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Wrangling rosters: a tale of two retirement homes


When you work in aged care, there’s always more to be done. When your workers need to swap shifts, the extra admin involved is often that one extra thing which makes your workload too great. Here are two stories demonstrating two very different approaches.

Bellview house

It’s 4.50 pm on a Wednesday when Kris Dunn gets the call: Joanne’s come down with a fever, so she can’t make the 10.15 to 6.45 am shift. It’s down to Kris to find the replacement, and she just knows that it won’t get done in the next ten minutes. That relaxing dinner with her husband will to have to wait.

She calls Susan, her usual go-to person. No answer. Eventually, five phone calls later, she tracks down Tammy to fill the shift. Tammy’s lovely, but her attention to detail isn’t the best. There’s bound to be some mess for Kris to sort out tomorrow.

Then Kris remembers: she’ll need to re-run the payroll calculations with the shift swap. She opens up Excel and is halfway through making the change when it crashes. Then it crashes again. Half an hour later, she’s found a fix that works at least long enough to get the payroll done.

It’s 7.30 when she gets on the bus home.

Greenvale house

It’s 4.50 pm on a Wednesday afternoon, and Karen is sitting at home nursing a cup of tea. She started feeling off earlier in the day, but now a splitting headache has come on. She takes her temperature: 41 degrees. She won’t make her night shift …

Karen pulls out her mobile, and opens her rostering app. She sends out a message to her colleagues saying there’s a shift going.

Two suburbs away, Susan gets a pop-up notice on her phone, letting her know about the shift. Susan snaps it up. She’s a night owl, and the extra cash will come in handy.

Meanwhile, Martina, Greenvale’s admin officer enjoys a peaceful dinner with her husband. The next morning, Martina gets into work. Overnight, her workforce management system has processed the shift swap automatically. The payroll data is good to go.

The moral of the story

What’s interesting about these two stories is that in each case, the same tasks need to be done: swapping shifts and processing payroll. The difference lies in two areas.

Who does the work?

The component tasks of swapping a shift are fairly predictable and repeatable:
•a message needs to go out seeking a new worker
•their details need to be entered into the system
•payroll needs to be adjusted.

This predictability and repeatability makes the tasks a good candidate for automation. For Greenvale house, that means major time-savings for their staff who’d otherwise have done it all by hand.

Where is the work done?

The manual approach used by homes like Bellview will tend to concentrate the work higher up the organisational structure. It’s a small matter for one staff member to switch their own shift, but those tasks can add up if all shift swaps fall on one person’s shoulders. Automation distributes the labour, so each staff member takes greater responsibility for doing the work. With the right controls in place, only authorised staff members can swap shifts — and you can require final approval from a manager if needed.

That all adds up to making managing aged care just that little bit easier.