Prevent Employee Scheduling Conflicts With Time & Labor Software

prevent employee scheduling conflicts
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Liz Strikwerda

Content strategist and corporate blogger (2000+ posts). Her work has been featured on G2's Learning Hub, Human Resources Today, Better Buys and over 500 business websites. She plays bluegrass mandolin and enjoys sailing her catamaran and hiking in the red rock wilderness of southern Utah. Connect with me on LinkedIn

When managers are trying to make all the pieces fit, sometimes an employee is scheduled for two shifts in a row. This is more common at small companies with long business hours. A "clopening" shift combo is especially difficult. It refers to a scenario where an employee closes a workplace late at night and then comes back a few hours later to open the establishment. The back-to-back shifts span two calendar days but there may only be three or four hours between them. For example, a coffee shop may be open from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. The opening shift starts at 5:00 a.m. for prep work. It takes until 1:00 a.m. to close. An employee who gets home at 2:00 a.m. but has to return at 5:00 will get burned out very quickly. And it's illegal in some states and industries.

Businesses without automated time and labor have difficulty controlling overtime. Managers have so much on their plate, policing straight-time thresholds is not always their first priority. Scheduling software alerts prevent overtime before it happens. If overtime is unavoidable, the software will show you the lowest-paid employees who are qualified to perform the job duties. The shift exchange board will find workers who want the overtime hours. (If you can't avoid it, you might as well find an employee who wants the hours.)

Many business owners who have relaxed shift trade policies have seen an increase in accountability because their workers don't want to give up the perk. It will also relieve some of the scheduling burden on your managers. Virtual shift trade boards and mobile apps make it easy.

Fair Workweek laws are a growing trend and may affect you soon if they haven't already. If you have best practices in place before you are obligated legally, you will have no disruption. Besides, it makes good business sense to create a workplace where schedule conflicts are prevented. Your employees and managers will thank you.

Updated October 13, 2022

Employee scheduling conflicts wreak havoc in your organization.

Businesses with scheduling confusion are at risk in several ways. First, they could lose great employees if schedule frustration persists. Just as importantly, they could lose customers due to poor service. In addition, they could fail to keep enough staff to meet production requirements. Lastly, they could fall into regulatory non-compliance.

It’s crucial to get on top of scheduling.

But you need the right tools. Spreadsheets don’t cut it.

Advanced scheduling software tackles the most difficult shift staffing challenges. Let’s look at common employee scheduling problems and describe how scheduling software can prevent them.

An Employee Is Scheduled For Back-to-Back Shifts

When managers are trying to make all the pieces fit, sometimes an employee is scheduled for two shifts in a row. This is more common at small companies with long business hours. A “clopening” shift combo is especially difficult. It refers to a scenario where an employee closes a workplace late at night and then comes back a few hours later to open the establishment. The back-to-back shifts span two calendar days but there may only be three or four hours between them. For example, a coffee shop may be open from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. The opening shift starts at 5:00 a.m. for prep work. It takes until 1:00 a.m. to close. An employee who gets home at 2:00 a.m. but has to return at 5:00 will get burned out very quickly. And it’s illegal in some states and industries.

Businesses with scheduling confusion are at risk. First off, their best employees may quit. In addition, they could lose customers or fail to meet production requirements. Plus, they could fall into regulatory non-compliance.

It pays to get on top of scheduling.

But you need the right tools. Spreadsheets don’t cut it.

Advanced workforce management (WFM) shift planning software tackles the most difficult shift staffing challenges. Let’s look at common employee scheduling issues and describe how scheduling software can prevent them.

An Employee Is Scheduled in Two Departments or Locations

This is a common scheduling conflict where multiple locations draw from the same pool of employees. When there is a scheduling manager for each location and poor communication, double booking can occur.

Workforce management scheduling software allows multiple managers to create schedules. The system will prevent double booking. If a manager attempts to schedule an employee who is already scheduled at another location, the software will send an alert. Every manager can see all the schedules simultaneously. They can see shift changes in real time. Plus, the software allows the employees to see the shift schedule as well. A mobile employee scheduling app let all staff members access it from any connected device.

