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Christmas Staff Rotas in Care Settings: Finding the Balance

Staff Rotas for Care Homes and Care Businesses

The Right Balance for Staff Rotas in Care Settings during December

During the festive period it is vitally important to strike a fair and measured balance between ensuring staff rotas meet the needs of care services while also taking into consideration the wishes and preferences of staff working the rota. At this time, the needs of both sides are often heightened and, on the face of it, in stark opposition to one another.

Owing to the increased desire of most staff wanting to work particular hours / shifts over the Christmas and New Year period, coupled with the changes that this time of the year creates within services, the task of producing staff rotas that adequately satisfies both competing needs can be an unenviable one!

The vast majority of staff working within adult social care are acutely aware of the commitment that the needs and demands of the sector can place on their personal lives and, specifically, their ability to strike a healthy work / life balance. Many of us have either directly experienced this and / or heard stories of colleagues who have worked hours that evidence the flexibility required of those privileged enough to work in this great sector.

As such, when this time of the year rolls around (as it seemingly does faster by the year!), many staff understand what this potentially means for them to be able to celebrate the festivities with friends and family… owing to the ‘needs of the service’.

But are these two demands mutually exclusive? Can festive staff rotas be produced in such a way as to meet the needs of services while also going some way to accommodate the wishes and preferences of staff?

You’ll be pleased (possibly relieved, in fact!!) to hear that with a moderate amount of pre-planning, goodwill and a willingness to compromise from both sides, that the answer is yes: a compromise that satisfies both parties can often be achieved.

Here are some tried and trusted tips that we’ve seen and / or participated in over the years, that managers can employ to hopefully compile festive staff rotas that adequately satisfy the needs of services and of staff:

  1. Start planning early… the earlier the better (even a couple of months in advance). If you’re reading this and your festive rota is still to be sorted, please attend to it as soon as you’ve finished reading this blog!
  2. Demonstrate some goodwill and appreciation for the demands many staff will have over this period and request that all staff provide you with between 3 – 4 shifts that they would ideally like to work over the 24th, 25th, 26th and 31st December and 1st Make clear that these shifts are preferences, not guarantees – and, as such, while you will do what you practically can to try and accommodate as many of these preferences into a rota as possible, you cannot make any promises that they will all be compatible with your ultimate responsibility of producing a safe and robust rota to cover the period.
  3. Ask staff who don’t have partners, children, etc if they are able to work extra shifts over this period, especially on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. This will enable staff with partners, children, etc to spend these times with their family. Ask the staff with partners, children, etc if they can pick up extra shifts in the coming weeks as a thank you to their colleagues who picked up the festive period bank holidays.
  4. Can staff split the shifts over the festive period bank holidays, for example 8am – 2pm and 2pm – 8pm; so that as many staff as possible can spend some of these days at home with partners, children, etc?
  5. Now for the head-scratching bit!! In a fair and even manner, try to incorporate as many staff member’s individual preferences into the rota as possible, while ensuring that these do not compromise its effectiveness in meeting the needs of residents and the service e.g. ensuring that there are appropriate numbers of staff on duty and that shifts possess an appropriate skill mix, etc.

Good luck… and Merry Christmas!!

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