Business Spreadsheets – Authorized Distributor for Schedule24 Excel Add-in

We would like to welcome Business Spreadsheets authorized distributor for Schedule24 Excel Add-in.

Business Spreadsheets specializes in advanced Excel based solutions for business with experience in a variety of analytical domains including corporate finance, business intelligence, statistics, and operation management. While their development is primarily focused on Excel solutions, expertise also encompasses database and web development technologies to accommodate integration and scalability for business growth and optimization.

Schedule24 Excel Add-in Shift Pattern Calculator is an optimization engine designed to automatically generate employee shift patterns within Excel. Combing advanced algorithmic calculations with the experience of Intellicate consultants to provide a powerful analytical and reporting tool. Enabling mangers and business analysts to generate the optimal shift pattern strategy for their organization.

Key features of the Schedule24 Excel Add-in:

  • Automatically calculates staff counts from specified and proposed shift patterns.
  • Calculated shift patterns can be quickly converted into staff schedules.
  • Generates both weekly and sequence based staff shift pattern schedules.
  • Supports any combination of continuous and split shifts.
  • An interactive control panel automatically reports key performance indicators on schedules.
  • Shift pattern efficiency is automatically calculated and reported.
  • Support for both fixed and rotating shift patterns.
  • Multiple shift patterns can be generated and analyzed in one Excel workbook

See more at:

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Posted in General, News

Workforce Scheduling White Papers

A collection of in-depth technical collateral on workforce and employee scheduling practices. Read more at:

Posted in General, News

How Expensive Is Your Shift Pattern?

All shift patterns have a cost. None are cheap. Some offer good value. And others are downright expensive. A shift pattern determines your staff deployment strategy, or put another way it controls your staff supply. You don’t want too many, or too few, and certainly you don’t want no staff at all when they are most needed.

You do not normally calculate the cost of a shift pattern in stark cash terms alone. There are two factors you need to take account of when it comes to working out the expense or cost of a shift pattern:

  1. The actual staff cost incurred – probably as close to cash as you will get; and
  2. The measure of fatigue the pattern induces for those working it, thereby reducing output or quality – invariably both over time; as well as increasing risk.

Lesson 1
A shift pattern that increases costs (we’re not talking about staff compensation here but a pattern of working) without increasing production hours needs a second opinion at least;

Lesson 2
A shift pattern that increases fatigue and reduces effectiveness is bordering on stupid; and

Lesson 3
A shift pattern that does both is already too expensive in more ways than one.

If you think I am talking about extremes, you can jump to here and hear about physiological ‘burn out’ within 4 years;  depressed immune system disorders, and working yourself to death in three straight ‘sets’ in a row – because that’s all it may take.

I will use a simple example of the ubiquitous 12 hour shift pattern to illustrate what I mean from a ‘hard’ cost perspective. Here we have the analytics of two 12 hour shift patterns broken down into practical outcomes:

Comparative Analysis between two 12 hour shift patterns.

Comparative Analysis between two 12 hour shift patterns.

Note production hours stay the same, the number of day and night shifts are not altered. Staff costs increase 14% £37,600 ($60,160). The proposed shift pattern added no value and was significantly more expensive.

When we take a look at the Pattern #2 Fatigue index it goes off the scale. Normal levels of fatigue around 20 is comfortable, around an index of 45 you need to keep an eye on - sustain that over any period and your exposure to risk increases fourfold. What kind of risk – well no one really knows for certain, but at these levels it will almost certainly not be pleasant.

An index over 40 is unsustainable except for short periods of time.

An index over 40 is unsustainable except for short periods of time.

£37,600 may not be  that much in a banking system but if the editorial is to be believed it would currently buy around 14 ‘ambitious’ young interns for a month in the City.

Further Reading:

Bring Back the 40 hour week. Sara Robinson is a trained social futurist and the editor of AlterNet’s Vision page.

