Erostering & Shift Planning for Remote Workers (by avoiding the rota crimes)

Remote working is fun for workers but not for rota supervisors & managers. Let's make rota planning fun even for remote teams with a rota crime proof guide.
  • Author: Siva
  • Last updated: December 8, 2022
  • 10 Minutes
erostering and rota planning for remote workers in the UK explained by Papershift

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The option to work remotely is on the top of everybody’s wish lists these days. Over one-half of UK companies have distributed or partially distributed teams, and studies predict this number will increase in the coming years. 

But with any new way of working comes issues and scheduling remote workers can be a difficult balancing act. 

In this article, we will discuss how businesses can effectively employ e-roster management for remote workers as well as provide a few tips on how to deal with issues that might arise.

Let’s begin.

What is a remote worker?

A remote worker is an employee who works from a remote location outside of the company’s office. If an employee has been working from home or telecommuting, they are considered a remote worker.

Remote workers may be engaged on a temporary or permanent arrangement. They could work part-time, full-time, or on a per-project basis. Regardless of their specific work conditions, they are expected to meet performance expectations and adhere to the policies of the company they are working for.

What are the difficulties of managing the shifts of remote workers?

Despite all the perks remote workers enjoy, there are a number of challenges that come hand-in-hand with working away from the office. In this section, we will discuss a few in detail as well as offering ways to combat them.

a. Difficulty managing projects and their timing

Starting right at the top, the biggest challenge with remote working is managing projects and their timings when your team is spread out across multiple locations. Whether it’s a mix of in-house and remote staff or an entire team of remote workers, managers are responsible for making sure deadlines are met and targets are hit whilst scheduling staff effectively (and sensitively).

Without having staff physically present, keeping track of individual tasks and the time/staff required to complete them is problematic, especially for complex projects and large teams.

Remote Employee Engagement
Check our guide for engaging with your remote employees online and keeping the workplace fun going.

How to solve this problem

Thankfully, there are tools for every challenge a remote team manager may encounter. Above all, you’re going to need some project management software (check out the products we provide at Papershift) to assign tasks, schedule staff, and keep track of progress. 

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b. Remote Collaboration

The most common challenge remote teams face when working from different locations, is how they can collaborate. How can a team work on the same project when they’re spread out across the country or world and working different shift patterns/timescales to each other? When team members are in the same office working the same shifts, they can interact with documents, items, projects and each other without any real limitations.

Remote teams are limited in their interactions with things like time zones and other work pattern differentiations affecting even simple tasks like sharing a document.

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How to solve this problem

The first thing you need for remote collaboration is an effective communication channel. Email often doesn’t cut it for remote team communications. You need something instant, responsive and flexible.

Slack integration (available on our Marketplace) has become the go-to communication platform for remote teams. This is for a good reason. It provides all the basic features you need, such as:

  • Instant messaging
  • The ability to see if staff are available
  • File sharing
  • Group chats

c. Tracking tasks and productivity

This is one of the more complex problems of managing remote teams. To hit big targets, a business will have to make sure all the smaller tasks are completed in a timely manner and staff are assigned/available to finish them. 

Keeping track of the progress multiple remote workers are making is not an easy task, and making sure that staff are available to attain all the businesses goals can be incredibly difficult.

How to solve this problem

To get a real-time look at team progress, you’ll want to implement a project management tool. These platforms prompt team members to provide quick “check-in” details about what they’re currently working on so managers can see what everyone is up to at any given time.

d. Working from different time zones

One of the greatest advantages of using remote working for businesses is the ability to hire talent from around the world. The downside is that much of this talent can be working in different time zones, which can make scheduling difficult. In some cases, important members of the team could be sleeping while others are attempting to get things done on the other side of the world.

How to solve this problem

The best way to solve this problem is to have an effective schedule in place that takes account of the different time zones of staff. In terms of the tools to make this happen, you’re going to want an integrated calendar for teams that pulls everyone’s schedules into a single place. There are plenty of options available, including Papershift’s own Employee Scheduling Tool. 

For more immediate visibility of availability statuses, platforms like Slack prove their worth again. With Slack, you can always see who’s available right now as well as seeing what team members are doing at any given time.

e. Maximising productivity

Poor productivity is one of the most common issues when using remote workers and also one of the most difficult challenges to overcome. The longer it takes to complete tasks, the more they cost to a business in terms of money and time. 

But productivity can be affected by many things and isn’t just down to employee motivation. Poor scheduling and a lack of transparency when setting up rotas can become tiring for staff and leave them disenfranchised.

How to solve this problem

There are also plenty of tools designed to help businesses, teams and individuals maximise productivity. A good rota system with realistic performance targets is the perfect place to start as it will provide remote staff the opportunity to see when they are working and what they need to achieve. 

Fair Rota Guide
Here is our fair employee scheduling guide specially made for small businesses in the UK.

