The Most Common Employee Scheduling Problems and Their Solutions

It started out just being you. Things were hard but at least they were simple. But now, you got a fully grown business to run. With budgets, vendors, and most of all, employees. Most business owners will tell you that there’s no greater impediment to growth than your employees. It’s not to say that your employees are against you but your interests may not always align, which makes managing employees one of the greatest challenges a business owner or manager can have.

In fact, about 48% of all employees hate their jobs. That statistic blows my mind because it makes it very hard to even get your employees to come to work let alone be productive.

In the restaurant industry, it gets even worse with employee tenure averaging at a measly 1 month and 26 days average. This results in managers spending about 7% of the work week on scheduling, and this has an impact on labor costs, which can go up to 30% of the entire business cost.

This situation, can, understandably leave owners and managers at a loss but for every problem there is a solution:

1. Last minute scheduling

Leaving things to the last minute is never a good idea. Make sure you plan your shift schedules well in advance to give everyone a chance (managers included) to digest the roster and make sure that they are available.

Scheduling far in advance can create headaches but to cut out the extra work, make up a routine that suits the company and employees that you can regularly make use of and only tweak occasionally.

Having that predictability should help keep everyone happy. Employees know what to expect and once the rhythm has been established they, or you as the manager, will be able to reach out to those who are free if they are unable to do a shift and things need to be juggled around.

This can also offer flexibility to those employees that may need it, for example those who have families may want to take shifts during the day when children are at school, while employees that are studying may prefer the night shifts, and so on.

One thing that’s always been true about successfully managing a shift schedule is that it takes great communication and organisational skills. However, one thing that has changed is technology, which makes being organised and having great communication a much more reachable goal. Employee apps like Connecteam make the process of scheduling a lot simpler.

employee scheduling software

But, obviously don’t take our word for it. You can try it for free.

2. Employees confused about their schedule

Confusion among employees when it comes to shifts can occur for a number of reasons including unpredictability of shifts and last minute changes. If there’s no consistency or people are able to swap and change at a whim, with no system to track it all, it can cause havoc in the workplace. The way to avoid this is to plan in advance and double check the schedules so there’s no conflicts.

If there is consistency, then it’s also important to hold employees accountable for their own schedules and to find a replacement if they are unable to do a shift. This means that managers need to do their part and compile schedules in good time so that employees can make alternative arrangements if they can’t make a shift. Make sure you choose the right software that can help keep track of shifts and enables everyone access to the schedule so they can plan accordingly.

3. Clopen

Here’s a nightmare scenario that would keep any employee disgruntled: being chosen for the dreaded ‘clopen’ shift, not just once but on a regular basis. ‘Clopen’ is a term that has been coined from the words ‘close’ and ‘open’. It effectively means that your employee has the last shift of the day and then has the first shift when the company’s doors open. This may mean that your employee could work two shifts in a row without the ability to go home to get some shut eye. This commonly occurs in hospitals, restaurants and other 24 hour establishments.

So how can you ensure that your employees avoid the dreaded clopen? It really boils down to scheduling in advance and having the right time and labour management software in place that could detect conflicting shifts or ones that are too close together. Otherwise it means the manager involved has to have a keen eye out for clopens when doing the final screenings of the schedule.

Clopens could also occur if different managers are responsible for different parts of the schedule (perhaps there’s a night shift manager and another for the day). To avoid this conflict and to ensure your staff are kept happy, it’s vital that the managers liaise with one another to ensure that employees get the break they deserve. Again, installing the right software could help the business in detecting these issues.

4. Overtime can get out of hand

Are your employees still being productive if they work overtime and are your clients getting the service they deserve? If the answer is ‘yes’ to both of these questions, then there’s no need to change the status quo.

However, overtime can become an issue and affect productivity. It’s an extra cost to the business too so it should ideally be avoided. But if your employees need to work more than 40 hours a week then it may be worthwhile to make them salaried employees.

5. On-call scheduling – problem or solution?

Customer demand can be unpredictable so some companies prefer to have employees on stand-by or on-call. This practice involves getting employees to call in before their shifts start to find out if they are needed or not. If the shift is set to be a quiet one, employees could then be told not to come into the store, restaurant or office.

But this practice is on the way out because it’s frustrating for employees as they can’t plan their lives around it and regulators are also increasingly not happy with this concept either. Coffee chain Starbucks and retailers Gap and Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) are just some companies that have pledged to scrap the practice.

Solutions to on-call scheduling are available – it just involves managers being more detail orientated when it comes to data or information about the business’ busiest times and keeping track of everything. Having staff on stand-by because you can’t make predictions about customer demand is the lazy way out!

6. Employees complain about shift distribution

It’s a common thing rely on a select few employees to do particular tasks (like close up shop) or to get certain staffers to take particular shifts on particular days. It’s difficult to be objective at the best of times!

But if you’re not careful you could send out the wrong message, i.e. that you favour Susan Smith over other employees or that you don’t think John McDonald is up to the task of being there when it’s time to cash up. If you have the right rota software system in place you can avoid these types of scenarios altogether. Selecting the right software management tools could also help in you giving your employees their preferred shifts and in turn ensure that you have the most experienced people in place for the shift and the specific needs that come with it.

7. Shift swapping causing havoc

There are pros and cons to allowing workers to swap shifts. Allowing employees to manage their own time can mean less responsibility on the manager but if it’s not managed properly it can cause havoc and confusion.

Swaps could result in workers forgetting about their new shifts or you could end up in a situation where a qualified employee switches with a junior employee and there’s a lack of experienced workers on duty.

One Solution to All

team scheduling app

Get Your Free Employee Scheduling App

In the end, it all boils down to two things: communication and organization.

To avoid the common problems that occur when employees have the freedom to swap shifts it’s important to have the right scheduling software in place, especially one that can capture shift-swapping history accurately.


What’s more, there should be a digital ‘trail’. For example, the employee requesting the swap should be notified via the system if the swap has been accepted by the replacement staffer and managers should have the ability to approve such requests if need be.

Communication and verification is key when it comes to scheduling and maintaining order in the workplace. This will go a long way to ensuring that the business thrives along with a happy workforce that looks forward to coming into work.

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