Scheduling Employees: How to Create the Perfect Work Schedule for Your Team

Experienced business owners know that having a balanced schedule for multiple employees can be difficult, especially as the number of employees increases. It is key to business success, however, because it allows you to serve the greatest number of customers while keeping them as satisfied as possible, all while keeping your employees happy and loyal (which prevents employee turnover costs).

Today we’re going to answer the following questions:

  • What is scheduling in the workplace?
  • What is an example of an employee schedule?
  • How do I create the perfect work schedule for my team?
  • What are some employee scheduling challenges?
  • What are the impacts of efficient employee scheduling?

First, let’s talk about what workplace scheduling is.

What is Scheduling in the Workplace?

Scheduling in the workplace refers to the setup of employee hours at a place of business or a restaurant. It is typically based on the availability and desired work preferences of team members. It can detail when salaried employees are scheduled to work but typically refers to the scheduling of hourly employees. Ideally, it should align with restaurant KPIs, state, local, and federal laws, and other external factors.

Workplace schedules can and should be adjusted according to employer and employee needs. The reality is, that sometimes your employees may not come in to work as they should based on your initial schedule. Having the foresight to schedule your employees carefully is challenging, but it can help you avoid issues such as under- or over-staffing, legal or regulation compliance violations, and more. It will help you keep your business running smoothly and profitably.

What is an Example of an Employee Schedule?

Assuming your business is open from 11-11, M-F (for simplicity’s sake), you would likely need to schedule at least four positions per day: cashiers, cooks, servers/waiters, and helpers that can do more than one job. Your sample daily schedule might look like this (note that all names are fictitious), and the weekly schedule would just expand this:

PositionEmployeeShift 1 (11-3)Shift 2 (3-7)Shift 3 (7-11)
ExtraEmilyOn reserveOn reserveOn reserve
ExtraEnriqueOn reserveOn reserveOn reserve

Notice that in this schedule, we have broken down the schedule into parts and ensured that there are two employees per position (except the helper) during the busiest times of day (lunch and dinner). This is a must for all businesses as break times are mandatory and must be considered part of the schedule.

Work schedules should vary based on your business, geographic location, and employee needs but be prepared to be flexible and allow for alterations because things happen. The consequences of not being flexible are too great to risk being too rigid in your scheduling.

The Employee Scheduling Process

The first thing you need to do, which is probably already done, is to make a detailed list of employees. Then you need to map out a schedule of required shifts based on your calendar. What days are you open, and what are your working hours (working hours include both when your business is open to customers and times when you have employees working behind closed doors to keep the business running)?

The third thing is to list out company scheduling needs and assign shifts accordingly. Once you’ve done that, make sure to get employee feedback so that you can have them work the schedule you’ve created. Then publish your schedule and post it for all employees to see.

Last but not least, keep your employees in the loop when (because it’s not a matter of if) you’re making changes to the schedule. The best way to make this possible is to make it possible to access the schedule anytime from anywhere, in real time.

Simple enough, right?

Top Employee Scheduling Tips

But what if you’re asking yourself, “How do I create the perfect work schedule for my team?” There are several factors to keep in mind when making your schedule:

  1. Put the schedule out there. Make sure you get your schedule out quickly, especially if it’s going to cover two or more weeks. The more planned you are, the better you can anticipate challenges and act accordingly. Also, you are setting an example for your employees to plan and predict potential pitfalls. Then double-check that everyone is aware of the newest team schedule through efficient team communication.
  2. Check and re-check your schedule. The last thing you want is for your schedule to be difficult to read or to have errors. This can poke a hole in employee confidence and may cause challenges for your business directly. You also need to make sure your time tracking tools are working effectively for your business. Finally, confirm that availability preferences have been respected and considered on the upcoming schedules.
  3. Keep your schedule aligned. It must align with business metrics, all applicable laws, employee skill levels and needs, and other external factors. Some of these include labor costs (because it’s more expensive to over-staff and painful to employees to under-staff), overtime compensation, meeting demand fluctuations with a prepared workforce, making sure rookies aren’t by themselves, and dealing with sporting events, weather, and tourism-related factors.
  4. Offer scheduling flexibility. Honor shift preferences, employee availability and time-off requests wherever possible. Also, if employees want to work extra hours, make it possible to pick up extra shifts. Let employees find their substitutes and make it easy to swap shifts (but make sure it still fits your business goals). Effective communication is key, and some even have a dedicated bulletin board for shift swapping.
  5. Use efficient employee scheduling software and effective team communication tools. While the human touch is certainly necessary for this effort, just like most things, that doesn’t mean you should always do the heavy lifting of scheduling. Sometimes software can create better schedules in ways that you might not have thought of yourself. It can also prevent scheduling errors.  Some employee scheduling apps include internal messaging, time clocks, and other advanced features for your convenience. Most communication platforms offer chat functionality, team communication tools, and advanced features, but the most important thing is to have internal communication and easy-to-use software.
  6. Builds Shifts around your employees. If you have noticed a pattern that Jack calls in on Monday most often, don’t schedule him on Mondays. Make sure you put your most reliable employees in spots that work to your mutual benefit. Employees that perform better than others, that don’t show up when you need them, are going to leave you short-staffed and scrambling to fix the issue.
  7. Try to keep time between shifts low. You must account for lunch and break times, but you don’t have to have time between shifts. In fact, it’s better to avoid time between shifts because you might have an increase in demand and thus foot traffic during that time.

