Time is of the essence when you’re on the job. So when it’s not just your time on the line, but also that of the many people you work with, it’s important that you plan your work accordingly. With efficient shift scheduling, managing everyone’s most precious resource is easier than ever.

Before you get to work 

Factoring in the unique characteristics of your company and the people who work there helps you create productive shift schedules. To figure out how you can get the most out of your scheduling, it’s important to keep a few points in mind:

#1. Understand your company

This seems like a no-brainer but it’s often overlooked. Strong insight into your products and services, along with an understanding of organizational vision and values, will give you a clear picture of what resources you need to accomplish your goals. Building on that, you can also gauge how the people in your organization can use these resources.

#2. Understand who your employees are

Knowing your employees’ skills, personalities, and even who they are outside of work can dramatically improve the dynamic at your office and employee relations. If they’re parents, they’ll want time with their family. If they’re night owls, it makes sense to schedule them on the night shift. This will help you build schedules that maximize your employees’ skills and talents, while minimizing their weaknesses.

Make the most of your time

Once you know the ins and outs of your organization, it’s time to set up shift schedules that work for both you and your employees. Here’s how to go about it:

#1. Pay attention to your employees’ availability 

When you’re working in a fast-paced environment, you never want work to be left hanging because you don’t have the people you need. Keep leave requests in mind, as well as the possibility of someone calling in at the last minute. This will help you plan your schedules around these unforeseen circumstances.

#2. Plan shifts well 

Your employees’ time matters, so make sure you show them you value it. By crafting and publishing shift schedules well in advance, you help employees plan their work days, which improves their workplace satisfaction. Simultaneously, it helps you account for absences or requests for schedule changes so there are no surprises the day of.

On the legal front, informing your employees of their schedules two weeks or so in advance ensures that you’re abiding by regulations such as the ILO’s Night Work Convention and the Schedules that Work Act in the USA.

#3. Distribute shifts intelligently

 This is where knowing your people really helps. Balance shifts so employees with the right skills and experience are scheduled to work when they’re needed most. It’s also important to vary shift times so the same employees aren’t doing the same jobs repetitively. This is key to preventing employee burnout and accusations of favoritism.

#4. Simplify schedule changes

Despite all your planning, there is always the possibility that you’ll have to accommodate unpredictable changes in the schedule—whether it’s employees requesting a schedule swap due to an emergency, or you requiring more hands on deck for an important task.

Know the employees who can pitch in under pressure. Keep the option of overtime on the table, and use it judiciously with employees who show interest. A great way to reduce the scheduling load is to empower employees to swap schedules amongst themselves, which you can track and approve.

On-call hiring might sound appealing, but it’s largely considered an exploitative practice, and it often leads to inefficient scheduling and overstaffing. With insight into how you can use the team you have, you won’t need on-call hiring again.

#5. Communicate shift information so it’s easily accessible

All the work you put into creating efficient shift schedules goes down the drain if employees don’t get the memo. Having employee timetables online is an effective way to ensure everyone can access them when they need to. Send out periodic alerts and reminders through email, and notify employees of changes to the schedule so they don’t miss when they’re needed.

#6. Take advantage of shift scheduling tools

Setting up, organizing, and communicating shift schedules takes quite a bit of work, but there are ways to alleviate some of the strain. One way is selecting the right tool for the job.

Spreadsheet software like Zoho Sheets can work as a direct translation of the pen-and-paper methods you’re used to. A cloud-based platform, such as what Zoho People offers, is an effective way to implement transparent scheduling. By making each employee’s timetable visible to them and providing the freedom and space for input, such tools go a long way in improving workplace morale and making better use of the time employees spend at work.

Getting to work

With good planning and the right tools, shift scheduling doesn’t need to be complex or stressful. At the end of the day, shift scheduling is about knowing how to maximize your time, so once you’ve got a well-thought-out system in place, you and your employees can focus on getting the most out of your workdays.

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