HR Tip of the Week

Posted on  |  HR101

10 Keys to Scheduling Employees

Employee Scheduling

Smart scheduling practices can help employers manage costs and meet company, customer, and employee needs. Here are some tips for managing employee schedules:

#1: Make accurate projections.

Make projections based on the amount and type of work that needs to get done, when it must be done, and the talent you have available. Factor in business growth (for example, if sales are increasing by 10 percent, your staffing projections should reflect this). Afterward, go back and evaluate whether your projections were accurate and make adjustments if necessary.

#2: Ensure proper balance in staffing.

Too many new or inexperienced employees on a shift can result in stress for both customers and other employees. During each shift, make sure you have enough supervisors and experienced employees to ensure that your business runs smoothly.

#3: Be prepared for special circumstances.

Many businesses have peak times each day, week, or season, but special circumstances could also lead to an increase in business. For example, a downtown cafe may see most of its business during the workweek but a special event, such as a weekend parade, could result in more customers. Be familiar with what is going on in your area and how that may affect business demands.

#4: Keep an eye on overtime.

Under federal law, employers must pay non-exempt employees overtime (1.5 times their regular rate of pay) whenever they work more than 40 hours in a workweek. Some states, such as California, require overtime in additional circumstances. Extensive overtime can drive up labor costs and lead to lower productivity and morale. Monitor overtime closely and make sure you consider its impact when scheduling employees.

#5: Provide enough time off between shifts.

Provide employees with enough rest in between shifts, especially for safety sensitive positions. Certain federal, state and local laws place restrictions on the number of hours an employee can work per week and how much time off must be provided between shifts. For example, nurses, certain drivers and other types of workers must be provided with a certain amount of off-duty time between shifts. Check your applicable law for more information.

#6: Post schedules in advance.

Give employees as much notice as possible about their schedules, preferably at least two weeks. This will give them more time to plan appointments and other commitments around their work schedules. If extra hours become available, or you need to make changes to the schedule, post those as well.

#7: Track vacation, sick, and other paid time off.

When scheduling employees, you need to know who has been approved for time off so you don't mistakenly put them on the schedule. Additionally, unless you plan for scheduled absences, an employee's paid time off can lead to overtime work for other employees. To plan ahead, track time-off requests closely and look for certain times of the year or days of the week where requests spike.

#8: Use pilots for new product or service launches.

If you are unsure how a new product or service may affect your staffing needs, consider using a pilot to help gauge the impact. For example, if you are preparing to launch a product update, you may want to release it to a select group of clients at first to help determine the amount of support clients will need.

#9: Involve employees.

When you involve employees in the scheduling process, you can account for outside conflicts. Consider your employees' availability, preferred shifts, and desired number of hours per week. Additionally, offering employees flexible work schedules or telecommuting options can help them better manage their work and personal responsibilities. While flexible work arrangements may not be practical for every job, consider evaluating such requests on a case-by-case basis.

#10: Consider shift swaps and cross training.

Allowing employees to swap shifts can make it easier to maintain adequate staffing levels and give employees flexibility when work-life conflicts arise. Consider cross training employees to make it easier to find a back-up for unscheduled absences. Additionally, establish and communicate rules to employees concerning shift swaps, such as requiring that they submit written requests in advance.


Effective scheduling practices can benefit your customers, employees, and the bottom line. Keep in mind that certain jurisdictions (including Seattle (effective July 1, 2017) and San Francisco) have passed laws that establish rules for scheduling employees in certain industries. Other jurisdictions are expected to consider similar laws.

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