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Staff Scheduling in a Small Business:

Amie Parnaby
May 27, 2021
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Staff Scheduling in small businesses

– Best practices and tips for keeping your business and employees happy and productive. 

Staff scheduling probably feels like a neverending and thankless task. Moreover, for small businesses, the headaches stack up more frequently than in larger enterprises. Even under the most beneficial circumstances, it can feel like the most delicate of balancing acts to keep clients, business and staff members content with how the schedule works. When the unexpected happens, it can become an unmitigated disaster, or it could be a shining example of staff scheduling perfection – it can and does happen.

Over the past year, employee scheduling has been even more difficult than ever. Accommodating local capacity regulations, cleaning schedules, and extending hours to get more clients through the doors.

You can never keep every staff member happy all of the time. Combining best practices, scheduling tools, and a deep understanding of your clients, business, and employees, you can create a staff scheduling plan that’s streamlined and flexible.

8 Best Practices for Smooth Staff Scheduling

Take a look at some of the best ways to ensure a smooth staff schedule. Use them all or combine a few to make your small business run like clockwork.

Get Ahead

Try to think much further ahead than your schedule demands. You can have a regular schedule that works most of the time, but can you use historical data to determine your busiest times? If you have the data available, you can approximate the customer demand and schedule business working hours that fit. By studying your data, you can identify daily, weekly, and annual trends along with seasonal spikes and slumps.

If you are just starting on your business journey, you can use generic data from related industry reportings in your area to create a similar approximate schedule. Although you might want to review this if the generic data isn’t aligning with your experience – more data makes you better equipped to make good scheduling decisions.

Extra Shifts?

Who wants to make a little more cash? If you have a sales spike coming up or a mad holiday rush, it’s wise to keep track of who wants extra shifts.

It’s all very well knowing who can’t extend their hours, but it’s just as valuable to know who does have that flexibility and wants the extra income.

Regularly review the availability and extra shift requests. it could change from one month to the next. If you want to look ahead and stay prepared, it’s good to know who you can count on to cover additional shifts and extended hours.

Keep to the rules

Local, regional and national laws will play a huge role in your scheduling plan, even for a small business.

Some cities and at least one state have requirements for predictive shift scheduling, which demands employers publish the predicted staff scheduling in advance. This could include extra payments for late changes to the schedule, as well as minimum gaps between shifts and appropriate breaks in longer shifts.

Similar laws and employer responsibilities apply all over the world, and you will need to be aware of those rules before making unpopular demands on your staff. Make sure you have that information available to you when creating your schedules. It could end up costing you a lot more if you aren’t fully aware of the local nuances.

Publish Early

By publishing an employee schedule early – at least 7-14 days in advance – you make sticking to that schedule easier. People who know what their work schedule will be more than two weeks in advance can ensure they schedule their external commitments and appointments outside their predicted working time. At the same time, people with prebooked vacations and meetings can ensure they are included in the schedule before it is published.

Communicate Effectively

Make sure everyone knows the schedule. Send it via email, use automated scheduling apps that everyone has access to, post it on the kitchen bulletin board or send a link to the online schedule. However you communicate the program, make sure everyone gets it – and gets it in ample time.

Communicating effectively with your staff is means ensuring they understand why you are scheduling things a particular way. Ensuring that people know why you need three people working the weekends and on a Wednesday afternoon ensures that your staff have the rationale behind some of your potentially unpopular scheduling decisions. Understanding helps to mitigate any discontent.

Plan for the Worst

Emergencies happen. It’s an inescapable fact that people get sick, cars won’t start, home emergencies require immediate attention, and a whole lot more. Many sayings revolve around hoping for the best but planning for the worst, and you have to do the same with your staff scheduling.

It might seem like good business sense to fill your schedule to the maximum. However, sometimes, you might want to build in some ease to allow for the unexpected. Alternatively, you might want to create a system for altering client appointments if necessary.

Review Regularly

Most of the time, you can probably maintain a roughly similar staff schedule. However, circumstances change, and you have to be ready to change with them. Regular reviews of staff availability, shift preferences, and working conditions mean that you can spot changes in how your staff scheduling is working for your business and your employees.

If you can see a sustained change in your popular appointment time, most profitable periods, or a regular shift swap between employees, then it’s time to review your schedule.

