Employee Work Scheduling: The Complete Guide For Managers

Woman working on employee schedule

Effective employee work scheduling is about more than just filling in time slots. If it were that simple, you could throw darts at a board and create a schedule that works.

Truly effective scheduling — the kind that benefits you, your employees, and your business — involves planning and organization. The result is a productive team that can handle anything that comes their way.

In this article, we discuss the best practices that can help you simplify your employee work scheduling and make it better than ever.

Employee Work Scheduling Best Practices

Management discussing employee work scheduling best practices

1) Set Up A Routine For Employee Work Scheduling

Consistency is key when it comes to employee work scheduling. Posting the final plan should occur on the same day and by the same time every cycle.

So, for example, if you decide to release the schedule on Wednesday at noon, every draft thereafter should be posted on Wednesdays at or before noon. Such a routine helps both you and your team in several ways.

It helps you know when you have to start working on the schedule so you have enough time to allow for employee input, changes, and emergencies.

It helps your team know what to expect, when to expect it, and how they can plan their personal schedules accordingly.

2) Establish A Labor Budget

In addition to putting the right workers on the right shifts, effective employee scheduling also helps control costs and keep your business in the black.

Labor costs are one of the biggest expenses that most businesses contend with. Without a strong system in place, those expenses can quickly spiral out of control.

To keep labor costs as manageable as possible, establish a budget before you schedule, and then arrange who works when and for how long so that the total doesn’t exceed the numbers you set.

Common labor budget structures include the percentage of sales (e.g., payroll accounts for X percentage of sales for a set time period) or flat rate (e.g., X dollars per day, week, or month), but you can use whatever method works best for your business.

3) Build A Template

Build a template for employee work scheduling

Few tasks reduce the burden of employee work scheduling like building a template that you can use repeatedly without having to start from scratch every time.

It may take a while to get the template the way you want it, but with a finished product in place, you can begin scheduling your employees right away, rather than worrying about what goes where and what the form looks like first.

Start by establishing a place for essential pieces of information, including:

  • Business contact information
  • Manager contact information
  • Days the business is open
  • Business hours
  • Employee names
  • Date of each day
  • Shifts
  • A way to show each employee’s work hours

Whenever possible, arrange the overall template structure as a calendar or table. People are accustomed to this format and can usually decipher the information relatively quickly.

4) Abide By Labor Laws

Labor laws are the foundation on which all employee work scheduling practices are built. One major labor law component that affects all businesses is predictability.

Predictable scheduling practices — a.k.a. predictive scheduling — are regulations that protect employees from unfair policies that can make their work-life difficult.

For example, employees in some industries were once subject to on-call scheduling practices that made it extremely difficult for them to find childcare, arrange transportation, and plan their lives.

Predictable scheduling laws make such on-demand-with-short-notice practices illegal in many states.

If you have questions or concerns about labor laws, consult with an attorney who is familiar with your industry and the area in which it operates.

5) Make The Schedule Easy To Read

Filling your schedule with every conceivable piece of information may seem like a good idea at first. But in reality, too much clutter makes it difficult for your team to decipher the final product.

Even though you may make use of all kinds of extra information while creating the document, keep the employee-facing schedule clean, simple, and easy to read.

Anyone looking at the schedule — even for the first time — should be able to figure out the day and hours they will work and the job they will do in just a few seconds. Any more than that, and your schedule is too complicated.

To test whether your schedule is easy to read, try this exercise:

  1. Put the schedule in a drawer and step away from your desk for a while to clear your head.
  2. Come back to your desk.
  3. Before you look at the schedule again, pretend you’re one of your employees.
  4. Start a stopwatch.
  5. Take the schedule out of the drawer and try to figure out when “you” work next.

If it takes more than 30 seconds or if you have to read closely and really think about the information on the schedule, you may need to make some changes (e.g., reduce the amount of data displayed or simplify the appearance).

6) Distribute The Schedule With Plenty Of Lead Time

Desk with a wall calendar

Distributing your team’s schedule with plenty of lead time allows your employees to:

  • Plan their personal lives around their work schedule
  • Make the needed changes when activities conflict

If you release the first draft of the schedule the day before it goes into effect, your employees won’t have time to make accommodations for work and personal obligations.

That will lead to unhappy employees, abandoned shifts, and other difficulties within your business. You can avoid all of that by posting a rough draft of the schedule a few days or a week before you have to finalize the document.

7) Allow Changes

Every employee work scheduling process should include a period of time during which team members can make changes themselves or communicate those changes to you.

One of the best ways to allow changes is to give all employees the ability to adjust things themselves. Give everyone access to an early draft of the schedule and permission to alter the schedule accordingly.

In the process, encourage them to find their own substitutes, rather than just saying they can’t work.

That said, establish guidelines for this process so your employees don’t get carried away and the changes somehow negatively impact your business.

Make sure that everyone knows you will approve all trades, replacements, or substitutions before they take effect. This is to ensure that the right mix of skills is available during every shift.

8) Regularly Reevaluate Your Employee Work Scheduling

You may consider your scheduling process perfect right now, but no schedule — or process — should be set in stone.

At least once a quarter (i.e., every three months), set aside some time to reevaluate the finished product and the process you used to produce it, and look for ways you can improve.

Even relatively minor tweaks can significantly affect how your team works. Don’t be afraid to make changes for the better.

If you find yourself with tunnel vision when it comes to your schedule, get a different perspective on the process by asking your employees for suggestions. Ask how they would improve the schedule, the posting process, or any other aspect, and then implement the best ideas.

Efficient Employee Work Scheduling Every Time

Efficient employee work scheduling every time with inch

Efficient employee work scheduling every time is rather simple when you break it down into its basic elements:

  • Build the best schedule possible
  • Track numbers such as total time worked, time-on-task, overtime, and labor costs
  • Communicate with your team
  • Keep your employees organized and on task

Everything becomes more difficult, though, when you rely on tools that weren’t built with employee work scheduling in mind (e.g., Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Google Docs, Google Sheets, etc.).

Thankfully, there’s a tool that was built specifically for scheduling, time tracking, communication, and task management. That tool is Inch.

Inch gives you everything you need to simplify and streamline the way you schedule your team, including:

And to make it easier to use, Inch is a cloud-based app. That means you and your team can access your data anywhere, anytime. Never before has managing a distributed team or field service team been easier.

If you’re worried about the costs associated with leaving your 20th-century scheduling practices behind and upgrading to this 21st-century tool, rest easy. Inch gives you free access to everything you need to schedule your team.

By implementing our advanced technology and artificial intelligence into your workflow and using the best practices mentioned in this article to create your schedules, you can increase employee productivity and engagement to new heights.

For more free resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and simplify payroll, visit TryInch.com today.

Share post on

Get employees accountable and easily control the quality of the work

Try Inch — a free scheduling tool that solves these issues.

Save countless hours scheduling employees while controlling quality of their work and reducing cost of labor.

Get Inch – a free work management tool that can help resolve accountability issues!