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“Your app saved my marriage”: How a Manchester app is giving control back to shift workers


Battling sleep deprivation, isolation and mental health issues are just part of daily reality for many of the estimated 3.8m shift workers in the UK, unable to tune out when they clock off.

Eight years ago, the founder behind Manchester-based tech for good app developer MyBuzz Technologies set out to change things.

Chris Pimlott’s brother-in-law was struggling to plan his life around work, working a four-on, four-off shift pattern at Manchester Airport’s Border Force. 

“It was really difficult to plan family time. He has a big family and trying to connect everyone together when he just didn’t know when he was working and didn’t know when he was able to do things or plan forward, is really hard when you’re in that kind of rota,” Matt Jones, commercial director at MyBuzz Technologies, told Prolific North.

With over 20 years of experience as a commercial software developer and product manager working for the likes of HP, Pimlott decided to create a simple, colour-coded shift planning app. He called it MyShiftPlanner, initially just to help his brother-in-law, and added it onto the App Store for free. 

iPhone or Android phone calendars might be great for scheduling daily, weekly, monthly or even annual repeating events but the difficulty was scheduling anything beyond that for complex shift patterns. 

What had started out as a bit of a “technical exercise”, three months later the app had already racked up 10,000 downloads. 

“Suddenly, he thought ‘Hang on a minute, there’s a need here.’ I think we were either the first or certainly one of the first of those types of apps appearing on the App Store.”

Running a marketing consultancy with a friend, Jones first bumped into Pimlott as the duo were working at the same coworking space in Stockport. After hearing about the app and Pimlott’s vision to take the app forward and improve the health and wellbeing of those working in the shift working industry, he officially came on board five years ago.

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Matt Jones and Chris Pimlott
Matt Jones and Chris Pimlott

“It grew from there to the point where we are now global and the app has developed a lot,” says Jones. 

After downloading the app, users select their industry – whether its air crew, healthcare staff, truck drivers to hospitality workers – then a specific or custom shift pattern to help build a picture about when they have free time, need shift swaps or are required to be on call.

“Almost any type of shift rota that somebody works, whether it’s a rotating pattern or individual shifts, the app can manage that and help people plan their lives.”

“Your app saved my marriage”

According to research by job site Breakroom in 2022, 56% of shift workers think their shifts are poorly planned and don’t take their needs into account, while 68% reported that their physical or mental health had suffered from working shifts.

“These are not straightforward jobs, regardless of whether you’re working in a factory or elsewhere there’s a lot of stress around working unsociable hours.

“Add that to the fact you’re essentially isolated from the rest of society – isolation is one of the biggest things shift workers talk about. Not being able to see their friends or family, not having the time to disconnect, being tired all the time – and so tired they just don’t have the energy to engage with people.”

Simply having an adjustable shift app in the palm of their hand gives shift workers some of the control back so they can manage their time and improve their work/life balance.

Now used by more than 400,000 shift workers on a daily basis, truck drivers to emergency workers have contacted the team to praise how transformational it has been to their lives. One email, in particular, stood out. A female user told them: “Your app saved my marriage.”

Her husband was a night shift worker but they’d almost become strangers. Like ships passing in the night, they were on the cusp of divorce until they both downloaded the app. Sharing calendars, she could spot when he had free time away from his complex rota and they began to book date nights and time away together.

Another long email came from a BBC staffer working shifts. “He talked about the effects of not seeing anybody, feeling depressed, not going out or seeing daylight.”

As more and more people are being asked to work shifts in what’s increasingly becoming a 24-hour “always on” society, the issues aren’t going anywhere. It’s up to tech and tools to help workers – and their managers – to “understand that better”.

“It’s such an important part of what we do. We are great believers in tech for good. As a phrase, it’s used a lot but we have ethics in the company that what we do and what we build actually helps real people in their lives.” 

The next level

As the app continues to develop and adds more and more features following user feedback, such as syncing to a phone calendar, tracking how many hours have been worked or pay, the sharing facility has become the most in-demand feature. 

How the MyShiftPlanner works
How the MyShiftPlanner works

“People can share their calendar and sync it out to an iPhone calendar or Google calendar or two people that have the app can share their calendars with each other. What we found is that it’s one of the most used features. For shift workers, not only do they find difficulty planning, but their families do as well.”

While the duo and a team of developers don’t work with specific businesses, they’ve had conversations with the likes of Greater Manchester Police to insert specific, more complex shift patterns, into the app. 

Its success has led to a number of businesses approaching the duo, asking to connect to the system to set up their own rotas and oversee their staff.

“It fits very nicely with what we’re trying to do. The app was originally built to help a shift worker and you can help shift workers better by having them feel in control but also by having a better manager.

“If managers have the tools to be able to set up rotas and send changes quickly through to workers and see what’s going on, it reduces everybody’s stress and makes life easier for everybody.”

Following demand, in the next few months the team will be officially launching a new product called MyShiftManager, a web-based tool that will link to MyShiftPlanner.

The new tool will help managers to tackle another big problem facing shift workers – long-term sickness. After chatting with Greater Manchester Police, pre-Covid it was one of their biggest issues.

“That was purely due to stress of the job but also related to the hours they work,” he explains. 

“There’s a whole range of issues that come with shift work. People are more likely to have mental health problems, have a heart attack, suffer from diabetes or weight issues because of eating at irregular times. 

“Shift Work Sleep Disorder is a known medical condition where the circadian rhythm is not just all over the place, it’s really bad for your health in lots of ways but particularly for mental health.”

The goal with MyShiftManager is to develop a system that allows managers to plan, predict and maintain healthy working practices for staff. 

Although it spreads right across numerous sectors, a recent research survey carried out by the University of Southampton found when working long shift hours, no choice over shift length mixed with poor staffing, nurses were at an increased risk of burnout or exhaustion.

Linking the tool with procurement software is the ultimate plan, to help HR teams flag and spot where there might be an issue that needs addressing with staff.

“The idea behind what we’re trying to do is to be able to predict those periods and be able to say, ‘Look, you’re going to be really busy in three months’ time, you’re going to need to bring new people on board to support that.’

“When staff have been off sick a number of times, often there’s an issue that needs to be looked at because clearly that person’s crying out for help in some way. Being able to flag that early and to help, any tools that can help with that are really important.”

It will also be able to flag when a staff member might be working too many shifts already. “It’s all just building algorithms into the system and certain rules. There’s the working time directive, which is really, really important. 

“At a networking event last year, a manager of shift workers said the only thing he doesn’t want to do is end up in prison for making people work too many hours. It’s really easy for a manager to lose track of.

“The two apps will work together. That’s our next step – that’s why we’re growing.”

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