduled is the last thing you want to do. That built-in overtime only increases your chances of spending money on something you may not even need.

To build schedules that are free of overtime, take a look at your staff utilization. Are your full-time employees working full-time hours? Are your part-time employees working their agreed upon hours? Once you have all team members working to capacity, you still might have some open shifts. Here’s an opportunity to engage staff in the scheduling process once again. Send out an open shift message to those available and qualified employees.

Lacking Visibility Into Real-Time Staffing Data

Without real-time staffing data, it’s impossible to get a fully accurate, up-to-the minute, picture of your labor budget. Consistently hitting your staffing targets is the best way to ensure you’re equipped to meet resident needs. And as those resident needs change, you need that real-time view to ensure they can be properly accommodated.

This is another area where having the right technology can help. Look for an employee scheduling software that provides census-based staffing and the ability to access the real-time data you need to ensure you’ve got every shift covered. 

Real-time visibility into staffing can also help keep labor costs in check. Employee punch reports can provide vital insights into potential time theft, in particular, clock-riding or shift creep. OnShift Schedule offers real-time punch data and notifications so you can spot a potential issue and address it before it becomes a habit.

When employees add 15 minutes at the start and/or end of a shift, it might not seem like much, but it can quickly add up.

Technology: The Key To Scheduling Success In Senior Care

As you can see, none of the above is possible without the right technology in place – and providers recognize this. According to our Workforce 360 survey, employee scheduling (70%) and employee communication (68%) top the list as high priority technology investments to help ensure proper staffing and provide greater flexibility for employees. Our research also found that 41% of providers plan to offer flexible scheduling as an employee perk.

As you evaluate software, look for employee-centric solutions like OnShift that offer mobile schedules, messaging capabilities -- as well as the visibility and real-time data to staff more cost-effectively while still providing high quality care.

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About Cari Rosenberger

Cari Rosenberger is a Senior Portfolio Marketing Manager at OnShift.

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