"Isn't Jeff in the office today?"

"No, he said he'd be off today, something about a new video game coming out."

"Well isn't Grace covering his shift then?"

"I think we forgot to ask her..."

So goes the company that 'wings it' with their shift hours.

Having your team work with a proper rota is a great way to make sure you don't get left up a certain creek without a paddle.

It helps you prioritise your clients, customers, and projects. It also allows your staff to have some flexibility – shift switching becomes easier to manage and helps everyone balance their working and personal lives much better.

Rotas can be hard to keep on top of, though - unless you get a system in place.

Are you stuck on how to make an effective staff rota? If keeping things organised is giving you a daily headache and causing your employees unnecessary strife, read on to discover more about how to make a staff rota and keep team members happy.

Why create a staff rota?

Creating a staff rota might not seem like an essential part of your daily working life. But if your team runs on a shift pattern, or relies on certain people being in a certain place at a certain time, it's essential.

With a small team, it's more straightforward to implement. In fact, this makes it all the more important to be certain each shift is fully covered. If you're a 5-person company and someone is off when you thought they were in, it'll have a bigger impact than losing 1 out of 100 staff due to a staffing mix-up.

You shouldn’t rely on verbal agreements to settle who's working at what time. It’s easy for team members to forget when they are meant to be working, especially if they switch shifts. You need a firmer and more tangible way to rota your team, so that every single day is as smooth as it can be – and hopefully there will never be a shift that nobody shows up for.

Ways to create a staff rota

There's a few different ways you can make your staff rota. Some rotas are simply written down by hand or printed out and placed on a board in a common area, like the staff room. These can persist through an "if it ain't broke don't fix it" mindset, and if everyone's on the same page they can be made to work. It's hard to argue they're the most efficient way of doing things, though.

Tech-based solutions certainly exist though; many people find that Microsoft Excel can be an adaptable way to create a rota. It's pretty simple to structure one within Excel and send it out to your team via email.

Problems arise with that approach if your team likes to chop and change shifts, though, so you can make a spreadsheet with the ability to be edited by multiple people. Providing a link to a shared spreadsheet on company drive is a workable way of making it flexible - you just go in and make a change when it's necessary, and everyone's version is updated in sync.

This can be good and bad. With this approach you really need to identify certain people to have the authority to edit rotas, or else things can get really chaotic.

In bigger companies where present headcount is really important, like in call centres, there are entire departments dedicated to scheduling staff in the most efficient way.

There are also certain software solutions out there designed just for rotas (ours is made for holiday tracking in particular - more on that below).

What makes a good rota?

A good rota needs to take into account the total amount of hours everyone needs to work during the week, and whether team members are full or part-time. You also need to consider whether some workers have restrictions on their time outside of work (such as picking children up from school or other regular appointments), which means they may not be as flexible as others.

You should try to provide a level of stability for your team, while still allowing flexibility where you can. Based on your industry, you'll need to be certain that all your hours are fully covered – for example, consider when you get the most phone calls, when clients might be visiting your office, and so on.

Other considerations

A well thought-out staff rota should take into account not just the day-to-day running of your team, but staffing in times when people are taking holidays or sick days. With a rota that everyone can view, these sorts of inevitable absences become a lot easier to arrange. A great rota will never leave you unstaffed – apart from in some seriously unforeseen circumstances.

If you're looking to improve your staff rota system so that you can feel confident in your schedule, you'd do well to give Timetastic a go. A more streamlined way to oversee staff absence, it will make it so much easier for you and your team to see staff leave in a transparent and easily accessible way. There's no messy paperwork, and every member of staff gets an individual and personalised calendar so they (and you) can track their time off and view what allowance they have left. Say goodbye to scrambling for holiday leave forms and keep your rota on track the simple way.

Making sure everyone is working when they need to can seem like a real pain – but with a proper system in place, it doesn’t have to be.