The neuroscience of sleep. Russell Foster at TEDGlobal 2013

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Posted in Shift Patterns

9 Steps to Successful Workforce Management

  1. Analyse Staff Absence
    This is more than just recording when someone goes sick, though it includes that as well. A pattern of sickness is probably a more important indicator of some systematic problem than a total number of sick days. Policies that offer staff an annual sick day allowance per year in the belief it reduces the incidence of sick leave days taken is misplaced.
  2.  Coordinate Vacation Time with Team Objectives
    If a group of key staff are away on vacation at the same time it can ‘paralyse’ productivity of those left behind, even though the number of key staff on leave is within some policy % of the overall workplace. Leave should be coordinated not just recorded.
  3. Plan and Schedule Overtime
    Properly controlled it can be an excellent means to compensate staff shortfalls or meet extra demand without recruiting additional staff. However it is probably the least understood of workplace management; and is the most expensive when it spirals out of control. Accept overtime as a strategy to solve problems, not treated as an ‘enemy’ to be avoided at all costs! Overtime should be planned and scheduled, not simply ‘thrown’ into the mix.
  4. Control Time-off
    Is the ‘mirror’ image of overtime and occurs when staff have time off in lieu of payment. This does not mean it is free and can quickly undermine daily routine especially when short notice ‘absences’ occur without warning and impacting planned work schedules which can mean ‘lost opportunity costs’.
  5. Match Your Staff Supply to Work Demand
    Also known as  Staff Supply Demand Match (SSDM) analysis. For experienced managers this may be carried out informally i.e. we need more staff when we have busy times. More in depth research can involve field observation, field interviews and statistical analysis of comprehensive data sets. Caution is required when analysing too many factors with unknown relationships. For many businesses staff deployment is a result of historical ‘accident’, “we’ve always done it this way” approach, and ‘knee-jerk reaction to whatever arises in the day. It will not be the first time a structured analysis of work trends can point to savings of around 70% in eliminating under and over staffing.
  6. Coordinate Teamwork with Business Goals is about maximising the team effort to achieve business goals quicker. Getting there eventually is no longer sustainable.
  7. Publish Compliant Staff Working Hours
    Working hour’s compliance is the fastest growing area of industrial litigation due to the ‘no win no fee’ culture; and because it is one of the easiest to prove evidentially. Where records are not maintained ‘judgement’ will favour the employee.
  8. Publish Staff Schedules at Least 12 Months
    Failing to plan is planning to fail” the saying goes – and it’s true. Short notice changes and recourse to contract staff to compensate shortfalls is one of the most expensive responses a business can make. The further ahead the scheduling horizon the more resilient the business, the fewer surprises and the less expensive it gets.
  9. Get Feedback About Staff Costs before making a decision
    Snap decisions about staff changes without knowing the impact of costs invariably means ‘jumping out of the pan into the fire’. This is often the case when dealing with complex shift patterns where the ‘knock on’ effects can ‘resonate’ for weeks downstream as staff get catch up extra hours and shift swaps that disrupt working teams.

Want to see the ‘Big Picture’ then click here.

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Free Staff Cost Benefit Analysis Report

I had a discussion recently involving a Consultant Occupational Health Physician and Occupational Psychologist about why business owners – not managers that’s something quite different - ’ignore’ important factors having a direct impact on their business. They arrived at the consensus it was not because business owners were lazy or uninterested about what was going on, but they know from experience in many cases they just get ‘tangled  opinion’ about ”why they should do this”, or “do that” - usually followed by very uncertain outcomes.

Free Staff Cost Benefit Analysis Report

Free Staff Cost Benefit Analysis Report

Well I thought I might not be so different, so I will try to help business owners help themselves in one area they definitely can do something about: Staff Costs.

The rest is easy. A few minutes inputting online will give you a breakdown of your company ‘state of health’ that no one  else in your organization is likely to have; and a free report  you can do what you want with – maybe asking someone who should be in the know to check it out. You won’t get a follow up call, not because we are lazy or uninterested, but value is measured only when it is needed; and we can wait.

Free Staff Cost Benefit Analysis Report
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Staff Nursing Levels

Nursing LevelsFor those of you that have been following my commentary about staff nursing levels highlighted in what has become a string of scandals in the NHS, it probably comes as no surprise there is now the call for hospitals in England should publicly display the number of nurses they have on
duty on each ward.

At first pass it doesn’t seem unreasonable, and makes one think why hasn’t it been done before. Well probably it may have been because there had been no link made between levels of nursing staff and poor clinical outcomes there is now; or if there was, it was kept ‘under wraps’ hence the equally vociferous call for ‘whistle blowers’ to be legally protected from hereon in.

For those who want an excellent overview of current research evidence about ‘Registered Nurse Staffing Levels and Patient Outcomes’ you can download and check out the two page document by the NNRU, King’s College London February 2013 here.