Two Employees Request the Same Week Off

Employee scheduling software handles employee vacations. Create a company vacation policy and then enter the rules in your scheduling software. Enter vacation requests as you receive them. The software will remember everyone’s vacations and notify you if you try to schedule someone when they are sipping a margarita in Cancun. This works for Family Medical Leave as well.

When an Employee Calls in Sick, it Takes Too Long To Find a Replacement

Unplanned absences are trickier than the planned absences discussed in the previous section. But employee scheduling software helps with this problem, as well. Managers post open shifts on shift exchange boards contained in your employee scheduling software. The system sends text alerts to available employees. Employees request open shifts in the companion scheduling app from a mobile device. If nobody is willing to cover for a sick co-worker, you can try offering a reward. This may be cheaper in the long run than hiring a last-minute temp.

Shifts Are Understaffed

Coverage gaps hurt everyone — employees, customers, and business owners. Customizable software ensures adequate coverage. You enter shift requirements to guide the schedule creation. Graphical interfaces let managers see at a glance when each shift has enough workers.

Shifts Are Overstaffed

Overstaffing increases labor costs unnecessarily. Scheduling software optimizes scheduling to keep labor expenses as low as possible. Speaking of high labor costs, let’s talk about overtime.

Uncontrolled Overtime

Businesses without automated time and labor have difficulty controlling overtime. Managers have so much on their plate, policing straight-time thresholds is not always their first priority. Scheduling software alerts prevent overtime before it happens. If overtime is unavoidable, the software will show you the lowest-paid employees who are qualified to perform the job duties. The shift exchange board will find workers who want the overtime hours. (If you can’t avoid it, you might as well find an employee who wants the hours.)

Employees Are Scheduled When They Aren’t Available

You enter employee availability and schedule requests into your scheduling software. You are alerted if you try to move an employee into a shift for which they are unavailable.

Schedule Rules Rule

Customizable scheduling software is your key to preventing these problems. The rules you enter into your scheduling software will depend on your industry, business size, and employee demographics. Let’s recap possible scheduling rules:

When the manager creates the schedule, the software prevents invalid employee shift assignments. Employee scheduling rules are more effective than a manager with a photographic memory.

Employee Scheduling Best Practices

Smart employers follow best practices when scheduling employees — and they have happier employees and fewer scheduling headaches.

Schedule Early

If you make schedules available two weeks or more in advance, you avoid a host of problems. And you help your employees make it to work. The more notice you give, the easier it is for them to arrange childcare or take care of other responsibilities. It doesn’t cost you anything, but it increases loyalty. Some tweaking is usually necessary after a schedule is posted, but you can have most shifts in place. Especially if you have some employees with a consistent schedule.

Let Employees Handle Shift Trades

Many business owners who have relaxed shift trade policies have seen an increase in accountability because their workers don’t want to give up the perk. It will also relieve some of the scheduling burden on your managers. Virtual shift trade boards and mobile apps make it easy.

Pay Attention To Schedule Preferences When Hiring

When hiring, find out what shifts the candidate wants to work and how many hours they want to work per week. This sounds like a no-brainer, but many employers miss these essential questions. When analyzing competing candidates with similar qualifications, use schedule preferences to make your decision.

Cross-Train for Increased Flexibility

When you hire a new employee, be open about the fact that servers have to bus tables once in a while and prep cooks have to wash dishes. The entry-level team members will be eager to expand their job skills and your staff will be better able to respond to shifting customer levels on the fly.

Employee Scheduling and Labor Law Compliance

Fair Workweek laws are a growing trend and may affect you soon if they haven’t already. If you have best practices in place before you are obligated legally, you will have no disruption. Besides, it makes good business sense to create a workplace where schedule conflicts are prevented. Your employees and managers will thank you.

For more employee shift planning guidance, download our free eBook: 9 Ways to Manage Your Employee Scheduling Like a Pro

Originally published July 17, 2018

Simplify HR management today.

Simplify HR management today.

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