Managing 24/7

The Paper Schedule and the Real Schedule

On paper, your shift schedule might look great. Your lines are staffed 24/7 and you provide enough recovery time between shifts so that employees should be able to report to work well rested. But as we all know, sometimes what’s supposed to happen on paper and what really happens are two different things. Do you know the real shift schedule at your operation?

Despite the best of intentions, sometimes things happen to derail the carefully crafted schedule you have developed. Take for example the past 12-months, in which the economic climate of a “jobless recovery” has caused many companies to become understaffed. The resulting excess overtime that naturally accompanies understaffing can quickly impact a schedule design.


Even if a shift schedule has been carefully designed to allow each employee adequate rest between work blocks, high levels of overtime can destroy the rest periods, and the good intentions of the team designing the schedule. It’s very common to see extreme differences in the schedule designed for the workers and the actual shifts worked when overtime is included.

A word of warning: even if average overtime levels may be acceptable in your facility, it’s very common to see that the balance of overtime is uneven, usually with 20% of the workers accepting 60% of the overtime. If this is the case, then those “overtime hogs” are not protected by an ergonomic shift schedule, as their rest periods are removed and replaced with overtime. Although their willingness to work the extra hours may seem beneficial in the short term, these workers may end up experiencing significant injuries or have severe accidents in the workplace which costs the business in the long run.

Training Days

In addition to accounting for overtime, the “paper schedule” often does not include other work-related activities that require employees to report to work. For example, a day that looks like time-off on paper might actually be a training or certification day. It’s important to identify all work-related events on the schedule.

Does Your Schedule Have Regular Check-Ups?

Additionally, it’s a good practice to routinely compare the paper schedule with the real schedule. Do the two schedules resemble each other? Do employees feel the paper schedule accurately reflects the time they work?

As part of this schedule comparison, you can have a schedule check-up. Like your annual check-up with your doctor, the schedule check-up should examine key performance indicators to evaluate how well the schedule delivers the results you want. For example, what are the average overtime, turnover, and absenteeism rates? How are productivity levels? Has there been a spike in accidents or injuries? What’s employee morale like? Are employees happy with the schedule?

If the schedule is performing well, you’ll have some nice data to report back to your colleagues and bosses. And if a negative trend appears, you’ll have an opportunity to be proactive with your shift schedule and right the ship before any further damage occurs.

If you’d like more information about how to evaluate your shift schedules and staffing levels, CIRCADIAN® would be happy to help. You can contact us by clicking here or calling +781-439-6300.

Next Steps

  • Review your shift schedule with our Shift Schedule Optimization Process
  • Download our complimentary white paper on Shift Scheduling and Employee Involvement
  • Download our complimentary white paper on Alternative Work Schedules
  • Shiftwork training course on Managing a Shiftwork Lifestyle
  • Staffing Level Analysis - Determine the optimal staffing and crewing levels for your operation.
  • Contact one of our consultants at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 1-800-284-5001

Home  |  Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Use  |  Sitemap  |  Contact Us

Subscribe to our newsletter!



Contact Information
Phone: 1.800.284.5001
Local: 1.781.439.6300


Circadian Headquarters
2 Main Street, Suite 310
Stoneham, MA, 02180, USA