A fixed work schedule is a practical solution for managing which of your employees are working when. This guide offers a high-level look at fixed work scheduling for employees so you can evaluate whether this is the optimal scheduling approach for your staff.
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Fixed work schedules are an essential aspect of managing employees.
As a manager, it’s important to create a work schedule that ensures your team is productive, meets business needs, and keeps your employees motivated.
This guide aims to provide you with the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively create and manage a fixed work schedule.
Understanding Fixed Work Schedules
Fixed work schedules are a common type of schedule requiring employees to work at a fixed time each day for a set number of hours per day.
The common “nine-to-five” schedule is one example of a fixed work schedule.
These can be used for shifts at any time and for both full- and part-time jobs.
What Is a Fixed Work Schedule?
With a fixed schedule, employees work at the same time and in the same place for the same set days per week.
Fixed schedules are typically eight-hour shifts for five days, totaling 40 hours a week, such as 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM shifts with a lunch break.
A business may stagger multiple fixed shifts, such as day shifts and night shifts, with some overlapping hours if its activities run around the clock.
Generally, the organization sets the schedule, and the employees have clear expectations for when they’ll be working and how much.
Benefits of Fixed Work Schedules for Businesses and Employees
Fixed work schedules offer benefits to employees and businesses alike.
Some of the reasons employees tend to like them — such as reduced stress and better team cohesion — boost productivity and communication for the business.
Predictability Enables Work-Life Balance
Having schedule-based predictability at work makes it easier for employees to plan activities such as family events, entertainment, and doctor’s appointments.
A fixed work schedule also helps workers maintain consistent sleep patterns and get the high-quality sleep they need to function, boosting productivity and supporting health.
Shared Time Strengthens Connections Among Coworkers
Employees who work the same shifts naturally develop better team coordination skills.
Employee engagement is a crucial factor when managing a team.
Better communication strengthens team cohesion, and workers may feel more connected with their colleagues when working together toward shared goals.
Set Scheduling Improves Time and Workforce Management
Managers appreciate that fixed schedule building is a set-it-and-forget-it prospect.
Once you create a fixed work schedule ideal for your business, you can sit back and let the schedule repeat.
You’ll only need to manage time off or course-correct where needed. A fixed schedule also makes it simpler to measure employee productivity.
As a bonus, employees who like their shift may want to stick around.
Disadvantages of Fixed Work Schedules for Businesses and Employees
While fixed work schedules have many benefits, they may also present some downsides.
Employees might want more flexibility or better work shifts, and managers may have trouble staffing unpopular shifts or fairly distributing time for experienced employees.
Less Flexibility Causes Employee Friction
Workers on a fixed schedule have less wiggle room when their life situations change and they can’t simply swap shifts.
Some grow bored doing the same thing at the same time in the same place and prefer rotating or flexible schedules. In addition, recent data suggests that many workers prefer flexibility in their working schedules.
Unpopular Shifts Drive Turnover
Even if you develop the fairest fixed work schedule possible, it’s unlikely that every worker will get their ideal shift.
Some will have to work less desirable shifts, which can lead to a high employee turnover rate as dissatisfied workers jump ship in pursuit of more favorable shifts.
Productivity Can Suffer in Set Schedules
Typically, employees with more seniority get a preference for better shifts, which can unintentionally lead to specific shifts stacked with the most seasoned workers.
This can lead to some shifts needing more experienced leaders.
Some highly efficient workers will finish their set tasks before their set shift ends.
If managers aren’t closely monitoring output, this can waste time and bore employees.
Developing an Effective Fixed Work Schedule
The ideal fixed work schedule must suit your business needs as well as the needs of your employees.
When you’re satisfied that the pros of fixed work schedules outweigh the cons, it’s time to customize one for your company, but you’ll need to keep a few considerations in mind.
Assessing Business Requirements
A fixed work schedule must align with your business needs before satisfying other factors.
Consider the skill level and workforce required to complete all your internal processes so that all operations run smoothly.
This will tell you who you need working — and when.
Determining Employee Availability and Preferences
Carefully review employee availability to avoid operational friction.
Don’t make assumptions about employees’ availability and personal situations, but get to know them.
People always appreciate being treated as people, so while you can’t sacrifice the needs of the business to suit everyone’s personal preferences, be sure to provide clear communication about scheduling decisions.
Scheduling Shifts and Assigning Tasks
Consider the skill and labor demands of tasks in each shift.
You want to distribute your most skilled and experienced workers across different shifts to increase efficiency and avoid lags because of a skill gap or workforce shortage.
Communicating the Schedule to Employees
Informing your employees about your fixed schedule before rolling it out gives you a chance to consider their feedback and allows them to adjust quickly and smoothly.
You may also explain the rationale behind your scheduling, including any set policies you follow.
Managing Fixed Work Schedules
As you develop the fixed work schedule that works best for your business, you also need to build policies to support it, including planning ahead for scheduling conflicts and monitoring attendance and productivity.
Handling Employee Requests for Schedule Changes
An employee request for a schedule is one of the most common employee scheduling problems, but the solution doesn’t have to be complex.
Digital scheduling software can make it easy to both plan and make adjustments.
Give employees a clear avenue for requesting changes to make sure they feel heard and considered, even if you can’t ultimately accommodate the request.
To decide whether the change works for the business, consider your available resources on the shift they’re looking to change to and the one they’re hoping to switch off.
You’ll need to balance employee availability with your staffing requirements.
If the other shift could use the extra hands or added experience, it might make sense to grant their request.
But, if it’s a popular shift you don’t have trouble staffing, you’ll want to think carefully about what would need to change to accommodate their preference.
