Header Home

Shift plan

Shift plan: Definition, history & data protection

Manual with Excel or automatic with software - shift planning is a complex topic that you should use efficiently in personnel deployment planning (PDP). However, this only works if you know your way around.

We have summarized the basic knowledge for you in the following article so that you don't lose track of data protection, legal framework conditions and the various shift systems.

What is a shift plan?

A shift plan is a personnel resource planning (PEP) tool. It displays shifts and working times clearly and collected in one place. The shift plan shows which employees are in the company at what times and what tasks they are working on. The purpose of the shift plan is to deploy employees as effectively and ergonomically as possible. A good shift plan that fulfills this contributes to improving the quality of performance and thus also to achieving company goals. Although the employer is entitled to decide when employees perform their work, they are also obliged to take the employees' interests into account. For this reason, the shift plan or at least its framework conditions are subject to approval in most companies. Once a shift plan has been drawn up, the works council and employee representatives have a right of co-determination.

Would you like to dive straight into a specific practical example? Free white paper: "Shift planning 4.0 at Siemens AG - How digitalization and employee satisfaction are linked"

How do I create a shift plan?

A shift plan can no longer be created manually using a spreadsheet such as Excel due to the increasing complexity and number of factors to be taken into account. Added to this are the high fluctuations in many markets and industries. In production, the duty roster often has to be adapted to the order situation or short-term employee absences within a week or a working day. Rigid planning based on an Excel list does not meet these requirements. With the help of staff scheduling software, the desired flexibility as well as demand and employee-oriented working time organization can be achieved. Such a solution should take the following factors into account:

What legal framework conditions must be observed when creating a shift plan?

There are a number of aspects that must be taken into account if shift planning is to succeed. First and foremost, legal regulations must be observed. In Germany, the daily working time is generally limited to a maximum of eight hours. In exceptional cases, this can be higher, for example in hospitals, where 24-hour shifts are not uncommon. Normally, however, the average working time per day must not exceed eight hours over a 24-week period.

Breaks and rest periods are just as important when planning a legally compliant shift schedule.

From a working time of six hours, employees must take a break of at least 30 minutes. If they work more than nine hours, the break must be at least 45 minutes. At the end of the working day, a rest period of at least eleven hours must be observed. Breaks and rest periods must be planned correctly, but of course they must also be observed. Intuitive, digital time recording can be a great help here. It makes it easier for employees to record their breaks and at the same time they are stored directly in the system and can be viewed if an audit is due. Of course, there are also some sectors and facilities where exceptions may apply. These include catering, care, on-call duty and hospitals. There may also be exceptions to Section 9 ArbZG, according to which Sundays and public holidays are exempt from employment. Apart from the sectors already mentioned, deviations can also occur in multi-shift operations with day and night shifts. For example, the start or end of the Sunday and public holiday rest period can be brought forward or back by up to six hours.

Does data protection apply to the shift plan?

A shift plan contains personal data, its functionality is based on this. This data includes the real name, address and date of birth, but also working hours, absences such as vacation and sick days, as well as overtime. The data from the shift plan may therefore not simply be published within a company. Privacy must be maintained for data protection reasons. Of course, this also means that it must be ensured that only employees with the appropriate authorizations can access this information. A company must manage and regularly update these authorizations. If access and viewing rights are distributed and data protection is secured within the company, it is of course up to the employees themselves to decide with which colleagues they want to share personal data or overtime, working hours and vacation days beyond their own work area. You can also read our article on

Learn More

How does a shift plan help me with personnel planning?

The shift plan is a crucial part of personnel planning. It enables staff to be planned effectively and in line with requirements, despite their complexity and taking all relevant factors into account. Thanks to shift planning, the right employees with the right qualifications are in the right place at the right time in the company. In order to motivate employees and maintain optimum performance, their needs must be taken into account during planning. The main focus here should be on their health, which can be supported, for example, by optimal shift rotation. Of course, full-time, part-time and mini-jobs must also be coordinated. The shift plan also provides an overview here.

Shift plan software or Excel?

Taking all these factors into account simultaneously in Excel is a battle against windmills and extremely time-consuming in its complexity. For this reason, an online shift plan should be created that allows employers to coordinate quickly and easily and provides them and their employees with a clear overview of the shifts to be worked.

What options do I have for planning a multi-shift system?

Multi-shift systems are used across all industries and are used when several shifts have to be planned in succession. However, it is important to know that multi-shift systems can be used in different ways. 2-, 3-, 4-, 5-, shift models and full-continuous shift models are different types of multi-shift systems. It is interesting to note that every full-continuous system is a multi-shift system, but not every multi-shift system is a full-continuous shift system.

To plan a multi-shift system, for example, a 2-, 3-, 4-, 5-shift system and, as an extension, the rolling shift system can be used, e.g. a 2-shift model is used and the assigned employees then always roll through the respective shifts.

In addition, the rolling shift system is divided into a forward-rolling shift system and a backward-rolling shift system. It is important to understand that the model repeats itself cyclically. This is why it is called a rolling shift system or rolling shift system.


Ultimately, you should analyze your company well and pay attention to the key performance indicators in order to find out which of the various shift systems makes the most sense for you. Once you have completed this step, you can decide whether you also want to and can implement a rolling shift system.