Shift swapping fails - the tools employers need to avoid them

by Rotageek on 2 February 2023

Rota shift swaps are a source of pain, problems, and confusion for many employers and their staff. Since you’re here, maybe you’re thinking of changing that.

Swaps can go wrong in so many ways. Two people turn up for the same shift, because of a communication breakdown. Nobody turns up, for the exact same reason. Workers who need to swap a shift can’t, because the request system is too slow and broken. The list goes on.

Well, we could talk about shift swapping best practices – and we will.

We could talk about how costly it is to use outdated systems with printouts, Excel spreadsheets, or even text messages – and we have, in a previous blog.

But let’s not dance around the problem.

In this post, we’re going to re-live all the times where digital shift swapping best practices could have prevented a disaster – and show you why app-based workforce management is the best way to do it.

Let’s swap some shifts.

Shift swapping failure #1 – The last straw

Retail assistant Jules has a 4-year-old son who visits the doctor pretty often. Like a lot of us, Jules has a few complications in his life that make flexible working a priority.

One Sunday evening, Jules’s son was taken to hospital. It wasn’t life-threatening but they needed to stay overnight, but that would mean Jules missing work the next day.

Jules texted his manager to arrange a shift swap, but got no response. Because he’s a diligent worker, Jules got his mum to take over at the hospital and arrived for work at 8am Monday. But he felt his job wasn’t working for him anymore, and he quit a few months later.

Why it wouldn’t happen with a scheduling app:

  • Workers can make shift swap requests at any time, not just during normal hours
  • Other team members can see open shifts immediately and offer to cover them
  • Managers are alerted about requests and can easily handle them via the app

Shift swapping failure #2 – Nobody turns up

Saira texted your team’s WhatsApp group last Tuesday to ask if anyone could cover this afternoon’s bar shift, and Max said he’d be glad to do it. You, the shift manager, said that’d be fine.

Problem is, Max never wrote it down and now the text chat is ancient history. And Max, being Max, hasn’t checked the rota spreadsheet you sent to him and pinned on the noticeboard.

So, nobody turns up for Saira’s afternoon bar shift. And now you’re dealing with unhappy customers.

Why it wouldn’t happen with a scheduling app:

  • Max would have been alerted about his upcoming shift – no more surprise staff shortages.

Shift swapping failure #3 – Admin overload

Cali manages a busy branch of a national clothing retail chain. The company is growing, but it hasn’t invested in workforce management software yet. And so, Cali spends hours every week creating the rota spreadsheet and dealing with shift swap requests the old-fashioned way – hours she should be spending with customers and her team.

Why it wouldn’t happen with a scheduling app:

  • Making and processing shift swaps is effortless – a few taps from the manager and the rota is updated.
  • Telling staff about shift changes doesn’t take hours – they’re notified instantly by the app.
  • Rota planning is automated, which can reduce admin by up to 80%

Swap your old system for best practices

Have you experienced any of the failures and frustrations above? Click below to learn more about these topics at, or arrange a chat with a member of our team.

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