Self-started Shift Coverage.

Make it easy for staff to cover shift exchanges and necessary time away from their allocated roles within the constraints of your business requirements. Having a measure of control over working schedules is one of the key components of staff satisfaction levels. Happy staff make for happier clients in the long term.


How to Keep on Top of Staff Scheduling

You can’t effectively manage your staff scheduling without a deep understanding of how your business and your staff work. However, you also need the necessary tools to distribute information effectively and let your staff feel secure and informed about their schedule stability – even if it’s stable flexibility.

Go Digital

For the best approach to distributing schedule information, easy adjustment, and collaboration, the best option is an online platform. Whether you use a dedicated staff scheduling system or as a part of a wider scheduling system, digital information sharing is the most efficient method.

Know Your Staff

How well do you know your staff? If you can remember that Rachel has a child and can’t open the store at eight in the morning because it’s before school drop off, you are doing pretty well in the knowledge stakes. Perhaps you even remember that she can open on Tuesdays and Thursdays because her partner does the school run. 

If you always exclude Rachel from opening up, it might upset other staff who always get the early open shift. However, if you can split those shifts with additional information, you are one step closer to a happy schedule.

Know Your Business & Clients

No one know your business better than you. You can probably feel the change of the season through the bookings on your system. You know when you get sales spikes and periods of high demand; just as well as you know the times when you wonder why you even opened – everyone gets the occasional slump. Using that information to judge appropriate staffing levels or changes to the schedule is invaluable. Clients will appreciate increased availability as high seasons, and your bottom line will thank you for not overstaffing at low periods.

Honour Time off and Preferences 

You can’t make everyone happy all the time. However, you can easily keep most of your staff content with the schedule 80% of the time. That is very important. When you fail to honour reasonable requests for time off, whether it’s paid vacation days or unspecified unpaid leave, you tell your staff that their needs mean nothing to you.

Happy, healthy, and valued staff give your business far more in their client care, than undervalued and ignored employees. Conversely, employees who have their preferences and requests honoured most of the time are more likely to make the sacrifice to breach those requirements in emergencies.

Cross Training for Flexibility

It’s not always practical to have everyone qualified to cover every role in the business. However, it is often necessary to cross-train your staff for maximum flexibility and productivity across functions in a small business. This multi-functional approach to staff training means you have greater adaptability to changes and unexpected circumstances.


Staff Scheduling in SimplyBook.me

While SimplyBook.me allows clients to book appointments, you can also use it effectively to schedule your staff and service providers. There are several features and tools within the system to enable flexible scheduling and to accommodate unusual timetables.

When you set up service providers within the SimplyBook.me system, you have the option to arrange their availability relative to the operating hours of the business. This is easily changed with any alterations to the company’s needs, vacation time or even increase or reduction of hours.

So outside commitments can’t interfere with bookings, the Calendar Sync feature allows staff to link their calendars with their work schedules.

One of the best features of the booking system is the Admin App. Despite the name, the admin app is not just for the administration of the business. Every provider or user account holder can use the app to manage their schedule, check bookings and manage timetables. If each provider is a user of the system, they can download the app, log in, and get their booking details. As a business owner or manager, you would get notifications of all bookings.

Special Days is another SimplyBook.me system function that enables you to go completely out of the norms of your business. Perhaps you have a college student who needs to be out for exams or someone who needs regular medical checkups. Maybe you want to close for half a day to do a quarterly stock audit.


To Sum Up

Staff scheduling isn’t easy. However, it doesn’t have to be complicated. As long as you have an effective method for tracking business needs, staff working preferences, and scheduled vacations, you have the basis of an efficient staff scheduling system.

Ensuring that you stay ahead of your schedule publishing times and looking forwards to anticipate any problems are essential to good employee scheduling. 

Maintaining a good working relationship with your staff is also important. If you repeatedly disregard requests and preferences, you risk losing loyal staff members over something you could quickly remedy. It’s not worth losing good staff over poor scheduling. Conversely, you don’t need to keep staff happy ALL the time. Sometimes, they might have to work outside their zone for the needs of the business, but otherwise, valued and mostly accommodated employees will do this willingly.

With a combination of strategic planning, scheduling software, and personnel cooperation, you can give your business and staff the support and flexibility they need to run smoothly and happily.

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