animations.An example of 24 x 7 staff roster
Welcome to CDT - logo VISUAL ROTA

index page

The Old Rectory, Church Lane
Averham, Newark, Notts
Great Britain. NG23 5RB
Tel/Fax +44 1 636 707655/612355

Copyright 2000 CDT All rights reserved

Creating Your First Staff Schedule with Visual Rota

The Basics Behind Efficient Staff Scheduling


I am often asked the question, how do I start a brand new staff schedule? It can be daunting to have the task of creating a brand new manning operation, budgeting for it, and presenting it to management. I have prepared this page to illustrate how to start. It isn't hard to do, and the example given is based on an actual request. It took about 5-10 minutes to complete. It will take you longer to read about it, than it would take you to do it!


I created a staff schedule for a call centre manned by 2 shifts Morning(7am-3pm) & Afternoon(1pm-9pm). Both are 8 hour shifts. Staffing 7 days a week. There is a 2 hour overlap in the afternoon when all staff are on duty. This could be a problem with equipment, etc., where we would need 8 desks, 8 phone lines, 8 computers, twice as much room space at a rental of $£XX etc.,
We will have 4 staff on each shift.

Maths Part

Example 1 We need to have some idea of how many staff we need to schedule, so do some rough, back of the envelope, calculations. At this time, we ignore staff holidays, sickness, training and requests.
For 2 shifts/day x 4 staff = 8 shifts/day = 56 shifts/week. 56 shifts/week = 11 staff working 5 shifts & 1 shift left over.

A few more examples of this type of problem are;
Example 2 For 7 day 24 hr cover using 8 hr shifts which have 6 staff on early, 3 on evenings & 2 on nights, we have,
early shift = 6 staff x 7 days = 42 shifts, evening shift = 3 staff x 7 days = 21 shifts, night shift = 2 staff x 7 days = 14 shifts.
Total number of shifts/week = 42 + 21 + 14 = 77 shifts. 77 shifts/week = 15 staff working 5 shifts/week & 2 shifts left over.

Example 3 For 7 day cover, where 6 am Monday-6am Saturday is covered 24hrs/day by 3 x 8 hr shifts, Saturday has 2 x 8 hr shifts 6am-10pm, and Sunday has one shift 9am-5pm. Shifts(earlies, evenings & nights) are variously manned depending on past experience, Monday to Friday Earlies, have 8 staff(=8x5=40 shifts), Monday evening has 4 staff=4 shifts, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday evening have 6 staff=18 shifts, Friday evening has 4 staff=4 shifts, Saturday early has 9 staff=9 shifts, Saturday evening has 4 staff=4 shifts, Sunday has 3 staff=3 shifts. For nights, Monday-Thursday have 3 staff=12 shifts, Friday has 2 staff=2 shifts
A table of this staffing levels would look like this

































The total number of shifts is 96/week which is 96/5 = 19 staff working 5 shifts/week and 1 shift left over.

Variations from one week to the next.

The maths can be extended over longer period if the work is cyclical or periodic. A cyclic period could be monthly, as in producing a monthly magazine. A periodic period could be seasonal, such as heating repairs reaching a max. in Autumn, or fruit and vegetable picking. The shift totals can be calculated whenever you have repeatable periods which can be estimates, or they can be based on last years shift scheduling. But sometimes your best guess just has to do.
Example 4 We use the same shift patterns and staffing levels as example 3 above, but as a policy we decide to have half the staff as part-timers working 3 shifts/week, the reasons for this are numerous, but at the heart of it is the ability for the staff to have more weekends off. So, if half the staff work 5 shifts and half the staff work 3 shifts a week, how many staff is that in all? Let's call it X, and we still have 96 shifts to cover. Therefore, (0.5X x 5) + (0.5X x 3) = 96, and by using a bit of algebra, X = 24 exactly. So we have 12 part time staff.
This time when we put the employees names in, we separate the part timers out. We can call them PT1, PT2, etc., or we leave a few blank lines between the two groups. Then when we start allocating shifts, we do it just the same way, except that for the part timers we start by only giving them 3 shifts at first in each week.

Method Using Example 1 Above

Example 1 a staff schedule for a call centre manned by 2 shifts Morning(7am-3pm) & Afternoon(1pm-9pm). Both are 8 hour shifts. Staffing 7 days a week. There is a 2 hour overlap in the afternoon when all staff are on duty. We will have 4 staff on each shift.

