"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 a proper rota is your direction, your guidance, the perfect way to make sure you don't end up a certain creek without a paddle.

A staff rota helps you prioritise your clients and projects, everyone knows where they're at. You get some flexibility too – when people understand who's working and when, switching becomes easier to manage, and everyone can balance their working and personal lives with ease.

Staff rotas can be hard to keep on top of, though - unless of course you get a system in place. And who doesn't love a good system!

Here's what it looks like on the Wallchart using Timetastic:

A visualisation of the first two weeks of May in Timetastic

Note: if you want to see how this works in a demo of Timetastic you can create a free account from here.

So, if you're stuck on how to make an effective staff rota, or you need something nice and clear like the above, then let us show you how:

Why create a staff rota?

If your team runs on a shift pattern, or relies on certain people being in certain places at a certain times, it's going to be essential for you. Last thing anyone wants is not knowing who's supposed to be working, or worse, ending up short-staffed.

And verbal agreements never work, too easy to misunderstand.

"I thought you said Tuesday?"

"I did, but I meant next Tuesday, not this Tuesday" 😔

It’s all too easy to forget. You need a tangible way to set and see who's working and when. So that every single day is as smooth as it can be.

How to create a staff rota

  1. A piece of paper?!

I remember at a Hotel I worked at twenty or more years ago it was hand written and pinned to the door, directly in-your-face when you left work.

My guess is if you're reding this you want to get beyond that flaky system.

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.

2. Get some tech based solution to the problem

Microsoft Excel is the first everyone jumps to. It 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.