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Tips for Scheduling Staff Around the Winter Holidays

Hospitals and long-term care facilities aren't like other workplaces that can flip a sign to "Closed," lock the door and shut down for the seasonal holidays. Patients and residents need quality care even if it's New Year's Eve and facilities need to be adequately staffed throughout the holiday. At the same time, the winter holidays are some of the most popular times of year for people to spend with their loved ones. With so much demand for holiday time off, how can healthcare administrators keep staff happy and ensure full shift coverage at their facilities?

With a little planning and some creative approaches, you can take the headache out of holiday scheduling in healthcare. Here are 6 tips on how to prepare for the holidays. 

1. Learn Your Staff Preferences

While many people want holiday time off to observe Christmas traditions, employers shouldn't assume that everyone keeps these same customs. Different faiths, different families and different preferences mean some people want time off and others prefer to work. Your first step in prepping for the holidays is to consult your staff. You might be surprised how many people choose to work the winter holidays and save their vacation days for sunnier months of the year. 

2. Set an Early Deadline for Booking Off Requests

Instead of dealing with holiday requests on a first come, first served basis, set a firm and early deadline for all time-off requests. This way, you see what days and shifts your team members want off and can build the schedule to honour as many

BookJane graphic of an early deadline to schedule healthcare staff

 of them as possible while still ensuring full coverage. An early deadline helps staff finalize their own plans, too, minimizing planning stresses for everyone as the holidays approach.


3. Create Blackout Dates in Holiday Requests

Study the calendar to see exactly where the holiday days fall and try to anticipate which days might be popular for booking off. Healthcare facilities will always need shift coverage on Christmas Day and New Year's Eve, for example. If you anticipate too many book-off requests falling on the same dates, make them blackout dates when you ask staff members to submit their book-off requests.

4. Communicate Clearly About Holiday Staffing Needs

Nothing's worse for staff than finding out too late that they need to change their holiday plans to accommodate their employer. It can create feelings of resentment and lead to disengagement. For this reason, administrative staff should communicate clearly and early on about the facility's holiday staffing needs and expectations. Keeping staff informed reminds healthcare workers how essential they are, and how valued. Many will be willing to lend a hand to help the organization get through the busy holiday period. 

5. Support  With Technology 

Graphic of Bookjane J360 platform to schedule and manage healthcare workforce

Flexible scheduling and call-out platforms that can fill last-minute shifts is a lifesaver for administrative teams whether it's holiday time or not. But it's especially valuable during popular holiday periods when there is reduced availability and higher potential for last-minute shift changes. An advanced staffing platform like BookJane has an automated callout feature that helps facilities find qualified staff and fill shifts in seconds, with no need for phone calls or follow-ups. This would allow administrative teams to fill last minute shifts faster with zero human intervention needed. Additional functionality, such as instant notifications and 2-way communication, is invaluable for keeping healthcare team members connected and informed. 

6. Incentivize Staff to Work Less Desirable Shifts

Some labour regulations and healthcare union protections require facilities pay extra for holiday work. In these cases, facilities often have more than enough staff willing to cover holiday shifts. If that's not the case, facilities can offer incentives to encourage sign up, such as bonus pay, gift coupons, or a guarantee of next year's holiday off. To brighten holiday shifts themselves, make things more festive with a free meal or holiday treats.

It's never too late to finalize your staffing schedule for the holidays. Start taking stock of your seasonal staffing needs today and communicate them clearly with your staff. Even better, get innovative with your holiday staffing approach – with new incentives and new technology.


To learn more about how scheduling software and automated call-out can help with holiday staffing in healthcare, book a demo today.