How To Create The Perfect Work Schedule For Your Team: A Complete Guide

Expert Tips
Denis Yankovsky November 8, 2020 21 min read
How To Create A Perfect Work Schedule

Quick Guide

    A perfect work schedule is all about balance. Too many employees lead to wasted time and money while not having enough employees on the shift leads to stress and burnout, not to mention unhappy customers. Not only that, but it’s also crucial that the most relevant people for the job and the occasion are present on each shift. That’s why the ability to create a perfect employee schedule is essential to almost any business.

    With that, even major brands and large corporations sometimes fail big time in scheduling and make million-dollar errors in their shift scheduling

    Running an operational business is not an easy task, and supervisors have to constantly find answers to questions like how to manage the workload, who does what, and how to create an effective work schedule for your team.

    However, a perfect work schedule is possible, and businesses who mastered that complicated task enjoy reduced work pressure, increased staff productivity, work efficiency, happier employees, and overall business profit. 

    In this article, we are going to discuss why scheduling and dispatching are so important for any business, go over the most common mistakes, and provide you with 12 useful tips on how to make the scheduling process easier, and more efficient.

    Main Challenges Of Scheduling and Dispatching

    The ability to dispatch jobs and schedule shifts well affects the whole business’s daily workflow, so it is a crucial role.

    The person responsible for creating the work schedule is usually also accountable for customer satisfaction: being the connecting dot between angry customers, pressured managers, and no-call-no-show employees missing from their shift or showing up at the wrong place at the wrong time. 

    Those people have to deal with too many dynamic parameters:

    • Employee availability/absence requests
    • Who’s qualified and/or certified for the job
    • How many employees of the same role do you need simultaneously in regular VS rush hours?
    • How to evenly spread hours & shifts between employees?
    • Which gear is available, needs service, or is out of order?
    • How many hours are left daily/weekly for each staff member available to schedule? 

    A lot of moving parts and dynamic changes to take care of, so at least creating and publishing schedules should be super easy and quick.

    Most Common Scheduling Errors

    We have a dedicated blog about the most common employee scheduling problems and their solutions, but to give you a short perspective, these are the main mistakes managers make when creating a work schedule:

    1. Last-minute scheduling that leaves no time for changes, or even too late for employees to make personal plans outside of work.
    2. Double-scheduling an employee. If the same employee works in different roles or multiple locations — make sure the same staff members aren’t scheduled twice during the same time slot. 
    3. Wrong people for the job. No matter how good of a driver John is, it doesn’t mean he knows how to operate a forklift. Don’t schedule an employee for a position that they haven’t been trained to do.
    4. Disproportionate shifts. Be sure you’re not giving a part-time employee too many shifts. These team members might have other commitments outside of work that they can’t miss. Similarly, full-time staff needs to be given enough shifts to meet their financial obligations. 
    5. Unnecessary overtime. Avoid giving a single employee too many shifts in any given week. This helps keep labor costs down, as you won’t have to pay out more money for overtime.

    Of course, the main and the biggest change to avoid those costly mistakes would be a change in approach to creating the employee schedule and thinking it through strategically. 

    But with that said, most of the operational errors might be fixed or avoided if the scheduling process is done digitally through a scheduling software or a mobile app, with the help of automatic algorithms, that leave almost no chance for mistakes.

    Look how easy and quick a perfect work schedule creation can be with a simple, yet powerful scheduling app, such as Connecteam.

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    12 Tips To Create The Perfect Work Schedule

    1. Create Clear Schedule Guidelines & Stick To Them

    The journey for creating the perfect work schedule starts with creating clear schedule guidelines and sticking to them. These are the main four questions you should ask yourself to come up with the right guidelines.

    • When is the work schedule published? Is it once a week, once a day, or a month upfront? How many hours/days upfront is the minimum notice time?
    • How is it distributed? Secure one official channel that will provide anyone easy access to the most updated work schedule. Avoid being a telephone/SMS/email dispatch that is constantly answering unrelated questions in 3 different channels.  
    • How can employees affect it? Share preferences, claim shifts/days, confirm/or reject. How and when can they request absences or changes, and get approvals.
    • How many shifts and hours each employee can be booked for and what is the max?

    As a dispatcher or employee manager responsible for creating work schedules, you should define a way for your employees to submit their schedule preferences and time-off requests. This step is essential to set up some ground rules for the process. Address things like when employees can and can’t request time off, how far in advance the request needs to be made, and anything specific to your business. 

    For example, because of the way your schedule is built, employees may only be able to take time off in blocks of five days or less. All that should be clearly stated and explained in your work schedule guidelines.

    Specify how you will decide between conflicting requests that can become more and more common in the holiday season, for example. Always consider things like seniority, the reason for the request, what’s best for the business, and when the request was submitted.

