Improve scheduling and job costing with new engineer shift patterns

Paul Hewson
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Introducing a brand new feature for Commusoft - Engineer Shifts. This new feature for our Automation plan allows office staff to see employee shifts, including overtime, straight from the diary. Got an engineer that only works mornings or afternoons, only works 4 days a week, or always works weekends? No problem, shifts are fully customisable! You can even set up overtime hours and rates for your engineers.

Commusoft shifts are smart too - you won't be able to add jobs for staff if it's outside of their shift hours. Plus, if you're adding a job in an overtime slot, we'll let you know and double check before you book it. This is really helpful when dealing with large numbers of engineers or a regularly changing team, as office staff can easily track the different shift schedules.

Want to see what shifts look like in Commusoft, learn how to set up shift patterns, and see how shifts can tie into more advanced scheduling features? Keep reading!

Please bear in mind that this feature is only available on the Automation Plan and above. If you're not on this plan, book a meeting or call the team on 0203 0266 266 about upgrading today.

Why use shifts?

There's a few reasons why you may want to use shifts in Commusoft.

  1. Different engineers have different working days, hours, and overtime rates, which are hard to manage.
  2. You want to more accurately track labour costs, including overtime labour.
  3. You have a large or rapidly changing team - office staff (especially new staff) need help staying on top of the many shifts.

By setting up shifts you'll be able create a record of an engineer's shift pattern and view those shifts marked out on the diary for all engineers. Any area of the diary that is white is available for appointments, whereas yellow represents overtime slots, and grey is unavailable. For example, the engineers on the diary below have a range of shift patterns from all day, afternoons only, and mornings only.

Shift slots on the diary

This allows office staff to easily see each engineer's working hours and consider overtime shifts when scheduling appointments. There's no need to check a separate It's especially useful for newer members of staff, who may not be fully acquainted with each engineer's schedule.

Job costing is also enhanced with shifts in Commusoft. By setting overtime rates (you can set multiple if you like!), you can more accurately account for labour costs. For example, if you completed an emergency job on the weekend (e.g. time and a half overtime), then the costing tab will correctly reflect the true cost of the overtime labour, ensuring your data is as accurate as possible.

Setting up a shift pattern

Setting up a shift pattern is easy! To get started, head over to System Settings and find the Shifts setting.

Shifts settings header

You'll first need to create a Shift pattern. Choose a name, for example, "Standard hours", "Mornings only", or anything else appropriate. You may find that specific users need their own shift pattern, if they have unique hours in comparison to their colleagues. We'd recommend starting with your default working hours and overtime rates.

Add a shift pattern

You're also able to add a description, should you want to record any extra information about the shift pattern.

Once you've added the shift pattern, you can click 'Setup shift pattern' to customise the hours of availability. If you need to edit the name or description, you can simply click 'Edit'.

Existing engineer shifts

Adding a normal shift

First thing's first, click 'Setup shift pattern'. Next, you'll add the normal shifts to the calendar - these are the hours in which your engineer normally works and receives their regular rate. Drag on the calendar to create a shift - just like adding an event to the diary, e.g. 8am to 5pm.

GIF adding shifts

The side panel will pop out and ask you to choose the shift type (either 'Normal' or 'Overtime') - select 'Normal' and click save.

Add a normal shift

The shift will turn green, showing that it is a normal shift. You'll need to repeat this for each day, making any changes to the hours as required.

Screenshot 2019-01-09 at 15.45.37

Remember that these shifts reflect the practical shift patterns of engineers, not the ideal schedules. Although your engineers may typically take an hour for lunch at some point in the afternoon, they likely don't take it at the same time everyday. For that reason, we don't recommend factoring a lunch break into your shift patterns.

Adding overtime shifts

Next, you'll need to add the overtime shifts to the calendar - these are for times that an engineer could have jobs scheduled, but would have an overtime rate associated with them. For example, engineers may receive overtime pay of 20% for jobs between 6pm and 8pm, or 50% for work on the weekend.

Drag on the calendar again, except this time select 'Overtime' from the side panel. A text box will appear, allowing you to add the associated overtime rate.

