Thursday, 16 June 2016

Frustrating Lack of Consistency

If you do not have clear rules and procedures, then it can be very frustrating for everyone. Take holidays for example. If everyone knows what the rules are then they can abide by them. However, the rules tend to change depending on who is in charge, who you ask or even who you are - then the system becomes unfair. Unfortunately, this is what often happens. Defining clear guidelines which will work for everyone in every possible scenario is incredibly difficult to set up.

So how do you ensure that your system will be fair to everyone?

Step 1: Understand what you need. This is the hardest thing to define. Yet if you know what you need then you can use that as the basis for your rules. So if you need a minimum of two people in the office at all times, say that.
Step 2: Fair rules. Write up a set of rules that are applicable to everyone.
Step 3: Testing and Evaluation. Look at the rules and see how they would have worked had you had them in place last year.
Step 4: Exceptions. There will always be exceptions to the rules, because you can’t think of everything, so have a “At manager’s discretion” clause.
Step 5: There are two sides to rules and procedures, checking to see that they work for the organisation, and checking that they work for the employee. When it comes to creating rules about holidays, think about ensuring that all of your employees can take all of their holidays in the year.
Step 6: Enforcement. When it comes to holidays, in practice, there are only two people who can manage and enforce the rules. You either have the ‘boss’ or the ‘temp’ do the administration. The ‘boss’ has to have the authority to implement any decisions they make. The ‘temp’ has no authority, so can only follow the rules. In this way everyone is treated equally and fairly.

If you are having trouble with holidays, then why not attend our course on holiday management. Alternatively, we also run courses on change management, annualised hours, absence and shift planning. 

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Shift Pattern Examples

There is nothing like an example when you are trying to explain a complicated problem. They are very useful tool for visualising and comparing methodologies and strategies. Hence C-Desk Technology has created hundreds of shift pattern examples to help you design and manage your own shift operation.

Office Hours shift pattern for five people
We have a number of shift patterns designed to cover a variety of operations from office hours shifts to 24/7 shift patterns.

All of the shift patterns were created in our shift pattern generator. They are displayed in Excel with counting functions to show the number of people on shift each day, the total number of sifts or hours each person would work each year.

We are now selling our shift patterns examples in our shop. If you would like to know what a shift pattern would look like over a year, or have an example to play with, then you can purchase the shift patterns from just £1 per shift pattern.

If you would like to know more about shift patterns, and the different options available, then vist our site at 

The perfect shift pattern is there, just waiting for you!

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Finding the right shift pattern

If you want to know what the best shift pattern is for you, then you need to understand how a shift pattern is designed. Then what are the advantages and disadvantages of each and how they will affect you over the year.

So to makes things simple for you, C-Desk Technology has set up a website to help you understand the different shift patterns.

Shift Patterns

So it covers the main types of shift patterns. Including, double shift, 24/5 and 24/7. There are also a variety of shift patterns set out over a full year for you to buy in the shop.

Should you need more help creating the perfect shift pattern for you, C-Desk Technology also offers a training course and consultancy packages.

So you don't need to struggle with designing a shift pattern any more. Just select the one that's right for you from as little as £1

Monday, 25 April 2016

Shop for Shift Patterns

As a business, C-Desk Technology is always trying to find new ways to make operating an efficient shift operation easier. To this end, we have set up a new internet shop to allow you to purchase shift patterns from £1.

All of our shift patterns have been created in our own shift pattern generator. They not only demonstrate what the shift pattern would look like over a year, but they also have limited functionality. Using Excel, the shift pattern displays, how many people are on duty and counts up the number of shifts and hours each person on the shift pattern is scheduled to work.

The shift pattern can be used for teams or individuals. The shift patterns can also be exported to VisualrotaX so that you can manage larger groups effectively, with full functionality.

Our website also tells you about the advantages to different shift schedules.

Happy Shopping

Thursday, 14 April 2016

A&E delays reach a new record

In the news today, A&E departments underperformed for the second month in a row. They were unable to see 95% of all A&E patients within four hours. Which seems an awfully long time anyway until you look up the target, which is to “see”, “treat”, “admit” or “discharge” in four hours. Hospital administers are citing the lack of doctors as the reason they are unable to meet their targets.
Prof Mark Pugh, of Chorley NHS Trust, said: "We simply cannot staff the rotas and it is an unacceptable risk to patient safety to attempt to provide an emergency service with no doctors available to see people."