Outside of scheduling and targets, here are a few other tips for maximising the productivity of staff:

  1. Avoid asking staff to multitask. Research suggests that staff are over 40% less productive if they are asked to perform a variety of tasks at the same time. Set a single goal for each day and focus staff on achieving that target.
  2. Allow workers to work in short bursts. More research suggests that staff start to lose productivity after only 10 minutes of working on a task. To keep focus at a higher level and increase motivation, set multiple short deadlines that can be met in short bursts of intense work.
  3. Set guidelines to remove distractions. It’s easy when working from home to become distracted. Managers need to prevent this by setting clear guidelines on how staff should work and what they are allowed to do during their working hours. 

Tips for effective e-roster management for remote workers

Here are a few suggestions to help businesses structure their remote workers time so they are more productive. 

a. Block out time for the employee’s next day 

Deadlines shift and the needs of the business may alter on a daily basis. Get managers to take a few minutes at the end of the day to block out their team’s time for the next day. This is a good way to prioritise ahead of time, set a schedule for tasks, and allocate how staff spend their time. 

b. Schedule effective focus time

When working from home, there are endless distractions for staff, ranging from receiving messages from teammates to personal tasks like chores or needy pets. As part of your plan, make sure that managers carve out chunks of time for focused, uninterrupted work when it is absolutely vital that staff are on the ball. 

c. Remember to schedule employee breaks 

At times, working remotely can cause employees to work straight through the day without stopping. This can not only lead to burnout but may see the business falling foul of the law. 

It’s important for companies to remember to fit employee breaks into schedules that keep staff fresh while managing the needs of the business.  

d. Set specific start and end times for employees

Some staff when left to their own devices may find it hard to down tools and end their shift. Others may decide to do so earlier than expected if they don’t have specific guidelines to follow. 

As a business, you may want to provide remote staff with flexibility as to when they work but it’s important that they are available when needed. Setting specific start and end times can help provide structure for staff by letting them know when they are expected to be working even if the rest of their day is flexible. 

How can I manage a mixture of in-office staff and remote workers?

When some of your workers are in the office and others are working from home, things can get a little more complicated, making the management of shifts even trickier. Here are a few factors that companies should take into account to successfully manage this situation.

a. Have an effective video calling and physical meetings system

Workers who have not yet returned to the office may feel distant to other staff and could even lose their sense of belonging to the company.

It’s necessary to create opportunities for people to meet both virtually and physically. This will allow them to share points of view, news, and concerns or even just have a chat and feel connected.

b. Set up good communication channels

It is essential that an internal communication channel exists for the entire company and that those in the office and those working from home effectively use it. This channel can be used to transmit individual communications as well as facilitate interdepartmental communication throughout the entire company.

What are the benefits of using shift management software for remote workers?

The benefits of a company incorporating a shift management service, like the ones we provide at Papershift, can be summed up through improvements in accessibility, transparency, issue detection, time-saving, and manual error elimination. Let’s discuss these in turn:

a. Accessibility to all staff from any location with an Internet connection

All workers should be able to access shift management software from any location that has an Internet connection. This is vital when dealing with remote workers who work in different places. 

Furthermore, the software is often usable from a variety of devices, such as:

  • Computers
  • Mobile phones
  • Tablets.

b. Greater rota transparency

One of the greatest bonuses of using shift management software is that it contributes to an increased perception of transparency. This can help prevent (or enhance) notions of favouritism within the staff and allow employees to easily track how many hours they work.

c. Detection of issues and anomalies

If the shift management software detects an anomaly, it automatically sends alerts and reminders to HR staff and/or managers. For example, a good shift management program will send a reminder to a designated contact if someone’s hours have not been recorded correctly.

The software may also detect when patterns of absence occur, giving a company the ammunition they require to undertake disciplinary action against a worker if necessary.

d. Time saving and manual error elimination

Without shift management software, a company is often forced to use paper or spreadsheets to carry out HR tasks. The problem with paper is it requires a lot of storage, both in space and time, it also allows for manual errors. While spreadsheets are less problematic in these areas, it still relies on employee input to be accurate, and this can be problematic if staff are inexperienced.  Although spreadsheets are a better option than the use of paper, they present the following problems:

  • If the spreadsheet stores a lot of data, it takes a lot of time to load and managing the data can be difficult.
  • They cannot be automated in the same way that shift management software can.
  • They do not integrate with other platforms easily (or at all).

A good shift management solution (like the one we provide) can help eliminate all these problems.

In conclusion

E-roster management for remote workers can be a tricky task for businesses. But with a little planning and help from some of the tools suggested above, it doesn’t have to be time-consuming or costly.

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Written by Siva

I write & describe the value & benefits delivered by Paperhift's rota planning, staff time tracking, and employee payroll management software. Especially useful for Shift Planners, Rota Managers, Team Admins, and HR Teams :-)