Review: App makes living with shifting schedules easier

Years ago, I worked at a company where I had so many different shifts, I lost track of the pattern – probably because there wasn’t one. In a single year, I had started or finished at every single hour of the day. I often woke in a blind panic wondering whether it was time to start a shift, scrabbling about for the crumpled sheet of paper listing the month’s rota. I really could have done with an app for that.

Today there are several apps on the market to make life easier for shift workers – one simply called Shift Worker.

Shift Worker is an iPhone-only app costing £7.29 (Dh34.68), with no ads or in-app purchases. The difference more traditional calendar apps or the native calendar on your phone is the ability to set up different shift rotations and then enter shifts on dates or in patterns with a few taps.

And beyond just sharing your newly created rota by email, you can actually share the entire calendar – and even create multiple ones in different colours, if you have a shift-working partner too.

That is perfect for my married friends, who work as a pilot and an air stewardess and need to sort out childcare the moment their monthly rosters are released.

You start in Shift Worker by creating a shift – start time, end time and icon (say, the moon for a night shift). You can also put in the rotation length, which days you work within that rotation, shift patterns (such as weeks one and two alternating) and the start day of your week.

You can then add shifts to your calendar in edit mode, choosing from the palette of shifts at the bottom of the screen and tapping day by day, click by click. Once finished, you can view in timeline format to see the shift flow, and even save a month’s worth of shifts to your background for a quick glance of your future movements.

In the United States it is estimated at least 17 per cent of the entire workforce has an “unstable” schedule – so shift apps could go a long way to sorting out the lives of many workers on flexible hours.

q&a

Seriously, almost a fifth of employees work shifts?

There are no clear-cut numbers as to the number of people working shifts. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics says three million Americans work graveyard shifts and another four million evening shifts, while in the UK it is estimated three million – or one in eight people – work night shifts. But according to Lonnie Golden, a professor at Penn State Abington who specialises in research on working patterns, at least 17 per cent of the entire US workforce has an “unstable” schedule, when everything from shifts to irregular and on-call hours are accounted for, which is as high as 32 million workers in the US.

Anything to improve on the app?

Reviewers say it would be better if it integrated with the native calendar app on the iPhone so that other apps can sync up with your shift pattern, and that you could easily check two shift calendars without going in and out of each. The biggest complaint from reviewers though is that updates to the Ios software wiped out the shifts they had already input – so it’s worth keeping a backup somewhere of your rota.

What if I have an Android phone?

There are a good dozen options on Google Play: Shift Calendar has the highest ratings, at 4.5 stars from almost 13,000 reviewers. It is free but with in-app purchases. Shifts (Dh17.99) is another highly rated app but again, iPhone-only. It adds in data from the native Apple Calendar but, like Shift Worker, cannot sync it back.

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