    2. Know Relevant Regulations

    Different states and local communities have different regulations when it comes to employee scheduling.

    Some scheduling legislation has been long enacted in the state of Oregon and cities such as San Francisco,  and Seattle. These laws mostly require employers to pay workers for last-minute scheduling changes (“predictability pay”) and on-call shifts. This could be especially pertinent to restaurants or cafes with outdoor seating, since their staffing needs may change according to the weather.

    Other local regulations, such as New York, go even further and ban the on-call shifts and “clopening” shifts altogether by requiring a minimum rest period between shifts. 

    The Schedules That Work Act, first introduced in 2015 and reintroduced in 2019 by senator Elizabeth Warren and representative Rosa DeLauro, is focused on bringing many of these reforms to the federal level. In its current form, the bill covers workers in retail, food services, cleaning, hospitality, and warehousing. A key provision requires employers to pay workers for scheduling changes made with fewer than 14 days’ notice. The bill also requires employers to provide a “bona fide business reason” for denying an employee’s request for a schedule adjustment.

    Educate yourself on regulations relevant to your type of business and location, so that you can take those factors into account in your forecasting and scheduling. You want to remain compliant with the legal requirements for schedules and time tracking, and also make decisions based on the most accurate data possible.

    3. Plan Ahead

    The earlier you start working on the schedule, the earlier you receive all feedback and information and see the clear bigger picture. Strategic planning wins wars, so the sooner you realize both of your key people for the shift are unavailable or the equipment needed is damaged — the easier it will be for you to work it out. 

    Building the new work schedule starts with defining the required qualifications and equipment to focus on only what’s available.

    For example, you may not need a bartender during the weekday shifts in a restaurant, but perhaps you need three people behind the bar on Friday and Saturday nights. Always get the numbers right. 

    To do this, stay aware of all the upcoming events—either local, national, or even international— that might cause an unusual spike in customers. Sporting events, concerts, festivals, and theater performances are all things to make a note of. Also, keep an eye on the weather forecasts and reservation lists — sometimes an unusual reservation or order might get you caught off-guard and cause a lot of hustle and bustle.

    4. Match Schedule To Your Workforce

    Employees are different, so are work schedules. There is no one-size-fits-all type of perfect work schedule that is for everyone. Based on your industry, type of workforce, and the outline of the schedule your need to create, there are different tools and approaches you can consider. 

    They differ by both tools you use and the type of your workforce, for example:

    • Office VS deskless
    • White-collar VS blue collar
    • Location-based VS mobile employees 
    • Hourly VS salaried
    • Fixed roles VS various jobs to choose from
    • Typical recurring shifts VS one-offs/flexible hour

    There are mainly listed five types of work schedules according to the usages and working time.

    1. Full-time Work Schedule.

      Fixed hours and days. The standard average is 40 hours a week 9 to 5

    2. Part-time Work Schedule.

      A part-time schedule means employees usually work 8 am to 12 pm, Monday to Thursday (17-20 hours per week). This type of job typically doesn’t offer benefits of insurance, sick days, retirement, etc.

    3. Fixed Work Schedule.

      Employees that work the same number of hours in a day or the same amount of days in a week are consistently known as a fixed work schedule. It is commonly followed by project-based companies, for example, 4 days on three days off schedule. 

    4. Rotating Work Schedule.

      Rotating work schedules cycle employees through the day, swing, and night shifts. This cycle helps to distribute different shifts between all employees so that no one is stuck with the less desirable hours every shift.

    5. Flexible Work Schedule.

      This type provides employees with an alternative to the standard 8 AM- 5 PM but still totals to a 40-hour workweek. In general, that means that there is no strict schedule that is the same for everyone, instead, employees get to choose shifts, or time-slots that fit them the most throughout the day (or night). 

    Depending on the type of your business, choose the work schedule that will work the best for you and your employees. 

    Additionally, adjust the work schedule distribution channel and format to your staff. For instance, the less techy your employees are (deskless), the more important it is to invest more time and attention into the preparation before the distribution, to leave as little place for errors and confusion as possible.

    5. Build Work Schedule Around Key Players

    Understand your resource needs and then create the employee schedule according to those needs. Assign shifts to workers based on skill and availability.

    The best practice to create an employee schedule would be to allocate your most tried and tested champions for each role first. This approach provides you two main benefits:

    • First, it ensures that people match the job they need to do the most. In a restaurant, for example, the most swift, but silent employees work better during the biggest rush, while the more social and likable employees will excel when customers are more likely to stay longer and talk.
    • You know there will be at least one experienced and reliable employee per each shift. An experienced employee can quickly improve the quality of a shift because other, less experienced, employees watch, learn, and rise to higher standards. This is true for brand-new employees who are still in the training and onboarding stage. Mixing some of your best employees with some of your newer employees is a great way to create stability across all shifts, and keep the quality bar high.