If the answer to an employee’s request is yes, you can rearrange shifts in minutes using digital scheduling tools with drag-and-drop functionality.
If the answer is no, outline the reasons and any relevant policies. Avoid giving false hope that “maybe someday” they can have that shift.
If there’s a chance you might be able to grant the schedule change in the future — for example, if you regularly reevaluate shifts, or if employees who reach a particular tenure become eligible for priority consideration — communicate that process clearly to the employee.
Managing Schedule Conflicts
Build policies that define when and how employees can request time off, including whether sick days and vacation days are separate.
Be sure these policies are clearly outlined in your employee handbook for employees to reference easily.
On the operational side, set a plan for staffing coverage.
Can you maintain your business activities if one person is out, or can you call another employee to cover?
Providing your employees with an easy way to coordinate shift swaps directly may make sense.
Ensure your policies comply with local labor laws and regulations, and stick to them to ensure fair treatment of all employees.
Strategies for Monitoring Employee Performance and Attendance
You need to be sure employees are showing up and getting the job done — but you don’t want to compromise their sense of autonomy.
Still, many workers resent feeling micromanaged or spied on, so be transparent and clearly communicate your workplace monitoring policy.
You can also track performance with effective free task management software that helps employees finish projects quickly and on budget.
Using checklists and set tasks makes things easier to manage and increases efficiency.
Best Practices for Managing Fixed Work Schedules
There’s a difference between simply managing schedules to ensure you’ve got people where you need them and managing schedules well.
Best practices incorporate strong communication, regulatory compliance, employee input, and work-life balance.
Communicate With Your Employees
Open lines of communication are vital for maintaining morale and productivity, regardless of which type of scheduling you use.
When you need to make changes, clearly communicate your reasons, and give employees as much notice as possible to accommodate them.
Ensure Compliance With Labor Laws and Regulations
As you build your scheduling policies, ensure they align with relevant federal, state, and local labor laws and regulations.
You’ll need to comply with overtime scheduling and pay, holidays, meal and rest breaks, and the timeframe for informing workers of their schedules, among other considerations.
Encourage Employee Feedback and Suggestions
Seek feedback from your employees early and often to be sure you have a finger on the pulse of who’s happy and thriving in their roles and who’s growing frustrated.
When you know where the issues lie, you can more easily address them.
An old-fashioned survey box is likely to be ignored, but if you’re already using digital solutions, you can easily integrate an employee feedback tool that allows multiple channels for communication — including customizable surveys and templates, live polls, and chat functionalities for fast and direct input.
Support Work-Life Balance
Maintaining a good balance between work and personal life is a common challenge among employees.
With the separation of work and home life, workers get a healthy amount of time to unplug from work and rejuvenate.
Managers can coach employees on strategies to maintain that balance, including having designated workspaces and devices, reasonable boundaries for reading and replying to work-related messages, healthy habits, and a predictable schedule.
Tools for Managing Fixed Work Schedules
Workforce scheduling is a complex undertaking, even with the relative stability of fixed work schedules.
Suppose you’re managing many employees on different fixed schedules.
In that case, you’ll spend more time planning upfront, and once the schedules are set, they won’t require as much monitoring as some other scheduling types, such as flexible schedules, might.
The two main approaches to managing fixed work schedules include manual shift scheduling and scheduling software.
Manual Shift Scheduling
A manager or someone else on the team determines work schedules for manually scheduled shifts.
Typically, they use a complex spreadsheet to weigh employees’ availability and preferences against the business’s needs and try to find a middle ground.
Some people like the hands-on approach and human element of considering preferences, but the human element also leaves room for human error.
It’s a time-consuming process to set up and monitor if you have more than a handful of employees, and analyzing the data manually is a chore in itself.
Introduction to Scheduling Software
Scheduling software relieves the time burden of workforce scheduling.
Connecteam’s all-in-one job scheduler app can help you optimize your shift management and achieve peak productivity with less hassle. It increases efficiency and accuracy, and it also incorporates automatic reporting.
Connecteam helps you streamline all employee management and work scheduling tasks, enabling continuous operational efficiency, with features that enable:
- Digitizing routine employee management tasks like team reminders and status updates
- Tracking employees using a time clock app
- Creating and sharing schedules instantly with your deskless teams
- Collecting information from your employees by creating reports, checklists, forms, and requests online
What is the difference between a fixed work schedule and a flexible work schedule?
On a fixed work schedule, employees typically work the same weekly shifts for the same number of hours and days worked. Not all jobs require a strict time schedule, though.
Flexible work schedules are less rigid and allow employees to clock a certain number of working hours per week or day, but those shifts aren’t necessarily at the same exact times.
What are some alternatives to fixed work schedules?
There are at least 15 types of work schedules managers can consider. Other common work schedules include flexible schedules in which employees and employers collaborate to determine how much an employee works, rotating shift work schedules in which workers cycle through day and night shifts, split shifts in which employees work two time slots in one day with an extended break in between, and on-call shifts in which employees work as needed.
What is the impact of fixed work schedules on employee morale?
Every employee is different, and some appreciate the predictability of a fixed schedule that allows them to delineate their personal time from work time, while others may be bored by the repetitive nature of their schedule or grow frustrated in a shift they don’t like.
How can I ensure that my fixed work schedule is fair and equitable for all employees?
Ensuring clear communication about all scheduling policies upfront and sticking to those policies is the best way to ensure employees a fair and equitable work schedule.
Be fair when considering requests for preferred schedules and time off, and be consistent with how you factor in tenure and performance. Consider using scheduling software that minimizes the opportunity for biased decision-making.