Leaving those arguments aside I want to quickly highlight the task of ‘simply’ counting the number of nurses on duty on each ward. In fact just one ward. Here we have a typical nurse duty roster, or ‘off duty roster’. Well perhaps not that typical if you are still pushing nurse duty schedules around on spread sheets or word documents – or on the ubiquitous ‘Lo-Tec’ whiteboard. Even so the problem of ‘counting’ is the same…

Schedule24 Resource Manager

Schedule24 Resource Manager

…do you count the numbers of nurses on each shift; or all the nurses working that day; if so do you know how many nurses you have on duty say at 11:30 am when three shifts are overlapping, two nurses have taken time-off in lieu and one has called in sick. It’s not easy, and can easily add a significant administrative burden if attempting to do this count manually. I did it once on a ‘time and motion’ study (I guess that dates me) over a three day period - my team mates and I never got the figures to add up once throughout the whole manual exercise!

You can easily generate an accurate and comprehensive nurse staffing levels in a couple of seconds, over as many days as you want – although too far ahead and changes mean you have to spend a few more seconds printing it off again. You get the picture, in less time than it takes to say ‘subcutaneous’ you can pin it on the notice board alongside all the other helpful advice hospital visitors read and you’ve discharged your obligations and are able to get on with what your good at.

You can download a copy of the staffing level report I am talking about here and check it out – if you want any other type of format just let us know. And yes you can export the data to Excel and publish graphs and bar charts to your ‘heart’s content’.


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Are 12 hour shifts cheaper than 8 hour shifts?

Well it depends!

Given the same staff headcount and the same number of production hours there is no difference in operating costs between staff schedules based on 12 hour shifts and 8 hour shifts. That is, when compensation is paid on hourly or salaried rates. However, if compensation is paid on daily rates the staff schedule based on a 12 hour shift pattern is 33% cheaper.

Well that’s obvious. Is it?

Many get caught out when the headcount and production hours remain constant, and the ‘rate’ is the same for everyone. The assumption when ‘everything’ looks the same it ‘works’ out can be an expensive one. Here are the outcomes for 4 staff deployed over a 7 day period:

Costs Compare

Comparision between 8 Hour & 12 Hour Shifts

The interaction between staff headcount, staff costs, and production hours can be a complex one to those not used to dealing with them on a regular basis. When it ‘all’ looks the same it does not follow they are all the same.  For the employee you end up with less in your pocket; and for the employer you end up paying more for the same production hours.

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Posted in Shift Patterns

Finding out all there is to know about 12 hour shifts.

The average ‘project’ costs associated with working out the change to a 12 hour system comes in at around £17.9k per month. Of course I’m not talking about an individual ‘doodling’ around with various 12 hour shifts in spreadsheets. I am talking about a reasonably sized organization of around 250 staff, analysing the increased effects of fatigue and risk, the impact on operations, and the well being of the workforce. Probably it will be ‘project managed’, and involve staff representation working alongside a business analyst. The downside of course is when the project team also ‘doodle around’ with 12 hour shifts in spreadsheets – orders of magnitude more expensive with the same end result.

One advantage of having your own software is that you can use it to solve these kinds of problem. Recently we had the opportunity to do just that. Having discussed the ’12 hour shift’ problem we became aware they were always talking about two 12 hour shifts – seems reasonable enough after all there are only 24 hours in a day.

A major  working drawback with 12 hour shifts for many managers is they think it can only produce a ‘flat’ staff supply i.e. given the same number of staff on each 12 hour shift.

Using the Schedule24 Excel Add-in we started generating multiple 12 hour shifts and identified 4×12 hour shifts that delivered the variable staff supply required: 06:00-18:00; 08:00-20:00; 10:00-22:00; and 19:00-07:00. This included optimising rest periods and chronobio factors to tune out the worse impact on the ‘internal clock’ or circadian rhythms. Management had estimated an increase of around 30% in staff costs for a variable shift pattern when in fact their’ fears’ were unfounded with a 0.3% increase.

So what’s the point of all this. Well it’s about avoiding a £17.9k overspend with the benefit of an Excel Add-in enabling 30 minutes of insight.

An example of the Schedule24 Excel Add-in at work:

A perspective of the 12 hour shift can be found here: The Death of the 8 hour Shift.

John Frehse is Chief Strategic Officer for consulting firm Core Practice, New York; and a frequent speaker and author on labor management topics.