    6. Always Have A Backup Plan

    Things are changing fast these days and no matter how carefully you’re planning, something may still go wrong.

    Experienced dispatchers have a trick up their sleeve: let employees find their own substitutes. By doing that you’re not only reducing some burden off your shoulders, it also creates accountability company culture and reduces the chances that people would just cancel on the shifts last minute because they don’t feel like working. Create a simple and clear process where employees can reject or cancel the shift only if they provide the reason for it and find themselves replacement. 

    An automated solution, such as the Connecteam employee scheduling app, can take the mess out of schedule creation. A shift status can be used for employees to approve or reject shifts in case they aren’t available, and they can even add a note to their rejection with who should replace them. Additionally, job qualifications help the manager filter out only the qualified users that can be assigned to each job type.

    employee schedule app updates notifications

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    7. Distribute Work Schedule & Get Feedback ASAP 

    A perfect work schedule is the one that doesn’t take anyone by surprise. 

    Recent reports found that unpredictable schedules can lead to increased employee turnover, burnout, overwork, and financial insecurity and generally cause employees a lot of trouble, both financial and moral.

    Schedule Affect On Turnover

    By making the work schedule draft known to people as soon as you can, and asking their feedback, before making it official — you are killing two birds with one stone:

    1. On the one hand, you are providing people the so much needed opportunity to plan and prepare themselves for the upcoming work schedule, and adjust their other commitments and errands accordingly
    2. On the other hand, you are collecting the important inputs from them, which may drastically change the original schedule outline. Maybe you’ve missed something? Maybe the employees you are counting on are not available at that time? Maybe the equipment needed for the scheduled job needs repair? You need to know all that in advance and adjust accordingly, in order to avoid emergencies during the work time

    Digital scheduling and rostering solutions often provide an additional feature of preset updates that can remind employees every day week to insert their unavailability for the next upcoming time interval.

    8. Involve Employees In Creating The Perfect Work Schedule (for Themselves)

    “Two-thirds of workers said they received less than two weeks’ notice of their schedules, and 15 percent had less than 72 hours of notice. Eighty percent said they had little or no input into their schedules. A third said they wanted more hours than they were assigned.”

    First of all, when employees feel respected and trusted with affecting the work schedule, they feel more self-worth which leads to a happier and more productive employee

    But on the employer’s side, there is also a couple of really practical reasons, that your business will benefit from:

    1. People usually know what they are good at, and can bring more value to something they would prefer doing if there is a choice of different roles. 

    On the same topic, try to consider employees’ natural tendencies, as this way they can maximize their potential: if someone prefers to work from home — grant them with this option, those are usually people who are good at self-management and need this comfort zone to thrive. 

    Similarly, if a person has a distinct preference towards morning or evening shifts — most likely they will be much more alert and present during those hours.

    Safe to say that the more you involve employees in creating their work schedule, the less chance for no-shows or last-minute changes you will face in the long term.

    2. By allowing your employees to take part in the work schedule creation — you as a supervisor can take some burden off your plate. Instead of chasing everyone trying to collect their requests and claims, try to think it all through, and then ask for the feedback and approvals, think of the way to automate the process, and let them do all the heavy lifting. 

    Among the ways to do it, think of:

    • Creating and spreading surveys/ forms for your employees to fill-in digitally 
    • Possibility for employees to “book” or claim available shifts online
    • Having a virtual editable board with the draft schedule, that anyone can access and see changes in real-time
    • Dedicated chats to discuss and comment on the urgent schedule updates or changes

    All those and much more handy features are available with digital scheduling software, such as the Connecteam scheduling software.

    Scheduling Together With Employee

    9. Recognize Employees & Respect Their Requests 

    Workers at all income levels are extremely dependent on their work schedule. Unstable, unexpected schedules or changes can lead to overwork and not being guaranteed the number of hours that employees may need to support themselves and their families. 

    Try to dig a little deeper and recognize your employees for their:

    • Skills
    • Qualifications
    • Preferences, special requests
    • Personality type (e.g., outgoing, friendly, introverted, etc.)
    • Other notes that you may find useful (e.g., efficient, can handle a large crowd, meticulous, etc.)
    • Family responsibilities & other commitments

    When they feel heard and understood – they are more loyal and more productive. It builds goodwill, increases employee satisfaction, and helps you retain good workers.

    You can save time and avoid frustration by keeping your employees’ work preferences and time-off requests organized in one place. Sure, this can be a notebook, a quick note on your phone, or a spreadsheet on your computer, but having all that information organized in the employee scheduling software will give you an additional benefit of using those inputs for creating recurring shifts and templates.

    For example, if Melissa can never work on Tuesdays — you can set it as a default, and create availability templates and recurring reminders to never forget important inputs again. 

