Automatic planning of working time. Part 1: Pattern-Based Planning

Automatic planning of working time is an opportunity to relieve middle-level employees responsible for their teams. One of the administrative activities related to employee management ceases to be their responsibility. The hours that were previously spent on planning in traditional form can be used for current operational activities. After all, that’s always been the case, right?

Planning of working time – patterns

Before we start computerising and automating the process of working time planning, let’s check if it is possible and appropriate for a given organisational unit. Most often, working time planning is done by applying some general patterns such as a calendar or shift schedule. What patterns are developed in a given organisation depends on many factors, e.g.:

  • working time systems,
  • settling periods,
  • employment conditions (e.g. amount of working time, disability certificates)
  • other elements closely related to a given organisational unit (or branch) such as daily and weekly working time standards.

The entire group of parameters for planning the company’s working time is followed by elements related to the management of employee absenteeism, for example:

  • various types of leaves,
  • sickness absences,
  • the so-called “schedule requests”.

Everything I have mentioned so far is carried out under the supervision of the Labour Code. The needs of preparation of a work schedule arise from it. Of course, there are organisational units where work is conducted from Monday to Friday, in one shift, 8 hours long. Time planning will then be very simple or even unnecessary.

However, we can deal with units of a different nature, where work in the company takes place in a shift manner or where the work lasts unceasingly for 12 or even 24 hours. In such cases, the individual work schedule of each employee is a necessity. It is also required to check the correctness of the prepared work plan with the provisions of the Labour Code. Employees involved in arranging the working time schedules should know and apply the provisions contained therein, which is why HR departments are often responsible for such planning. It is also commissioned to employees trained in particular production departments.

Regardless of whether such planning and scheduling will be done by direct supervisor or by a designated and trained person (or maybe directly by the human resources department), it will always take a certain amount of time, which each of these people could devote to other activities. Are then the new solutions needed to meet the equally new needs…?

Automatic schedules and computerisation of patterns

With this in mind, it is possible to prepare patterns of calendars or shift schedules in the IT system and to automate working time planning activities. The idea is, of course, appropriate, but in practice, corrections to the plans prepared in this way will still have to be done – for example, due to the need to include in the schedule an appropriate number of employees with given competencies / qualifications.

Another, already mentioned group of factors influencing the necessity to change the plan is the absenteeism of employees. Let’s think – will employees of the HR department have information about the competencies of employees to correctly set changes in the plan and arrange the work schedule? Perhaps, however, the direct supervisors of given employees have the best knowledge in this area…?

It is possible that in smaller organisations HR department employees are enough but in larger enterprises it is better to delegate the introduction of changes of the work schedule to direct supervisors. Where’s the catch? Supervisors may have less knowledge of the Labour Code, which generates the risk of critical errors. To avoid this and comply with the Labour Code, the employees’ immediate supervisor spends more time making such changes to the schedules.

A simple system for automatic schedule planning

What comes out to be helpful through the computerisation of working time planning patterns are tools that can check online the compliance of the work schedule with the Labour Code and block the possibility of making a mistake (send notifications for this purpose). Despite this, it is still needed to centre on creating the correct plan that will provide suitably competent employees. There is no doubt that the immediate supervisors, who know their employees best, will the most effectively make such changes. However, relieving them in this area would allow them to devote this time to perform duties related to the supervision of their teams.

A proposition to save time devoted to arranging the schedules is a program that in addition to implementing the planning patterns and controlling compliance with the Labour Code will also be able to signal competence shortages in the staffing. Thereby, it will quickly suggest who can be replaced in the event of the absence of an employee from the core team. Thanks to this functionality (and many others) we will significantly reduce the time that middle-level staff devotes to this administrative activity. Automated schedule is one of the components needed for good business management. Compared to the traditional form of working time planning, it also reduces the costs of handling this process.

Tomasz Jeleń
expert in the eq system business analysis department

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