1. Input information into the information table for the shifts M & A. The image below shows M = 8hrs, it is a morning & afternoon shift for calculating staff on duty. A = 8hrs, it is an afternoon & evening shift for calculating staff on duty, and it is a late shift.

shifts defined for VR

Shifts Defined for Visual Rota, the input is highlighted in black. We click on the 'update info table' button.

2. We can now enter 12 staff into Visual Rota. They are just numbers at the moment, names only confuse the scheduling, it is better if everyone is anonymous.
3. We enter shifts starting with PERSON 1 and on day 1(Monday) we enter M, a morning shift.

The animation will continuously cycle through the process of creating the staff roster.

animation showing 2 shift roster

The first shift we enter is a morning shift M, the computer calculates that we have 1 staff on duty in the morning, 1 in the afternoon, and the computer calculates 8 hours for that day and the staff member has worked 1 early shift. As each shift is entered, the program calculates the parameters associated with the shifts.

4. As each staff member will work 5 shifts/week, we can now allocate 5 shifts for the first 11 staff. We concentrate on getting the shift manning levels correct and the number of shifts/persononly.

It did not matter where or how we start allocating shifts, because we have worked out the maths previously, we simply have to enter shifts.
For example we could start the roster with an alternating shift pattern resulting in a roster such as the one below

alternating shifts

The above examples are starting points to insert shifts to a pattern quickly. You can start changing shifts between the staff at any time to produce a better pattern. It is worth spending some time examining the roster at this stage, because you can use the eventual shift pattern, over and over again.

I have expanded the roster to cover 2 weeks using exactly the same shifts in week 2, but they are stepped down one line. If the staff are agreable to working 7 shifts in a row, this will work.

2 week roster

Some of the shifts have a day off before and after, these can swapped around if they are thought to be undesirable.
These 2 weeks can be expanded far into the furure, certainly a year.

Should the required maximum number of consecutive shifts be less than 7, say 5, then by utilising the lines of the shifts in the initial week in a different order, it is easy to create a wholly different shift pattern. A typical order for the second week could be lines 5, 9, 10, 8, 4, 7, 11, 1, 2, 3, 6 and the end result would look like this;

2 weeks roster

PERSON 12 has only 1 shift/week at the moment, which can be dealt with in a number of ways. You can have every Sunday with 1 less staff, if Sundays are less busy. Or you can hire a temp for a week, every 5 weeks, which would require extend the shift pattern to cover 5 weeks. Or, an employee could work overtime for one shift, or do a 14hr double shift.
There are other options available which would cover this situation.
Holidays are covered by having extra employees added to the 11 employees working full time. Details of the methods and techniques can be supplied on an individual basis, please email for details.

We can expand the roster for the next year and show our staffing schedule to the staff for the next year. They can select which schedule they want and you can allocate their names to the appropriate row. You can do this for the staff, but if they select it, it saves explanations.

Weekends Off

In the example above, there are 2 complete weekends off and 2 half weekends(either Saturday or Sunday) each week. By moving a few shifts around it is possible to change these totals within the confines of a total 6 days off at weekends. If you examine how we started this exercise, you will notice that if 8 staff are on duty every day, then only 3 staff can have the day off. If you turn this around, it means that you can have 3 complete weekends off every 11 weeks only if you work the other 8 weekends, which means about one weekend off a month. Most staff will ask for alternate weekends off, well, most of our staff do anyway. And we cannot give them that sort of roster, so one solution is to employ part time staff to get around the problem. In example 4 above, if we have half the staff working 3 days/week. With that 50-50 ratio, we would have 14 staff to man our call centre, 7 full time & 7 part time. Now we can have 6 full weekends off every week, which is very close to having every other weekend off. <

More information about Visual Rota

Health & Shiftwork

Daily task scheduling

Training in Staff Rostering

user guides,help & video

record keeping using VR

calculating holiday entitlements

shifts overlapping pay rates

creating new schedules with VR

shift pattern generator

changing over to VR

hotels and staffing

See your staffing costs as you prepare the schedule

EC Worktime Directive

Frequently asked questions

Using Visual Rota Statistics to make decisions

Managing Change. How to introduce changes

use annual hours in planning schedules

What is Whatif analysis?

too many staff can affect quality

Continually short staffed-fact or myth

How to reduce staff painlessly

please email us

Theory and creating the staffing schedule

Staffing resource consultancy

Large organizations staff records Careplans

Tel: 0800 01VROTA (0187682) Tel: (00 44) 1636 707655 Fax: (00 44) 1636 612355


The Old Rectory, Church Lane, Averham, Newark, Nottinghamshire, Great Britain, NG23 5RB

Feedback Form



Type of Organization?:

Where in the World are you?:

Please add your comments or request: