Work schedules are often created for the convenience of management. There are at least three possible scenarios:
- Management creates a schedule as quickly and expediently as possible with a working definition of “fairness” tempered by time and effort.
- Management allows the staff to create the work schedule on a deadline using management rules (e.g. no scheduled overtime).
- Management creates a schedule using a template arrived at by consensus and posts it far enough ahead of time for staff to fill in any blanks, swap, etc.
In all cases the process should be transparent enough that everyone agrees why scheduling decisions are made. Doubtless, this seldom happens.
One reason for this is that management creates a work schedule. People don’t usually decide when they work and when they don’t. Everyone gets stuck with a lousy shift now and again, so a litmus test of “fairness” is how often these events roll around to those who deserve them.
Weekends are lousy shifts that happen every week, so a good work schedule rotates these fairly. This depends on who is competent to perform essential tasks, such as microbiology.
If, for example, there are 9 techs able to work all shifts, this suggests at least a 9-week weekend rotation. How hours are assigned is a matter of preference and workload. It’s feasible to do 3 x 8 hour, 2 x 12 hour, 2 x 8 hour plus call, etc. In 9 weeks a tech could work a minimum of one set of 12-hour day and one set of 12-hour overnight shifts. Weekends can be mapped years ahead and swaps arranged around requests for time off. It seems so easy!
But schedules become solidified in a workplace culture, fair or not. People dislike change if they perceive it as a loss. And who loses or wins is a matter of perception and rarely mathematical fairness. I hand applicants a page that describes exactly how our work schedule is created, because every culture accepts a different idea of what’s fair.
How about in your laboratory? What’s fair on weekends and what isn’t?
NEXT: Recognize and Celebrate