In the midst of the challenging COVID-19 pandemic, experienced planner Ramona Christiaans from GGD West-Brabant emphasized the benefits of switching to a simple and fast system for employee scheduling and time tracking. The rapid expansion of COVID-19 testing locations, contact tracing operations, and the influx of additional staff meant that their previous Excel-based scheduling system was no longer adequate. Consequently, they turned to Shiftbase software for a more efficient solution.
All GGDs (Municipal Health Services) in the Netherlands were working tirelessly to establish and maintain safe and efficient COVID-19 testing sites. Besides GGD West-Brabant, five other GGDs utilize Shiftbase for their employee scheduling needs, and this software is also employed by individual testing sites not affiliated with the GGD.
In addition to COVID-19 related tasks, approximately 12,000 GGD employees in the Netherlands, including doctors, nurses, researchers, prevention workers, and policy officers, were dedicated to preventing and combating infectious diseases. Their responsibilities encompass general infectious disease control, tuberculosis control, sexual health, and traveler vaccinations. Other key GGD functions include youth healthcare up to 18 years, implementing the national vaccination program, public mental health care (OGGZ), and executing prevention programs.
Corona crisis task GGD
The first COVID-19 case reported to GGD West-Brabant was at the end of February 2020. Ina Klingenberg, GGD Process Leader for COVID-19 in the West-Brabant region, mentioned that from that point, they were ready with a crisis team to scale up operations as needed. This meant that GGD employees could immediately switch from their regular duties to COVID-19 related tasks, which was crucial during the initial months.
Testing, testing, testing
The majority of GGD employees returned to their regular duties since June, while additional workers and temporary staff were recruited for various COVID-19 activities. According to Klingenberg, approximately 2,000 tests were administered daily in West-Brabant in mid-October, and this number was expected to exceed 4,000 per day by the year-end, excluding home tests.
Source and contact research
Each of their four testing sites required over 40 staff members daily, including coordinators, swabbers, runners, and support staff for pre- and post-test data processing. About 35 employees were involved daily in contact tracing in West-Brabant, supplemented by a national pool of contact tracing callers. The number of these callers was expected to double in the following weeks. Together with the call center staff, testing sites, and administrative support, between 300 and 400 employees were working on COVID-19 control in West-Brabant.
No more planning in Excel
"Until recently, we used a well-structured Excel file for scheduling COVID-19 staff in our region," adds Ramona Christiaans from the Corona Bureau of GGD West-Brabant. "In the initial phase with just one testing lane, we managed quite well with it. However, the significant increase in activities such as testing lanes, contact tracing, and other COVID-19 tasks of the GGD, along with the increase in the number of staff, made planning in Excel too cumbersome and error-prone. The puzzle became too complex. We wanted to move away from requesting and processing availability by email and manually changing different tabs in Excel. Also, emailing screenshots of work schedules to all staff is now thankfully a thing of the past."
"After researching other GGDs and with the help of an external agency, they found a suitable system for their staff scheduling, time tracking, and leave management: Shiftbase. Within a month of the decision, the software was fully installed and operational. "Despite the necessary time investment, the benefits are already paying off, even in these hectic and dynamic times of COVID-19."
Fast and Simple Work
"Shiftbase is very user-friendly, clear, and fast. It provides us with a good work schedule for all employees at the different testing locations and for various services. The system also clearly displays the worked hours, rates, and leave and absence days of employees. Inexperienced planners can, for example, easily add and modify data for new employees and temporary workers. New testing locations and services can be added at the press of a button. People of all ages find it easy to use," shares the experience of Christiaans and Klingenberg.
Up-to-Date Work Schedules, Hours, and Leave
Employees receive login details and instructions via email. After installing the Shiftbase app on their phone, they indicate their availability and can view their work schedule for the next two weeks at any time. This can also be done via a browser on their computer. Christiaans says, "The planners and employees are very enthusiastic and find it an easy system to use. If an employee is scheduled at two locations simultaneously or for too many consecutive days, Shiftbase notifies the planner. Employees can digitally swap shifts with each other, upon which we still give a final approval."
Coordinators, for example, quickly and easily fill in the actual worked hours of temporary workers at the testing locations and for contact tracing. "No more paper timesheets for temporary workers. This accurate digital time recording serves as the basis for billing the temp agencies. And also very important: the huge time saving compared to Excel, the easy-to-make reports, and the integration with finance and HR," says Christiaans enthusiastically.
Support from Shiftbase Experts
GGD West-Brabant expects to have their staff scheduling in Shiftbase fully in order by mid-November, six weeks after the start. Christiaans says, "That's very quick for a new system during a time of scaling up. It meets all our expectations, we have not encountered any obstacles, which I find unique for a new system. And if we have questions? Then we contact the experts at the Shiftbase helpdesk, always accessible and extremely helpful."
Text: Noor Backers Photographer: Beeld werkt