The target of 95% in 4 hours, is just a figure plucked out of the air anyway. So there are lots of ways round it if you are just trying to meet a target and not save lives. So you could leave anyone who is nearing the 4-hour mark to basically rot. Then focus on just clearing 95%. However, there are lots of other options. 4 hours is a very long time to make a change if you are getting too busy. Let’s face it, our local hospital is Newark in Nottinghamshire, which is about 140 miles from London, or about 1 hour 20 minutes by train. They could ship a doctor from a London hospital to Newark, and back again, in 4 hours!

So what do you do when you have a staff shortage in a critical skill set?

As a shift pattern consultant, I am often asked how to cover a temporary shortage while they recruit more people onto the team. There are lots of options available to managers who face this problem. The first step is to estimate the short fall and then see how much resource you have available. This can be a lot harder than you might think if your workload changes on a daily basis.

Once you have estimated the shortfall, you can then take steps to hire more people. This takes time, in the case of doctors, then it takes years to train more to cover a whole country’s short fall. So you need to use your current resource to cover the shortfall in the short term and then give them more time off in the future. So you can use overtime, agency workers or over staff them now and give them time off in lieu in the future when you can spare them.

One of the issues with using agency workers in hospitals, is that there is a cap of 55% above normal shift rates set on locum staff. Normally overtime rate (for industry within the UK) is about 50% above shift rates with double time on weekends and Bank Holidays. Now this means that on average if you work overtime you get an average of 65% above normal shift rates assuming that the requirement is evenly spread. It is very unlikely that the spread would be even in the first place as most staff shortages occur on nights and weekends because holidays will skew the distribution. This means that if you have a doctor who is willing to work overtime, then if they work for another hospital they will be taking a pay cut to work those hours without the agency fees being taken into account.

Hence hospitals are running short. Hospitals are limited by their current staffing levels. So what they need to do is use their current resources more effectively. This means that they need to over roster their current staff. This causes all sorts of issues in and of itself. Over rostering, means that you have to be careful of fatigue and run specialist shift patterns to limit their fatigue. In the past we have created shift patterns that allow people to work an average of 20% more hours than their basic working week. This can be a great temporary boost.

The other option is of course to use your current staff more effectively. So you change the way they work, or use assistants where ever possible to lower their workload. If the NHS had more GPs for example that were more readily available, then the workload in A&E might be reduced. The fact is if you can’t see everyone in four hours, there is a buildup. We are not talking about a large accident here; we are talking about a consistent under resource. So you know when you are busy and the four-hour target means that you would have to be consistency busy for at least 8-hours. That is an entire shift. So a simple easy to implement solution is that you have flexible shifts, where the person on the next shift can be called in two or four hours early. Often just one more person for a few hours can make the difference.

If you are currently failing to meet your workload or targets, then perhaps a different approach is needed. Please contact us at or call us on (+44) 1636 816466 to find out how we can help.

Thursday, 24 March 2016


What is management? The origin of management is to train, horses in particular where manage comes from the Latin Manus meaning hand. Yet today management has a very different connotation.

If you manage something, then you exert control over it. To manage a system or operation is to control it. So when we talk about managing holidays, absence etc. we mean that you control it.
If you want to manage holidays, then you need to understand them. When do people want a holiday and why. Once you know and understand the function of holidays, you can meet those needs. There are two effective ways of managing holidays. One is called Holidays Included and the other is a Holiday Management Plan. The holiday management plan exerts control over how holidays are requested and booked. Therefore, minimizing the effect of holidays to the operation. A Holidays Included option takes away all of the problems of holiday, while ensuring that both the workers and the operational needs are met.
Controlling absence is a little more difficult. A company has complete control over when and how holidays are taken. Yet they have no control over when and how people will become ill. So a different approach is needed. Again you need to understand how and when absences occur. Then you can predict what will happen in the future. You then need to put in a proactive absence management plan. This means that you anticipate what will happen and have a procedure in place for all eventualities.
Yet as a manager you still need to train your people to follow your procedures. So the best managers are ones that still incorporate training into their management.
At C-Desk Technology we understand how holidays and absences occur because we have spent years studying people. Learning how and why people take holidays, so that we can help them achieve better quality time off. We have analyzed absence data, so that we can predict how and when absence will occur and then developed strategies to cover them.

If you are finding that holidays and absences are taking up too much of your management time, then contact us to find out how to manage your operation better. Call us on +44 (0) 1636 816466 or email on We have training courses, books and consultancy packages to meet your requirements and budget.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

What to do with 31 weeks off a year!

