Shift Rota: A Complete Guide to Planning and Creating for Your Business

Does creating your employee shift rota feel like a nightmare?

Every organization needs an effective staff rota to keep things working smoothly. Yet, managers struggle to come up with a shift rota that works both for the establishment and the employees.

The job becomes tougher when your employees don’t work the traditional nine-to-five shifts, like in the case of a restaurant, hotel or even a massage clinic. Employing even one hourly worker can make matters complicated and bring up several nuances which you need to consider while drafting your shift rota.

Today, we will discuss the factors you need to consider to create an optimum staff rota. You will also learn about available tools to save time and effort while making your rotas. But first, let’s take a look at what makes the best shift rotas.

The Elements of a Perfect Shift Rota: Admin Perspective

So what do managers and admins look for when making an employee rota? Let’s find out!

1. Easy and quick to make: A manager spends around four to five hours each week on average to build a staff rota. That means you spend more than ten days in a year on fixing employee schedules that seldom adds any value to the business.

So every manager wants to create their shift rotas quickly, in as less time as possible.

2. Adequate staff with adequate skills: Your establishment needs the right number of staff with the right skills to fill different shifts. Try to create a blend of experienced and junior staff, with adequate people to handle the expected duties.

You shouldn’t make your rota crowded because it can lead to burnout and dissatisfaction in your employees.

3. Reliability: Managers hate last-minute changes! Your whole employee scheduling can turn upside down if you have to find cover at the eleventh hour or look to fill roles. Managers need certainty and should prepare the shift rota weeks in advance.

This also makes accommodating changes easier.

4. Company or industry-specific considerations: You may need to consider several industry and company-specific factors while making your shift rota. These may include labor restrictions, wage rates, bonuses and so on.

Now, let’s see what employees want out of their rota.

The Elements of a Perfect Shift Rota: Employee Perspective

Your staff also has some preferences and look for certain elements in their rota. Here’s a list of the common elements for any industry-

1. Reliability: Ever changing rotas can be doom for your employees. You need to give them enough time to plan their lives around the working hours. Employees also want their shift rota to be accurate, so they don’t end up in any hassle. The best way is to plan and publish the rota in advance so that your employees can have some reliability.

2. Stability: Apart from reliability, employees also want some stability in their working hours.

In restaurants and eateries, the staff generally has to work rotating shifts that can lead to some uncertainty. You can take some steps to reduce this uncertainty, like scheduling shifts that rotate on a weekly basis. This will give your employees a sense of stability even if they work rotating shifts.

3. Accessibility: Your employees shouldn’t have to make several calls or come to work to know their shift rota. They should be able to access the rota from their homes or on-the-go.

The best way to do this is to use an automated shift rota solution that sends automatic notifications to your staff with details of the shifts. Your staff can stay informed and access the rota from mobiles and browsers.

4. Easy to make changes: No matter how much you plan in advance, employees need to make changes to their rota. You should have a flexible system in place that makes it easy for employees to request leaves, time-offs, or swap shifts.

You can use an employee scheduling solution to automate processes like shift swapping.

5. Timely notifications: When you make any changes to the rota, your employees should know at the earliest. This will give them the time to adjust their plans to the changes. You can use a shift scheduling software that automatically sends notifications when you change the rota.

The total nine points we discussed above can be used by anyone as a shift rota checklist. Try to incorporate all the considerations so that you can create a rota that keeps everyone happy and motivated.

Now, let’s check out some of the tools you can use to make your staff rota.

Shift Rota Development Tools: A Comparison

1. Microsoft Excel

Excel is still the most common tool to make shift rotas. Managers use Excel to create weekly or monthly rotas and analyze data like attendance. You can also integrate Excel with other Microsoft products to notify employees about changes.


  • Most people are familiar with Excel
  • Cheap


  • Needs expert Excel knowledge to use advanced features
  • Setup process requires significant time
  • Not ideal for complex shift patterns
  • No notification system

2. Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word is suitable for simple shift rotas that deal with only a few employees. You can easily create tables and bullet points to make your rota in an easy way.


  • Easy to use
  • Cheap


  • Not suitable for complex shift patterns
  • No notification system

3. Google Sheets

You can think of Google Sheets as an online version of Excel, with a few more bells and whistles to make your job easy. Rotas made with Google Sheets can be hosted online and viewed and accessed by your employees irrespective of their location.