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Posted in Shift Patterns

The NHS staff shortage? – ‘manage it or measure it’ that is the question.

NHS Short StaffedAround six years ago the NHS was being challenged to reduce costs by around £1.52B and an estimated reduction in 30,000 staff. If reports of today are to be believed the targeted savings are now £20B. One can only imagine how that will translate into “aligning” the headcount – to use a modern day management euphemism.

All this represents the backdrop behind one of the most controversial report ever published on the NHS and its duty of care to patients:  The “Review into the quality of care and treatment provided by 14 hospital trusts in England: overview report” by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh KBE.

The report has generated quite a stir politically, professionally, and continues the almost endless media frenzy about scandals in the British healthcare service; the NHS own web site a good place to start for further reading.

Out of the 14 nhs hospitals subject to rigorous review every one had short staffing ‘flagged’ as an underlying issue. Of particular concern was staff felt they could not speak openly about staff shortages. These staff felt unable to share their anxieties about staffing levels and other issues with their senior managers, which suggested that staff engagement at some of the trusts was not good.  Four facilities in particular are taking forward actions to improve whistle-blowing policies.

Given  staff shortages are a hallmark of poor management at senior level these revelations are hardly surprising, and neither are the responses which are as predictable as they are going to prove expensive.

All 14 hospitals have recommendations in their action plans relating to workforce issues; and NHS foundation trusts are planning to recruit 10,000 more clinical staff in a £500m recruitment drive. The moves are being linked with these growing concerns over the quality of hospital care in the wake of another landmark Francis report into the Stafford Hospital scandal.

I wouldn’t hold out much hope for action plans relating to workforce issues, or the vast  amount of cash about to be thrown at the problem. In fact the NHS has been exhibiting this kind of behaviour for years, it’s just the numbers are getting bigger. So if you were running a NHS Trust and wanted to do something about reducing the risk of ’staff shortages’ where would you start?

Let’s start with two basic observations before looking at some practical action:

  1. A new way of thinking is needed where staff deployment rosters are concerned. For example, statements like “The [rostering] system must produce a roster that allows individual preferences to be a primary consideration …” is unlikely to be a sentiment that is shared by patients and their families. The notion of “The ‘Off-Duty’ roster” similarly is outmoded and outdated where team skill  coordination is key.
  2. It is a fact poor staffing levels at weekends and on nights, is always a problem not just in the NHS; and the high absence revealed in the review is a strong indicator of staff compensating for higher levels of fatigue. Put another way, what hours are being worked are poorly structured.

With this in mind we can make a start:

  1. Appoint someone to manage the staff duty schedule for the healthcare facility or unit, and above all has the authority to make it ‘stick’. Get away from the ‘free for all’ and  underlying ’buddy’ systems. This part has to be right. Get it wrong and everything else that follows will be. Believing staff can work out their own roster is naïve and generally a management ’cop out’.
  2. A computer aided rostering system will enable this to be done faster and better. It does not have to be expensive, and should be easy to understand.  One of the most powerful feature sets available including training can be obtained for a 50 staff facility for less than a couple of days unplanned overtime costs.
  3. Publish duty schedules at least 6 months in advance, 12 months or more so much the better. This will significantly reduce short notice changes and ‘swap around’. Short scheduling horizons are expensive, longer scheduling horizons are not. 
  4. Define the service delivery and demand. Sometimes referred to as staff supply demand match (SSDM) analysis. This is not as difficult as it sounds, and is usually well understood by managers anyway. Experienced observation will point to how many staff are needed at different times of the day – weekends should be treated no differently to weekdays.
  5. Have a record of every member of staff as well as name and contact numbers include their work availability schedule or any flexible working agreement that may have been agreed. Once staff levels can be counted in double figures you need a formal and comprehensive system to manage working arrangements. Relying on memory, ad hoc notes and ‘understanding’ simply does not work. Corporate HR systems rarely support staff deployment strategies.
  6. Adopt a structured scheduling approach that maximises rest periods, and incorporate shift patterns that are ‘body clock’ friendly – these are well documented. This is where the greatest gains are likely to be made and well worth the investment. Too often the simplest spread sheet arrangement dominates because it’s easy, unfortunately they are generally the worse and will constantly invite change because it never looks finished – it signals a ‘free for all’.
  7. Monitor staff working hours and rest periods, or other scheduling conflicts against any agreed working arrangements. This can be done automatically allowing you to change things in good time. It is unlikely this can be done manually save for a basic hours count. The modern day workplace is way too complex to manually track flexible working arrangements in the context of due beneficence to the rest of the team. Flexible working all too often becomes a game of ‘winners and losers’ and it’s getting a bad name.
  8. Publish to the web and by email to keep staff updated and enable them to access their schedules at any time. Convenient access to scheduling information reduces costs and the administration burden.

