In 2018 I was tasked with helping our Executive team figure out a better schedule for our Communications medics. Several factors were driving the need for change including employees being stuck on night shift for long periods of time and not promoting to avoid getting stuck on night shift. Many employees were asking for 24 hour shifts, which were not operationally possible due to staffing. With many employees feeling upset about future changes, it was vital to figure out how to find what their greatest needs were with work-life balance instead of solely looking at scheduling options.
My process involved a great deal of secondary research focused on shift work, different types of shift schedules, and work/life balance. I also got the raw data from a survey sent out from the employee association and a previous scheduling study that was done about ten years ago. Based on this research, I presented the following proposal to the Executive team:
Incorporate Communication Medic priorities into new work schedule options.
- Identify the work-life qualities that are the highest priority to Communications Medics
- Identify and prioritize schedule and non-schedule factors that impact Communications Medics’ prioritized qualities
The definition of work-life balance is meaningful daily achievement and enjoyment in each of the four life quadrants: Work, Family, Friends and Self (Work Life Balance Defined). Every individual has their own priorities in each of these areas that help them reach their ideal work-life balance.
Scheduling and non-scheduling factors refer to any factors that may impact an individual’s ability to achieve their prioritized qualities, either positively or negatively. Scheduling factors are dependent on specific work schedules and can include factors such as shift start time, end time, length, etc. Non-scheduling factors would be anything outside of your schedule that can impact your qualities, non-scheduling factors can still be work related (such as salary) or non-work related (such as childcare).
- Have current Communications Medics generate or identify their desired work-life balance qualities
- Have Communications Medics choose the top 6-8 qualities out of all the qualities they have listed
- Have Communications Medics match their prioritized qualities to the schedule and non-schedule factors that affect their qualities
- Identify the top schedule factors and top work-life qualities shared between all Communications Medics
With our Communications Medics working very busy shifts, the next step was to figure out the best way to collect the data. I reviewed a variety of survey tools that I discovered would not work in the way I needed them to. What I realized would work was to create individualized Trello boards for each medic so that they could take their time and do the activities from their desks when they had time.
Prior to launching the research study, I had seven medics agree to test instructions and Trello with me to make sure the directions made sense. Based on that feedback I simplified the instructions and added screenshots and screen captures to assist. In addition, once the project was launched I had some medics who still had trouble with Trello and went and sat with them one on one and let them do it with pen and paper. There was a 60% response rate for Activity 3, which is extremely high compared to our typical response rate when we ask for feedback.
Our final step in this phase has been synthesizing the scheduling factors from Activity 3 to discover which ones are the most important to our communications medics.
Phase two will involve the communications medics matching the top scheduling factors that rise to the top from synthesis to a variety of schedules.