    Starting with a schedule template can help you:

    • Keep track of regular time-off needs for various staff members
    • Cut down the time it takes to create a schedule
    • Give your team some stability and predictability for when they’re expected to work

    Besides that, employee scheduling software allows employers to adjust on-the-fly and call in more workers when the demand is high and save money on labor when demand is low.

    10. Establish A Team-wide Communication Channel

    Communication is key, especially internal communication between colleagues.

     A consistent communication method that is accessible and handy for all employees makes it easy for you and your staff to know exactly where to look for the most accurate work schedule, react with feedback, request changes, or look for substitutes.

    Save yourself and your workers time on searching through email, text messages, and multiple chat apps to find the newest work schedule or that time-off request form they need. When everyone uses the same tool  — everyone stays on the same page.

    By using a dedicated work chat, both you and your staff members can benefit from instant messaging and options to create individual, team-specific, or company-wide chats.

    11. Leave Pen-N-Paper Behind

    Creating a work schedule is a tough and time-consuming task on its own, but when trying to create it the old school manual way – it becomes a really heavy load: how to check the availability? How to distribute the schedule quickly and collect feedback? How to make changes and let everyone know about it after the schedule is already published? How to make sure everyone has the latest version of the work schedule?

     Modern technologies and smart scheduling software solutions make it so much easier to streamline the process and get it right the first time. Employee scheduling software can make a huge difference in the efficiency of your scheduling process. More importantly, it allows you to make changes and updates on the fly if needed, and rest assured that it won’t take anyone by surprise.

    The online work scheduling software, accessible from any device significantly reduces admin time spent scheduling (by up to 80%)

    1. Add shifts in bulk
    2. Create recurring shifts (or whole weeks) templates and automate them into the future
    3. Copy/paste, drag & drop building blocks for scheduling on the fly and flexibility + endless adjustments
    4. Forget counting hours per person and avoid unwanted overtime or double-scheduling with built-in time tracking, limitations, and alerts to save money
    5. Create schedules based on skillset, and compliance warnings
    6. Receive alerts and dynamic status updates in real-time (shift without user, started the shift, clocked-in and out, left work zone, reached daily/weekly limit, etc)

    12. Why Connecteam Is The Best Way To Create The Perfect Work Schedule

    Connecteam’s powerful, but user-friendly employee scheduling app combines all the tools and features to avoid the most common scheduling problems, and provides shift scheduling and job dispatching managers with everything they need to quickly create efficient and errorless work schedules, and make them known to employees in a matter of minutes. Look for yourself, how simple and fast it is.

    employee scheduling app

    Connecteam was designed and built around the work schedule building for the deskless employees, so it has all the features needed to create and distribute a perfect work schedule.

    1. Avoid mistakes. Assign only the available users: unavailability and absences appear in the schedule)
    2. Save time & effort by creating recurring shifts, templates, or copying last period’s shifts. 
    3. Schedule shifts quickly and easily in multiple ways: single, multiple, import from Excel, import from template
    4. Quickly find & assign the right people for the right job by using filters, color coding tags, and smart groups, based on job qualifications, location, custom fields, and other filters
    5. View the full picture easily See all shifts by teams, or jobs. See how many shifts and hours each user is planned for & executed.  Easily see that shifts are distributed evenly.
    6. No more calls and back & forth: You can add all the relevant info to the shift, such as location, attached files, notes, customer details, statuses, and tasks for each shift. Employees can update their availability and status via the app. Everyone can chat on-the-go directly from the “shift” tab, instead of calling or texting.
    7. Easy debriefing Shift activity history with all statuses All shifts are saved
    8. Schedule management on the fingertips available from a mobile phone even when you’re on the go.

    Summary On How To Create A Perfect Work Schedule

    Creating the perfect work schedule for your team is not a trivial task. Based on your operation outline and your workforce needs, choose from different schedule types to make the most out of it. 

    • Create clear guidelines: How many shifts and hours each employee should be working? What is the weekly max?
    • Plan ahead of time and try to consider as many parameters as possible, to ensure you have enough people to be productive, but not too much to overpay
    • Distribute the draft schedule as soon as possible and ask employees for feedback & their inputs
    • Make sure to give your team tools to declare their availability & preference before you plan the schedule, & consider letting them participate in the schedule creation
    • Categorize information: E.g. mark different types of entries with different colors, divide employees into groups so it would be easy to differentiate and filter out only the relevant data 
    • Include as many supporting information in the schedule as you can (Date, time, location, special instructions and files, tasks)
    • Make sure to give your team communication options regarding their schedule (Such as requests, shift statuses, chat, and shift notes)
    • Automatic alerts, set for specific limitations — are a great way to avoid users going into overtime & saving money for the business owners
    • Send frequent updates & remind employees to report their unavailability ASAP
    • Leave pen & paper behind, instead — adopt an efficient tool that helps you create and publish your schedule easily and quickly

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