Where a structured staff deployment and monitoring system is locally absent in the workplace, up to around 64% of staff costs in that facility (not including training and equipment) can fall victim to wasted energy and inefficient production hours due to uncoordinated team work.

For further reading:

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Posted in Industry Spotlight

Friendly Shift Patterns

This is the second publication in as many weeks about the latest research reinforcing the impact shift working has on women’s’ health. Last week it was about night shifts doubling the risks of breast cancer and now this week the University of Southampton has identified causal links between shift work and fertility problems.

people-transitBoth pieces of research do conclude nothing is certain and more research will be needed before anything more conclusive can be declared. In this latest research the fertility outcomes of over 119,000 women working non-standard working hours i.e. shifts, were compared to women working what is described as regular hours e.g. 9-5d or ‘office hours’.

It concluded women working shifts had a 33% higher rate of menstrual disruption than those working regular hours and an 80% increased rate of subfertility.

However the research does ‘home in’ on one factor  worthy of further study: the impact on circadian rhythms or our ”body clock” referred to in this research as “clock genes”.

For sure, there are such things as ‘friendly’ and ‘unfriendly’ shift patterns. This research concludes the optimal shift pattern required to maximise reproductive potential is yet to be established. In fact, when we start considering the word ”optimal”, or “optimization”, for any shift pattern we are in very hard problem” territory.

We can however, take a look at what makes a shift pattern more ‘friendly’ in the context of this research. There are essentially two factors you need to consider when tuning shift work to your internal body clock:

  • The Direction of Rotation (DOR). This is about the order you work different shifts; and
  • The Speed of Rotation (SOR). This is about the speed you change, or swap, from one shift to another.

These are simple concepts however, except for the most trivial shift pattern, they are very difficult in practice to manually work out in spreadsheets.

As far as the DOR goal goes you need to order the different shifts so when you change, or swap, from one shift to another the shift start times are getting progressively later. For example, 7am-3pm followed by 3pm-11pm; and finally 11pm-7am before taking days off. This is known also as ‘forward’ of ‘clockwise’ rotating shift pattern. The opposite to this would be 11pm-7am followed by 3pm-11pm; and finally 7am-3pm followed by days off. In other words shift start times are getting progressively earlier; and is known as the ‘backward’ or ‘counter clockwise’ rotating shift pattern.

As far as the SOR goal goes a faster rotation is to be preferred than a slower rotation. For example, two days working 7am-3pm followed by two days working 3pm-11pm; and finally perhaps two days working nights. This is only an example to get this point across, much more is involved in designing friendly shift patterns that are practical in the real world. It can be contrasted with a week working 7am-3pm, followed by a week of 3pm-11pm and finally a week of nights – probably the worse combination you can think of for increasing the effects of sleep deprivation, fatigue and risk.

In this example we have used three types of shift. If you have five or more to deliver flexible working patterns then it is much harder to work out. To do this efficiently and effectively you will need to use something like the Schedule24 Excel Add-in. This has the chronobio controls that manages these two factors automatically; and generate any number of shift patterns that will tune out the worse effects shift working may have on your ‘body clock’. It also enables you to stay with what for many is their favourite spread sheet environment to make further modifications and formatting staff schedules.

So to summarise:

  1. Your employer needs to be aware; and know what can sensibly be done;
  2. Adopt a forward or clockwise (DOR) rotating shift pattern;
  3. Adopt a faster rather than a slower (SOR) rotating shift pattern;
  4. Avoid 12 hour shifts. These are technically ‘alternating’ not rotating shifts and chronobio benefits much harder to achieve;
  5. Publish and keep to the schedule in the long-term;
  6. Avoid breaking pattern routine with short notice changes and shift swapping; and finally
  7. Don’t blame it on the shift pattern when your WADES lifestyle compromises common sense.

To learn more about our automated shift pattern generator for Microsoft Excel, click here.

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