A few things to watch out for:

  • Make sure every shift complies with labor laws, trade union regulations, etc. By doing so, you can avoid unnecessary costs and headaches along the way.
  • Make sure that you have a balance of employee skill, training, and certification for your business needs. For example, you don’t want to put your most expert employees together and leave new hires without a place to go for questions.
  • Analyze when you are the busiest by looking at your historical trends, whether that be during the week, during certain months of the year, or certain seasons. Use demand forecasting tools to know when to schedule extra help for the busy periods.
  • Analyze shift attendance/absences per employee to see patterns, have private conversations with struggling employees, and reach optimal staffing levels. This way you can make sure your employees are truly satisfied with how you schedule, or if they’re having a hard time, to alleviate some of their stress. If you do this, you’ll likely build loyalty, increase shift attendance, and decrease employee turnover.

What are Some Employee Scheduling Challenges?

Overtime Management

The reality is, that no matter how vigilant you are at scheduling efficiently, your business is probably going to need extra hands on deck at some point. This requires overtime pay, which increases your business expenses. It’s not something you should encourage per se, but avoiding it altogether may impact the bottom line of your business during busier periods. Striking the right balance is key to employee and customer satisfaction. It’s also key to maximizing profitability at all times.

Employing Minors

Child labor laws are a thing. While laws involving working minors aren’t complicated, they do make for an extra scheduling challenge. For instance, you may need to schedule your minors for no more than three hours on a school day, or less than 18 on a school week total. Also, even if they’re one of your best employees, overtime restrictions do apply. It’s vital to know the laws surrounding the employment of minors so you can avoid unnecessary costs and potential legal issues.

Scheduling Abuse

This one is tricky. Most people want to be good employees and want to serve while getting paid to do it. “Wrong employees” want to work the system to their advantage. Here are some ways employees abuse the schedule:

  • Requesting to leave early more than once a week (especially over multiple weeks) or asking to change schedules (specifically Friday through Monday) regularly
  • Switching shifts to get higher tips for known busier times (though this might not be as big of a concern if you know other employees or even the entire team would rather not work during the busier times and it doesn’t cause your business any problems)
  • Avoiding shifts with tasks that are less desirable
  • Constant no-shows, even when you are asking them to come in as a replacement (but make sure you’re being reasonable about it; no one is probably coming if they’ve got a planned vacation)

Employee management is abusing the schedule when:

  • Scheduling an employee for a potential “on-call” shift without compensation. This may seem perfectly acceptable from an employer’s standpoint, but to an employee, they aren’t able to work elsewhere during that time and also aren’t guaranteed pay for that shift. The same applies to canceling a shift at the minute (unless they know beforehand)
  • Penalizing employees for not staying past their scheduled time (you are obligated to pay overtime, but they are not obligated to work overtime)

Note that although doing these practices occasionally may not be a cause for concern, constantly relying on them can affect employee satisfaction with and loyalty to their job. By knowing which employees are interested in working additional shifts, you can avoid the issue altogether.

What are the Impacts of Efficient Employee Scheduling?

First and foremost, ensuring efficient scheduling gives your business proper shift coverage. This allows you to keep staff happy (better employee well-being hopefully translates to less physical fatigue and higher employee performance). Customers will also have excellent experiences as employees are more likely to have an upbeat attitude when they’re treated well, which makes for a better, faster experience.

You will ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. You will see increased productivity and safety in the workplace. You will see less under- or over-staffing, which means lower overtime costs and better opinions of your business (from both customers and staff).

Wrap-Up: Efficient Scheduling is Closer Than it Looks

We hope you’ve enjoyed this piece on scheduling employees. The key takeaways are to make sure your employees are involved in the process and have easy access to the schedule, align your schedule with business goals and applicable laws, and ensure that you’ve got adequate coverage for your business at all times to keep costs at a minimum and profits, employee loyalty, and customer satisfaction at a maximum.

Need restaurant scheduling software? We can help.

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Leverage Technology to Manage Restaurant Labor Costs

Between increased costs, labor shortages, and socio-economic complexities - staying on top of labor costs is more important than ever for franchise owners.

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