An ideal work schedule optimizes both your time and your budget.
It also meets your employees’ needs by providing them with a better work-life balance. And since it also allows you to better plan your labour needs, an optimal schedule also benefits your customers.
But balancing performance and profitability with flexibility and human well-being is no easy feat.
Without a real method of organization to manage schedules, you might even say that it’s mission... impossible.
This article gives you tips to help you put together the best possible work schedule.
1. Create a concrete reference schedule
Create an easy-to-copy reference schedule based on your business’s workforce. These needs vary according to several factors, including:
- The time of year: Christmas is peak season for retail and big-box stores, while summer is more demanding for resorts. Each industry has its own particularities; make sure to take yours into account.
- Time of week: For restaurants, some days (usually toward the end of the week) are much busier than others.
- Daily rush hours: Similarly, in the food service industry, afternoons are often quieter with fewer needs, while busy times such as lunch and dinner require a higher number of employees.
An easy-to-copy reference schedule allows you to have some consistency and adjust as needed without having to recreate the schedule from scratch every time.
This simple strategy will save you time. A reference schedule is also an asset for your employees, who will have a better idea of when they’re free to organize outings or make appointments, for example.
2. Prioritize your employees’ availability
When drawing up schedules and managing your team, taking into account availability and unavailability is a must.
If you start running out of employee availabilities, you may need to hire. If too many of your teammates are telling you they’re short on hours, you've probably hired too many.
I once worked at a restaurant where, unless we had a clear emergency, the manager simply didn’t accept unavailable times. This was obviously an irritant for all the employees.
Taking your team members’ availability and even preferences into account tells them that they matter to you. It’s also a cornerstone of happiness at work. The more you take their preferences into account, while respecting your own needs, the more likely you are to hang on to your employees.
3. Use rotating schedules
I can already hear you telling me that having flexible work hours isn’t exactly possible in your industry. This is understandable; how can you allow your team to work when they like at a restaurant, a pharmacy or a retail store?
Even in this kind of context, however, there is a solution—a rotating schedule. This is a schedule where shifts vary or alternate according to a predetermined calendar. Here’s an example of a three-week rotating schedule:
Week one: 4 day shifts, followed by 3 days off;
Week two: 4 night shifts, followed by 3 days off;
Week three: 4 evening shifts, followed by 3 days off.
This sequence would then be repeated.
Rotations allow you to create a consistent schedule, well in advance, and give your team some flexibility when it comes to days off.
It's also a great way to avoid burning out your top employees by always assigning them the busiest shifts, such as Friday and Saturday nights at a restaurant. What’s more, rotations prevent the same people from systematically ending up stuck with the least desirable shifts.
4. Involve your employees in scheduling
Managing requests for days off and the resulting replacements is a common task for anyone who makes schedules.
Allow your employees to exchange shifts
If possible, share part of the task of managing replacements with your employees by allowing them to exchange shifts. This will give them greater autonomy and make them feel like you really trust them.
With Agendrix, the employer can allow employees to transfer shifts with certain restrictions. For example, you might establish that employees can only swap shifts with a coworker in the same position as them. Or, that each swap must be approved by a manager before it is made official.
Let your employees volunteer for available time slots
Last-minute replacements are a major headache for managers. They create stress, irritation and pressure on the rest of the team—and it's even worse when there’s no replacement in sight.
Instead of contacting your employees one by one looking for a replacement, reach out to everyone and see who would like to volunteer.
One advantage of scheduling software is that it makes it easier to resolve these types of unforeseen situations.
At Agendrix, the open shift feature lets you notify available people that a shift is open. This feature can be useful when creating the schedule or if an employee notifies you at the last minute that they can’t show up. Once a replacement is found, you can assign them the shift, and you’re done!
5. Be fair
I once worked at a place where the workers who had been there the longest were showered with privileges.
The result? Every day, a few employees with 10 or 20 years of seniority worked with a team of new employees who stayed at the organization for only a few months on average.
One night, I arrived at work only to learn that a coworker with more seniority had taken my shift—which she was entitled to do, as long as it was 24 hours in advance. While this way of doing things does value seniority, it also makes new recruits reluctant to stay on at the company.
So remember this: if you want to improve your turnover rate, think to treat your employees fairly. When creating your schedules, consider the satisfaction of the entire team.
6. Schedule breaks in advance
If your organization allows breaks and they need to be taken in alternation, schedule them in order to avoid overlaps. This ensures that there are always enough employees on the floor and that everyone will be able to enjoy their breaks.
Most scheduling software also allows you to schedule automatic breaks, to simplify your planning.
7. Try to avoid split shifts
In some industries, split shifts can seem inevitable.
However, days when an employee works from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. are a real obstacle to finding a good work-life balance. Split shifts prevent employees from doing many kinds of longer activities by monopolizing both their day and their night.
If possible, give your employees full days of work. When things are quieter, assign them related tasks instead of sending them home for only a few hours.
8. Give some thought to your labour cost
Many managers make the mistake of neglecting the cost of labour. To ensure the sustainability of your business, it’s essential to schedule according to your budget. While these calculations may seem cumbersome or complex, they are definitely worthwhile.
Consider, for example, a shift that theoretically starts at 12:00 p.m.
If the busy hours and the nature of the job allow it, consider scheduling some employees to start about 15 minutes later, i.e., at 12:15 p.m. This may seem like a tiny difference, but at the end of a month or a year, it could add up and have a significant financial impact.
Calculating the cost of labour helps you be more cost-effective with your shifts. Several scheduling software programs also offer additional cost-tracking features to make it easier for you to create schedules.
The best schedules take into account the employer and the employees
If you only take away one thing from this post, remember that the best schedule is the one that allows you to save time and devote it to other tasks, save money, and make your employees feel that their well-being matters. To achieve this without pulling your hair out, consider a quality scheduling tool.