Adding overtime shift

Please note, that this number is a percentage (%) to be added to the engineer's standard rate. For example, if the overtime rate is 'time and a half' (i.e. 150%), you should type '50' into the box. You'll need to make sure you have the 'cost rate' set up for each user (if you don't already), otherwise the overtime rate won't have a figure to base itself on. This is accessible from Company settings > User > Business details.

Once you click save, the shift will turn red to represent an overtime shift. Again, you'll need to repeat this across the calendar until you have added all of the required overtime shifts. Note, the overtime rate does not have be the same for each overtime shift, this allows you to have different rate for mornings, evenings, weekends, or any other time.

A full calendar of shifts

Adding unavailable shifts

You don't need to manually add an unavailable shift - any time on the calendar that you leave blank (white) will result in an unavailable shift. This means that it would be greyed out on the diary and you would not be able to add an appointment for a user at those times. So, if you were to leave 8pm to 7am blank in the shift setup, it would not be possible to schedule jobs for engineers at those hours. If an engineer may in fact work between 8pm and 12pm, for example, that should be added as an overtime shift.

Assigning shift patterns to engineers

Okay, so you've created your standard shift pattern - now you just need to assign it to your users. To do that, go to Company Settings> Users and choose the user you'd like to assign it to. Next, click 'Edit' in the Business details section, where you should then see 'Shift' with a dropdown menu. Select the correct shift pattern for that user, before clicking save.

Screenshot 2019-01-09 at 17.22.00

You should now notice on the engineer's diary that there are yellow areas representing overtime and grey areas showing that the engineer is unavailable. If you add any diary event that crosses into an unavailable (grey) area, you will be informed that it's not possible to create the diary event. If you regularly find this is the case, you may need to re-evaluate the shift pattern for that user.

You can't add diary events to unavailable shift times

You'll also be notified when adding a diary event, should it include an overtime slot (yellow on the diary).Overtime warning messageYou'll be able to fill in the event details first as usual, but will be asked to confirm before saving. These notifications/ warnings are designed to ensure that office staff are aware when they are scheduling into an overtime slot.

"But wait, not all my engineers have the same hours or schedule!"

That's okay! You'll need to repeat this process to create a new shift pattern with the necessary changes. We appreciate this will take a little time to set up initially, however, once it's done - it's done! Unless each of your staff have very unique schedules and weekly hours, you shouldn't need to create a shift pattern for every engineer.

Overtime rates and job costing

By distinguishing between normal rates and overtime rates, you can keep a more accurate record of labour costs associated with a job or estimate. Just head over to the Costs tab on the job record and you'll be able to see the labour costs (as well as those for travel, parts, purchase orders, and more), based on the time spent on site. Any overtime jobs will correctly update the labour cost to reflect the overtime rate for that shift. As I mentioned before, you'll need to make sure you have correctly set up your users' cost rate in Company settings> User> Business details, as this is the number that the overtime rate (%) is based on.

For jobs that overlap both normal shifts and overtime shifts, you may notice the Labour rate in the Costs tab displays neither the normal or overtime rate. This is because the labour rate is based on exactly how much time was spent in each type of shift. For example, if an engineer completed a job and spent 1 hour in a normal shift slot (£10 per hour) and only 15 minutes in an overtime rate (£15 per hour) - the labour rate would be calculated as £11 per hour, with a total of £13.75 for the labour.

Shifts and intelligent scheduling

Shifts is a standalone feature that helps office staff manage schedules more easily and for businesses to more accurately track labour costs. However, shifts will also work in conjunction with our upcoming intelligent scheduling feature, which can automate the process of scheduling engineers and optimising routes.

By assigning shift patterns to engineers, you can control when the intelligent scheduling system will be able to assign jobs (and when it won't!). An intelligent scheduling system is looking for the most efficient times to schedule jobs, however, it can't magically know when each of your engineer's working hours are - unless you tell it. By assigning shifts patterns, you can ensure the system does not try to schedule jobs at 1am - whilst a highly efficient time, we're pretty sure your engineers need sleep!

We'll be releasing more information about intelligent scheduling very soon. To be the first to learn more, please register your interest here!

Want to learn more about our powerful Automation plan? Our  team are happy to discuss the benefits with you - give us a call on 0203 0266 266.

Are you happy with the work we're doing? We'd appreciate it if you let us know in a review - we love reading your feedback! You can review our software here.

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