E-rostering can boost staff contentment and bring flexibility
Happy staff are productive staff, and improving shift patterns is one way to achieve that. Jacqueline Price offers her thoughts about a positive way forward
I had the opportunity of working with an American e-rostering system that offered real advantages. The system proved a time-saver for senior staff, providing accurate and timely access to staffing at local and senior level, as well as fairness, equity of shift patterns and easy management of leave.
So it was surprising to hear from colleagues in emergency departments that the system was creating chaotic shift patterns, leading some to consider resignation, instead taking up full-time bank/agency work or nursing roles that offered more consistent shift systems.
Whether undesirable shift patterns are due to the system or not, we should ask whether it is contributing to a sense of unhappiness in the workplace.
Research has long indicated that staff happiness and organisational success are inextricably linked. Recently, economists at the University of Warwick found that ‘happy’ staff were 12% more productive. With increasing workloads and patient acuity in the ED, we need optimum productivity from valued, happy staff who want to provide the highest quality care.
E-rostering systems can be useful, but they need parameters that enable them to produce ‘good’ patterns. However, before setting these parameters there needs to be a commitment to ensuring that principles of fair and equitable contracts are in place.
Flexible and family friendly working is essential, but this must be aligned with the needs of all nursing staff, not just those with ‘exceptional’ circumstances. There are options that can be uploaded into e-rosters, such as self‑rostering or continuous rolling shift lines.
Self-rostering enables staff to choose shift patterns that support their work‑life balance, but the rolling shift pattern has the added advantage of allocating staff to teams, with each team following the same rolling shift pattern.
These teams offer good support structures for new staff and promote a sense of belonging.
Systems should be reviewed in areas where e-rosters do not offer staff ‘good’ shift patterns. By taking positive action to improve system outputs and offer better work-life balance, a greater sense of happiness and value in the nursing team will result, along with greater productivity in the ED.
Jacqueline Price is continuing professional development lead for adult nursing at University of Hertfordshire