You can also grant permission-based editing rights to your managers.


  • Free and easy to use
  • Can be edited and accessed remotely
  • Add-ons available for advanced features
  • Secure


  • No notification system
  • Some expert knowledge is needed to use advanced features

4. Pen and Paper

Some managers still rely on the pen and paper process of making shift rotas. Using pen and paper is a tactile approach and can be quicker than using spreadsheets.


  • Simple and easy to make
  • Customize as you need


  • Difficult to manage
  • No notification system
  • Lowest accessibility
  • Difficult to accommodate changes

5. On-Premise Rota Scheduling Solutions

Many service based shops use on-premise employee scheduling software with rota-making capabilities. You can create effective shift rotas factoring all considerations and use auto-notification systems. The solutions also offer additional features like shift bidding, shift swapping and more to make your job easy.


  • Designed to create shift rotas
  • Rich in features
  • High controllability
  • Customizable
  • No need for internet


  • High up-front cost
  • Difficult to integrate with cloud and other business applications
  • Needs infrastructure and hardware

6. Online Rota Management Solutions

Most restaurants have moved to using online employee scheduling solutions such as Busybeemanager for making rotas. The cloud-based software may come for free or have a subscription-based model. You can create and manage rotas online and communicate any changes to employees automatically.

Your staff can also access and make changes to their shifts without compromising your planning.


  • Cloud-based
  • Rich in features
  • Highly accessible from mobiles and browsers
  • Easy to use and manage
  • Analytics and reports


  • May have a learning curve

Now that you know which tools to use, let’s go over some best practices of building perfect employee rotas.

Shift Rota Planning and Scheduling: 6 Best Practices

1. Plan and Publish Well in Advance

Publish your rotas several weeks in advance so that your employees have enough time to plan their activities. If they want to make any changes, you will have ample time to find a replacement and fill any gaps.

Also, put your shift rota in a place where everyone can see it.

2. Keep Communication Channels Consistent

You may use phone calls, texts, or emails to communicate the rota to your staff. No matter which channel you use, make an effort to keep it consistent.

That means if you use phone calls to notify your staff, you should keep doing so- don’t make a sudden jump to using email! That will lead to confusion and miscommunication between the administration and employees.

You can also use a staff rota management solution to send push notifications to employee mobiles directly. The process is automatic and you don’t need to worry about inconsistency.

3. Assign Responsibilities Clearly

You may have different managers handling your shift rota planning and management. It’s imperative that you make clear which managers or supervisors should handle what aspects of rota scheduling. For example, one manager may have the responsibility to manage leaves, while another is assigned the job of notifying the employees.

Everyone should know what is expected of them to eliminate any miscommunication or hassle. You should also have a backup plan to manage things when your managers are on leave.

4. Factor in Employee Preferences

Your shift rota should accommodate the needs and preferences of your staff for the best results. For example, employee A may need mornings off because he goes to college. On the other hand, employee B needs one day off each week to visit her ailing parents.

It’s important that you know your employees and their needs. Then weave your staff rota around their needs and nuances.

5. Let Employees Take Over

If you want to save time and effort, assign some rota planning duties to your employees. You can say, let your employees bid on shifts according to their preferences. Your staff will also have a sense of control when they are able to, for example, swap shifts among themselves.

Using rota management solutions enables everyone to stay on the same page and manage their rotas with full control of the administration.

6. Don’t Compromise Customer Service

Sometimes, you may feel the need to cut your budget. But whatever you do, don’t compromise your customer service! You may create more disgruntled customers in the way of saving a few dollars.

So, make sure your rota always has a positive effect on customer service and productivity.

Final Thoughts

Creating an effective shift rota may be challenging, especially if you have many employees and multiple locations. Take the help of our guide to choose the best tools and create the perfect rota meeting all requirements.

You can also consider using a restaurant employee scheduling solution with shift rota feature to schedule employees in the most efficient manner. No matter what your business is, if you are looking for proper scheduling, you cannot do it the old way. You need the right scheduling software to help you out, and with the right tools combined with the best practices, it’s easier than you think!