published on
November 20, 2023

LTC staff scheduling for the winter holidays: how to get it right

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Healthcare organizations

With the upcoming winter holidays, your LTC home staff may be booking time off to be with their families or just planning for a well-deserved break.

As Christmas and New Year’s approach, and winter illnesses circulate, more staff will be calling in sick at the last minute. 

For long-term care homes that are already struggling with staff shortages, holiday staffing can be an immense challenge.

Understaffing can be the worst-case scenario, leading to residents' care needs not being met and staff burnout.

It shouldn't get to this point, though, if you make a plan – and make it early.

We recommend the below five ways to get scheduling right this holiday season.

1. Plan ahead

It’s best to start planning now for holiday staffing. Creating a holistic plan to guide you through the holidays will allow your residents to be taken care of, your team to know what’s expected of them, and prepare your organization for when staff call in sick. 

Your plan should include:

  • An overview of safe staffing levels. Look at historical scheduling over the winter holiday period and adjust if there’s a reason that this year will be different. 
  • A fair policy for scheduling holiday shifts. Answer questions like: Will there be mandatory holiday days that each healthcare professional must work? Will you take seniority into account? Will there be a fixed rotation schedule or will you approve time-off requests on a case-by-case basis?
  • A deadline and process for holiday requests. Make sure there is a clear deadline and process for staff to submit their time-off requests. Sending out an email reminder with the deadline and process is a great way to make sure the schedule can be set as early as possible.
  • A designated person. Ideally one person will oversee reviewing and approving holiday requests and be the main contact for staff. This decreases mistakes and simplifies communication, as staff are clear about who to approach if they have a question.

2. Start the conversation early

Open communication before the holiday season begins sets an inclusive and proactive tone. It encourages staff to be involved in the process, which can go a long way towards fostering a culture of cooperation. 

Start by consulting staff on their preferences. Some helpful questions to ask them are: 

  • How strongly would you like Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day off? 
  • Are you willing to work on one of the above days in return for ensuring you get another holiday off?
  • Do you have special circumstances that necessitate you to have certain days off (ie. for single parents or those caring for their own family members)?

By finding out your staff’s preferences, you may be able to create a schedule that has fewer staffing gaps than you expect. 

3. Offer incentives

There will always be some days that are the least popular for staff to work. Incentivizing those days will make them more appealing. 

Some ways to do this are:

  • Increase pay on holiday days around the holidays even if they are not stat holidays
  • Offer gift cards to popular spots in the area as a bonus
  • Offer extra time off after the winter holiday season
  • Bring in a catered meal on those days or order takeout for all working staff

4. Draft the schedule

Start with the above data to craft your holiday schedule, trying to accommodate preferences. Prioritizing permanent and senior staff can go a long way in acknowledging their value and rewarding their loyalty. This also ensures there are enough experienced staff on each shift.

Then communicate, communicate, communicate! Working with your staff to provide a fair holiday schedule and then communicating your progress as the schedule takes shape are essential to fostering staff buy-in. They will be more likely to work holiday shifts if they know they are being treated fairly. 

After drafting your schedule, are there still staffing gaps? Move on to step 5.

5. Getting help for holiday staffing

So now you’ve got a winter holiday schedule based on staffing needs and staff preferences, but what if there are still gaps to be filled?

This is when you can rely on Florence to support your holiday staffing needs.

We work with many long-term care homes to provide experienced staff when there are schedule gaps. 

How can Florence help?

  • Start to fill your available shifts by posting shifts out to our network of 5,000+ vetted care professionals who know you need help.
  • You choose how much they are paid, which can differ for regular or stat holiday shifts. 
  • Our network of healthcare professionals can respond immediately, giving you reassurance that the shift is covered.
  • We don’t charge hidden fees, making it easy to manage your budget. 

We’re here to help. Ask us how!

We’re dedicated to helping your long-term care and retirement homes with holiday staffing. Find out more about Florence or book a 10-minute chat with our friendly team to get your holiday staff schedule filled.

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