On a holidays included shift pattern you can look forward to up to 31 weeks of holiday every year. This is on a standard full time contract. So if you are working 12-hour shifts on 37-42 hour working week, then you could turn your 5.6 weeks into 10-31 weeks off every year.

What a holidays included shift pattern does is take your rest days and combine them with your holidays to give you the best possible time off. That means regular time off in blocks of 7-12 days. Then during the summer the breaks are extended to give you 17-21 days off. Then you can have a nice two week break in the summer every year.

There are lots of holidays included shift patterns available. They can meet any workload, working contracts, SLAs, etc. The most popular are the 232, 554, 3on and 4on. The 232 and 554 work around the week. The 3on and 4on do not work around a week, instead they are based on ensuring that you only work two or three shifts with a break.

So what can you do with 31 weeks off? Strangely enough when people have experienced a holidays included shift pattern, one complaint is about reducing the number of weeks off because people find it too much. 31 weeks is a lot of time off. So here are a few ideas about what to do with it.

Relax with the family!

Set sail and see the world!

Take up a new hobby!

Work on the garden!

Soak up some culture!

If you would like to fine out more about holidays included shift patterns, please contact us on or phone us on 01636 816466

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

New website

New website on shift patterns
Find out all about how to create and manage your shift patterns

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Performance Criteria

When evaluating any change in operations there are five key performance indicators to measure how well your new operation is working. These are;
  • Quality
  • Speed
  • Dependability
  • Flexibility
  • Cost

So once you implement a new way of working you can evaluate its performance against these criteria.

A new way of working that is very popular is Holidays Included Shift Patterns. Once people are on a Holidays Included Shift Pattern they never want to come off it. But from a business perspective how would a Holidays Included Shift Pattern improve performance? If we look at each of the criteria in turn, we can evaluate how an operation will work under the old and the new way of working.

The quality of the operation will normally improve. This is because when creating a Holidays Included Shift Pattern the first step is to assess what would the ideal make-up of a shift be? Then you set up the Holidays Included Shift Pattern so that on every shift you have the best collection of skills possible. This means that on every shift you would have the “ideal” team working. So having the “ideal” team on every shift compared to a random assortment of people will inevitably produce a better quality product. How much the quality improves will depend on how the present operation is running.

The speed of the operation will normally improve as well. Under a Holidays Excluded Shift Pattern, there will inevitably be shifts where key personnel are missing. When this happens the production must either stop or be reduced to cope with the skills loss. This may be only intermittent or may occur on nearly every shift. However, on a Holidays Included Shift Pattern if a skill is needed on a shift then the skill will be there. So over the year you would see an increase in the operation's speed.

The dependability of the operation relies on many different factors. One of which could be ensuring that an engineer is on every shift, or a Tech Services person. This will depend greatly on the operation itself. Most Holidays Included Shift Patterns are set up for key skills like Tech Services and engineers to ensure that they are always available in case of a break down. So a Holidays Included Shift Pattern could help improve the dependability of the operation. What’s more if you are looking at it from the dependability on delivering products to a given deadline then a Holidays Included Shift Pattern will definitely help you plan your workload better. What’s more the ability to know in advance what skills and personnel you have on every shift, means that you can plan your work better. So where as before you could estimate when products would be completed, on a Holidays Included Shift Pattern you can predict when products will be completed.

Flexibility is more about the products you are making, and whether you are on Holidays Included Shift Pattern or Holidays Excluded Shift Pattern, your flexibility remains firmly in your own hands. So whether you can switch between products is based on how you have set up operations. What you can do on Holidays Included Shift Patterns is plan your work. Then if things change such as product A is no longer in demand, you can work out how much of Products B and C you can make to meet their sales target.

What happens to your costs on a Holidays Included Shift Pattern is very interesting! Normally a Holidays Included Shift Pattern is a cheaper operation than Holidays Excluded Shift Patterns. This is because you can now plan your operation better so can forecast supplies etc. So your overall costs can reduce due to lack of wastage and taking advantage of bulk orders. Then there is overtime. On a Holidays Included Shift Pattern overtime is minimized. In many cases it is completely eradicated. But the advantage is that you can budget for it. On Holidays Excluded Shift Pattern, your overtime expenditure is something you find out about at the end of the year. On Holidays Included Shift Pattern you can estimate it in advance. So you can get a realistic estimate of your costs up front for the whole year.
Polar Plot showing improvement in performance criteria

If you would like to operate a Holidays IncludedShift Pattern then our e-book is available from Amazon or contact C-Desk Technology on or (+44) 01636 816466