Scheduling employees can be one of the most time-consuming activities that managers undertake. Hours can be spent planning upcoming weeks’ shifts and ensuring you have enough staff working at the right time. Then there are the many occasions when your employees want to swap shifts, request time-off at the last minute or they call in sick, and you have to stop what you're doing and return to your schedule and make changes. Whether your schedule is printed out on paper and displayed on the staff noticeboard, or it’s saved in an Excel spreadsheet, updating and amending it can cause confusion among management and staff, and it risks people not knowing when they're working. The last thing you want to do is to spend an evening calling up your team to let them know about changes, and you definitely don't want to start every day sending out SMS messages to staff members reminding them when they're working.
If these scenarios sound familiar, good news! There are many ways you can avoid these time-wasting activities when scheduling your employees. Here are just some of them:
Using an online employee scheduling system is the number one way you can save yourself time managing your staff. By moving your schedule online you ensure that all of your employees are looking at the same, most up to date shifts, which they can do from anywhere and on any device with an internet connection. While the available systems vary, many will automatically update staff when they have new shifts, or if there is a change to the schedule that affects them. When you make changes or assign new shifts to staff, you can also add in break times, assign duties or add additional comments so that your staff know more about where they're working and what they'll be doing, saving you even more time in briefing or communicating with staff. There are additional benefits to online scheduling as the data that you enter into your staff schedule is used to generate lots of different reports that will help support your business, e.g. monthly payroll or staff costs.
Set aside a time for scheduling
If making sure that you always have enough staff scheduled to work is a priority then you should also prioritise the time you need to spend scheduling your employees. Set aside a regular and adequate amount of time to work on your schedule every week, every month or every few months depending on how far in advance you like to schedule (see below). It's best to choose a time when you have lots of focus and energy, and you're unlikely to be interrupted. Make sure this time is blocked out in your diary and don't compromise on moving it or reducing it or you will risk not having enough time to fully solve any issues which will then take up more time at a later date.
Schedule ahead as much as possible
Scheduling as far in advance as you possibly can will help avoid confusion for both you and your employees. You will feel relaxed having many months in advance already covered, and your staff will appreciate knowing when they are working not only next week but a few months in the future. It may even help them choose when they can or can't take time-off. This doesn't mean you can't make changes or edit your schedule if you have to, but it does avoid panicking about days where you don't have enough staff scheduled to work. With an online scheduler such as Findmyshift, you can schedule as far in the future as you want to, and if you have the same staff working the same days every week you can use templates to quickly copy and paste the shifts your staff are working in the future.
Manage time-off on your schedule
One of the most time-consuming and stressful problems for managers is dealing with time-off. Whether it's a sick day, vacations or training days, finding an online scheduling system that allows you to also manage time-off in the same place as you schedule staff to cover these shifts will save you lots of time. You can also use the system to automatically keep track of employees' leave allowances and generate reports that will show you when your staff have taken time off.
Send automatic reminders
Using an online system should give you the option to automate shift reminders for your staff so they always know when they're working. This will help reduce employee lateness - something that costs businesses millions each year - and will also give you back the time you would have otherwise spent chasing late employees.
Moving to an online scheduling system is quicker and easier than you think and will immediately save you time. Now you just have to think about what you’re going to fill all that saved time with!
Jen Lowthrop is a freelance writer, digital marketing consultant and travel blogger at She Gets Around. She has run two small businesses and a charity and believes in finding the fun in every task no matter how trivial.