Back to blog overview

How to Manage the Effects of Coronavirus with Employee Scheduling

by Widget Brain, on Mar 12

With health and wellbeing at the top of everyone’s minds, people are reducing their risk of contracting COVID-19. Similarly, companies in retail and hospitality are changing their policies to reduce the risks for their employees, while trying to stay operational. As a result of this new reality, we’ve come across several staffing challenges that customers are experiencing already and other companies might be soon. In this article, we want to describe these challenges and which practical steps can be taken right away to address and fully prepare for them. 

 

Staffing against demand fluctuations

For brick and mortar retailers, hotels and restaurants, it’s expected that foot traffic, and therefore sales are due to drop, as consumers opt to stay inside and order online. In the same line of thinking, companies that operate online and offer delivery services can expect a demand increase in product orders and delivery. It’s hard to predict how much exactly demand will fall by, but what can companies do to prepare for demand changes? 

 

For a number of our customers, we are helping them to model a range of scenarios from best case to worst case, and automatically calculate what the staffing plan would look like. So, let’s say demand grows with 20%, 40% and 100%, how can you staff this?  Based on the demand forecast you already have, we apply this expected change and your labour standards to forecast the headcount required to cover demand. This allows you to calculate how many employees you will need in different scenarios.

 

Unpredictable labour shortages 

Many employers are trying, as a top priority, to ensure that their employees don’t get sick. This is important both on a personal level and for the business. If one team member gets ill, the rest of the employees may too. That’s why we help customers to group employees and shifts in order to avoid overlap and in order to contain, for emergency cases, the employee interaction among same individuals.

 

An example: let’s take a hotel. To be operational, different roles are required including receptionists, catering, housekeepers and managers. We group roles to work together at the same time and shifts so that operations run as much as they normally would. Even though external factors play a role in catching the virus, we also minimise contact and limit the possible contaminations from one group to another by scheduling shifts for the next team after the previous one has ended. 

 

Changed employee availabilities

With government buildings, schools and other facilities increasingly closing for the time being, we see a shift in employee availabilities. Next to sickness, we also see that more parents who have one particular skill set stay at home to watch their children, while students with often other roles and skills are widely vacant and potentially open to more work. 

 

The challenges of employees calling in sick or being unavailable for other reasons requires a day-to-day adjustment to existing schedules. We are currently helping one of our retail customers to re-optimise their schedules on a shorter basis than usually required. Considering all scenarios, roles, skills and availabilities, schedules can now be changed on a day-to-day basis. 

 

Considering leave, hiring and training 

You may find that your employees are likely to cancel their planned holidays and leave. You need to, therefore, manage current holiday requests, and coordinate that in the future, people don’t all re-request  their leave for the same time of year. Similarly, you might be considering pausing your hiring and training program to meet changing demand. As these decisions could have significant impact on future staffing levels – and potentially gaps when the coronavirus dies out, it’s strongly recommended to do this carefully. 

 

With one of our current customers in facility management, we are currently creating different demand scenarios, similar to what is described in the first challenge. We assess the impact on demand further in the future to see where the gap is between your current workforce and future staffing requirements.  Doing this gives you a more accurate outlook on which staffing decisions to take week-by-week, month-by-month given your labour budget. 

 

Contact Widget Brain to act fast

We at Widget Brain understand that these challenges need to be addressed whether you are already experiencing or preparing for them. That’s why we offer AI-driven scheduling to give you the educated ability to act fast for both short and long term challenges. 

 

From scenario planning in your demand and grouping shifts and employees, Widget Brain’s AI-driven scheduling can help. Contact us if you want to learn more about how you can deal with your current and future staffing challenges right away or request a demo down below to see our scheduling solutions in action.