Give Yourself a Break: How to Use Shift Scheduling Software to Make Running Your Business Easier

Scheduling is always a chore even when you think you have a good system in place. The average business owner spends at least 2 hours a week writing the schedule for their employees.

That may not seem like a lot of time. But over the course of a month, that’s an entire workday devoted to nothing more than scheduling.

And the more employees you have, the harder it is to coordinate shifts. But there’s an easier way to get things done: shift scheduling software.

Learning a new program and implementing changes can be scary. But we’ve got you covered. Here are a few simple tips to help you make the most of your scheduling software.

Establish Consistency

The key to creating a good schedule that both management and employees can work with is consistency.

There’s no hard and fast rule that shifts need to change each week. And doing so makes it hard for your employees to establish a good work-life balance. Worse, it makes employees feel like you don’t really value their contributions to your business.

Instead, set your shift scheduling software to let employees work the same days and shifts whenever possible.

By giving consistent days off and consistent hours, your team will be able to handle tasks without having to call out from work. Remember, just because you have the freedom to rearrange your schedule to go to the doctor doesn’t mean your employees do.

If changes need to be made, speak with your team to let them know what’s happening. Communication is key, even when you automate the scheduling process.

Create the Spreadsheet

The first step in using any scheduling software is to input the information for your schedule. This includes employee availability, hours of operation, and in-demand shift times.

Once you have this information entered into the system, the software will be able to generate a schedule spreadsheet.

You can customize the spreadsheet and rearrange shifts as needed. And best of all, you won’t have to start from scratch for the following week. If you make a mistake, the software will make it obvious!

As things change and employees request time off, all you need to do is input the information into the program. This will factor in any necessary schedule changes in advance.

Remember, the more advanced warning you can give your team about changing schedules, the happier they’ll be.

Integrate Time-Off Requests

When you’re making schedules on your own, your employees have to give you time off requests either in person or through email. With scheduling software, that’s not the case.

Your team can enter their requests through the program, automatically giving you the information you need to create the schedule. It also gives you a time-off request history so you can tell who asked for the day off first. This can be helpful in deciding how to manage those requests without sacrificing coverage during busy shifts.

Handle Shift Changes Online

Occasionally, things will come up and employees will need to change shifts around. This can be tough when your schedule is written out by hand. Worse, it takes time away from your employees doing their jobs.

They’re forced to approach co-workers throughout the day to find someone to cover for them. Then, they have to clear it with you before making the switch official. This takes time away from work and can hurt your bottom line.

Software programs allow employees to submit shift-change requests through the program. You can still supervise and approve the change. But you won’t have to worry about making corrections to paper schedules or accidentally overscheduling someone throughout the week.

Track Peak Times and Labor Demand

You know your business and you should have a general idea of when extra coverage is needed. But there are times when you find yourself under-staffed.

Scheduling software allows you to track your schedules from previous months or years. You can then use these schedules as a point of reference to make sure you’re covered completely.

Look at past schedules when planning out upcoming schedules. This will save you time and frustration in the long-run.

Be Mindful of Overtime

Overtime means paying your hourly employees 1.5 times their normal wage when they work more than 40 hours a week. This can take a toll on your operating budget.

The scheduling software tracks how many hours each employee is scheduled to work. Use this information to make sure you schedule appropriately.

If an employee’s hours are close to the 40-hour cutoff, make sure not to schedule them for an extra shift unless you’re willing to pay for the overtime work.

Integrate Payroll Software

Speaking of overtime, most scheduling programs allow you to integrate your payroll and time clock software right into the program.

This gives you real-time information about your team’s actual time on the clock. When monitoring overtime, the more information you have on hand, the better.

Take the time to integrate your payroll and time clock software with your scheduling program. Should an employee be drawing close to overtime, you can change the schedule on the fly. This lets you cut hours as needed to keep them under 40 a week.

You may even be able to set up notifications within the program to let you know when someone is getting close. Then it’s up to you and the employee to decide if overtime is needed or useful for your business that week.

Listen to Employee Feedback on Shift Scheduling Software

Auto-generated schedules are possible with scheduling software, but they’re not all they’re cracked up to be. Before committing to a schedule, take the time to listen to your employees’ feedback.

Remember, they’re the ones in the trenches and ultimately the ones who have to live with the schedules the program writes.

We’ve all seen the negatives of auto-generated schedules. Even coffee-giant Starbucks garnered a lot of negative media attention when their system scheduled baristas for “clopen” shifts. These happen when an employee closes one shift and opens the next shift.

These types of issues create a lot of ill-will with employees. If your scheduling software is creating schedules that don’t work or that cause contention within the ranks, listen to the feedback.

Take the time to address those concerns. If it’s a schedule you wouldn’t feel comfortable working, your employees won’t like it either.

Monitor Changes in Real Time

Scheduling software makes it easy to automate your scheduling process. But you still need to monitor changes as they happen.

Since your team members can switch shifts through the employee scheduling app, it’s important to check the scheduling software once a day. You can even set up alerts to notify you of pending changes.

As requests happen, you can also make changes on the fly and send out a revised schedule to employees immediately. They’ll receive the information in an email and can even get shift reminders on their phone so they never miss a shift.

Handle Some Tasks In-Person

Labor demand changes and it’s easy to add shifts through the scheduling software. But that ease makes it deceptively convenient.

Remember, your workers have lives outside of your business. They may have already made plans that they can’t change.

Instead of making those scheduling changes through the program and forcing your team to work things out, discuss it with them. If you need extra coverage, ask your team if anyone is available before making the executive decision. Plenty of people will welcome the extra hours, but it’s always best to ask them first.

Release the Schedule Ahead of Time

Now that you have software programs in place, give your employees access to the schedule ahead of time. And when you’re keeping things consistent, you can write the schedule out weeks in advance!

This means you can let your employees see the schedule ahead of time. The more advanced warning they have about possible shift changes, the better prepared they’ll be to change their personal schedule.

Sure, you might have gotten into the habit of writing the next week’s schedule Sunday morning and publishing it Sunday afternoon. But you don’t have to stick to that arrangement.

Make Use of Worker Statistics

More reliable workers tend to get more hours, even when you’re doing the schedule by hand. But an employee scheduling program gives you real-time information about attendance, clock-ins, and general performance.

This lets you see who you can depend on, who consistently runs late, and who can benefit from a little extra coaching.

Use this data when writing the schedule and in employee reviews. The more you can help your employees grow, the more they can help your business grow.

Simplify Your Business

Shift scheduling software takes the stress and work out of planning weekly schedules. This lets you spend more time focusing on growing your business instead of spending hours toiling away on administrative tasks.

For more help on simplifying your business and streamlining operations, check out these great articles.