The Super-7 Rotation and Beyond:
Exploring Alternative Schedules
By Tiffany LaReau, Human Numbers
Contact center agents generally prefer a fixed schedule. Higher seniority employees expect to get first choice for their day shift, and they expect to keep it until the end of time. A new hire understands that they may eventually get their preferred shift, and most people want the stability of knowing their shift will not change because this provides a nice work and life balance.
Coming up with schedules for a 24/7 center can feel like moving in the exact opposite direction of satisfying the employees preferences, and that is when alternative schedules can be helpful.
- PROBLEM: Insufficient weekend coverage
- SOLUTION: Super-7 Rotation
In a larger center that suffers from weekend coverage, the Super-7 Rotation is a great solution. This rotation is simple: it spans 49 days, for seven agents, and each schedule includes 6 days worked with 2 days off. Total days worked = 35, and total days off = 14, then the whole thing starts over.
The beauty of this rotation is that you get stable doses of weekend coverage while your employees get two 3-day weekends, every seven weeks.
There are some ground rules to the Super-7 Rotation:
- The center must be open seven days a week
- There must be seven agents willing to participate
- The rotation must last through seven weeks for everyone to benefit
This rotation can be in place for the seven agents who are participating in the rotation, while the remainder of your staff can stay on fixed shifts. The employee benefit of this rotation is the extra 3-day weekends without having to take vacation or personal time, which explains why it is so popular, and why there is usually a waiting list to participate in the Super-7 Rotation.
- PROBLEM: Your intra-day M-curve does not play well with your 9-hour schedule span
- SOLUTION: Extended Lunch Privileges
The M-curve is the term used in contact centers to describe a typical arrival of volume throughout the day. It starts off low, then builds in mid-morning, dropping right before lunch, then building up again in the afternoon, and dropping off at night. When charted out, it creates the shape of a lopsided M. The reason calls drop off right before lunch is usually because your callers are also having lunch during that time.
If this sounds familiar, you are a good candidate for Extended Lunch Privileges. This is another schedule alternative that is simple to make: just extend the lunch time by an extra hour, and extend the stop time by the same amount. This flexibility can bring much happiness to the lucky recipient because there are a million things that can happen in a 2-hour lunch that could never happen with just a single hour (i.e. workout at the gym, have lunch with the kids at school, go to the salon, etc.). Another variation is to extend the lunch to 90 minutes instead of the full 2 hours (and compensate with an extra 30 minutes at the end of the shift.)
- PROBLEM: Monday & Tuesday volumes are a lot higher than Thursday & Friday.
- SOLUTION: The Short Week
If you track your day-of-week patterns, you may see a trend showing that your live contacts tend to arrive heavier on certain days. The example below suggests an early week trend, with volumes on Thursday and Friday coming in less than half as much as those on Monday and Tuesday. If this is a repeating trend every week, there is only so much training that can be shifted to account for the amount of overstaffing that you might end up with towards the end of the week. And you still may be left with understaffed days on Monday and Tuesday.
In these situations, a Short Week schedule is a cozy fit, because offering a few 4×10 shifts can bring instant relief. The value of the 4×10 shift is that it brings additional hours to the heavier volume days without the need for overtime, and eliminates extra overstaffing on lighter volume days. Other Short Week variations include:
- 12.5 hours per day, 3 days per week
- 4.5 hours per days, 4 days per week, plus a ½ day
- 9×9: 9 hours a day, M-F, with an extra day off every other week
Before implementing the Short Week, you should work through any new conflicts that may result, like payroll issues during a week with holidays, or a week where a single vacation day is taken. Any rules on time lapse between start/stop of shifts, break assignments, or other compliance issues should also be worked through before introducing the Short Week. These barriers can typically be solved (e.g., give Short Week agents a traditional 8-hour span during a week with holidays), but it’s better to have these solutions documented and in place before the exceptions happen instead of reacting to them later.
The biggest consideration to the popular Short Week schedules is actually the individual who is chosen to work the shift. This person must have the right motivational fit; otherwise, burnout may be higher during the last hours of the shift and quality could suffer. But for the employee who possesses high concentration levels and values the extra time off, the Short Week is a beautiful fit. And another benefit to Short Week is that it is green, because less days commuting = reduced traffic.
Sometimes a contact center thinks they are understaffed but they’re really just improperly staffed. The monthly model that calculates workload, shrinkage, and staffing requirements, migrates into a well-balanced intra-day roster filled with people’s names only after a great deal of shaping, trimming, and simulation first. Each date on the calendar has to be created and managed individually, starting with required staff, then incorporate agent rank and preferences, and finally the daily exceptions and flexible schedule needs. After thoroughly going through this process, the understaffing should be balanced with the overstaffing, and the net staff line should be tightly hugging the perfectly staffed goal.
Tiffany LaReau is an independent Certified Workforce Manager at Human Numbers, a firm that provides contracted forecasting and scheduling services. She can be reached at Tiffany@HumanNumbers.com, (678) 494-1506.
This article originally appeared in Contact Center Pipeline (www.ContactCenterPipeline.com).
- Keep your employees involved; this contributes to a supportive workforce.
- Get management buy-in; especially when they have to administer the changes.
- Communicate well, and often.
- Use a pilot team to test changes in reality before making everything official.