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Top Tips for Making an Employee Shift Schedule

Making an employee shift schedule that works for your business and keeps your employees happy is important. Check out the top tips on how to do it here!


Drawing up an employee shift schedule is a bit of a minefield. It needs to be concise and organized, but at the same time keep your staff happy.

You want to allow a level of flexibility for your team but at the same time be assertive and not allow staff members to try altering things too frequently. On top of this, there will likely be people calling in sick now and then, as well as the need for last minute changes.

So how can you keep this as stress-free and effective as possible, managing to please everyone who works for you, as well as yourself? Read on for our guide to creating an effective employee shift schedule.

Make the Rota Accessible Online

This may seem obvious but the most effective rotas are electronically constructed and available to your staff online. This makes it easy to make amendments – because there are ALWAYS amendments to be made.

Using an online system such as a work schedule maker will make your life a hundred times simpler, and cause fewer headaches in the long run.

Systems like this give you options to message staff, for them to message each other, and for no communication to slip through the cracks. Because when that happens, shifts can run the risk of being understaffed or muddled.

These systems can send alerts to you and your employees, reminders and provide ways for them to request time off or shift swaps.

Plan to Plan

Set specific time aside to get your schedule drawn up. If you do this and stick to it, it won’t get on top of you. Remember, you are arranging the rotas of a group of people who will need to know what time and when they are working, sometimes weeks in advance.

Set allocated time each month to get ahead with the following month’s rota. And dedicate a certain amount of time every week to make any amendments or address any swaps or holiday requests.

You are creating an organized system, so ensure you are being organized about it yourself. This will also instill confidence and respect from your staff, who will appreciate your routine.

If you expect them to give you holiday requests by a certain deadline, they are more likely to adhere to this if you return the favor and work methodically.

Formulate Shift Patterns

It’s always wise to keep a particular system in place when it comes to creating a staff rota. This way you and your teammates will become used to a certain method and it will ensure a slicker operating environment.

This means that there will not, in theory, be any nasty surprises. People know what to expect and they can tell you what shifts they do or don’t like doing. You can, therefore, produce a rota that people are happy with, rather than doing it blindly.

Obviously, some shift patterns won’t be liked by all the employees — such as late-night shifts. But you can implement a system wherein someone has to work those ‘nasty’ shifts just once a month, for example.

Similarly, depending on your business, you can implement scheduling patterns depending on the day or the time of the shifts. This kind of pattern means that you’ll always know who, what, where and when you’ll need staff for shifts.

Communication is Key

Much like having a system in place is important to gain the respect of your team, so is being honest and open with them. No manager wants to be resented, so be upfront about the rota when it comes to your employee shift schedule.

Speaking to your staff in advance, and approaching them about difficult shifts, will be much better than sweeping things under the rug. No one working on an employee shift schedule wants to open the latest version of it and be faced with a nasty shock.

You can easily preempt this by opening the lines of communication. Make yourself approachable, too.

All this will demonstrate to your team that you care about them and realize they have a life outside of work. If you need to make hard choices, it’s always better to do so openly and be able to explain things.

Also, get to know your staff, to learn who is happier being a flexible employer and doesn’t object as much to shift swapping if need be. Some people might be easily agitated and thrown off guard by those types of alterations.

Others are easier-going and enjoy working that way. You’ll learn who likes what if you talk to your staff and find out.

Make Sure Employees Book Time Off in Advance

Try to insist that your staff submit requests for time off way in advance. This isn’t always possible, as last-minute things crop up in people’s’ lives. But events like weddings, appointments, and vacations are things people know about in advance.

Ask your team to get these dates in the rota as soon as they know about them. This also applies to holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and others. If your business means that sometimes the staff is required to work on holidays, encourage them to book time off early. That way, if they don’t, you can’t be blamed.

Also, implementing this rule means that any issues can be ironed out hopefully way in advance and drama can be sidestepped.

Do Any of Your Staff Want Additional Shifts?

You may have people on your team who want extra shifts. It’s diligent to work them into the rota in a way that, should you need extra hands on deck one day, you can call upon them for help.

No manager wants someone working for them who don’t want to be there, or who resents doing overtime. If you have people on your staff who are up for that, then this will help create a harmonious working environment.

Keeping a Ship-tight Employee Shift Schedule

These tips will help you manage your team more efficiently, and create a happy staff. If you follow these methods, you can hopefully avoid clashes and scheduling nightmares down the line.

Check out our specifically-designed pages for tips on how to manage staff attendance, time off requests and time sheets.

Any tips of your own? Feel free to comment below.