8 great employee scheduling tips for your small business

Employee scheduling can be more difficult than you think. Managing time-off requests, working out availability, anticipating staff demand — it’s enough to give you a serious headache. What if there was an easier way to schedule your employees?

In this blog post, we’ll go over:

1. What is employee scheduling?
2. Employee scheduling considerations by industry
3. Employee scheduling tips to help streamline the process

Let’s get started

What is employee scheduling?

Employee scheduling is the process of deciding which days and hours employees will work, and what tasks they will be assigned during those times. This helps ensure that your business has enough people working at all times, and that each employee knows when they’re supposed to be working. 

Employee scheduling is important for making sure that work gets done on time and that everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing.

Employee scheduling considerations by industry

Employee scheduling can vary from industry to industry based on different actors. Different industries may have different requirements for the number of employees needed during certain periods. 

Some industries may also have more flexibility in scheduling due to the nature of the work. 


Busy periods

Restaurants typically have busy periods during meal times, like breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Scheduling more employees during these times can help restaurants handle increased demand.

Employee availability

Restaurants may have employees who are only available to work certain shifts, like those who have other jobs or family commitments. Scheduling around employee availability helps the restaurant have enough staff scheduled at all times.

Skill level

Different roles within a restaurant may require different skill levels, and employees may have different levels of experience. Scheduling employees with the appropriate skills for each shift can help ensure that everything runs smoothly and that customers are satisfied.

Labor costs

Scheduling too many employees can increase labor costs, while scheduling too few can lead to understaffing and decreased productivity. This applies to all businesses that schedule hourly employees.

Finding the right balance can help keep labor costs under control while ensuring that there are enough employees to meet demand. 


Depending on labor laws, scheduling employees for too many hours or over a certain number of days in a row may result in overtime pay. Scheduling employees to avoid overtime can help keep labor costs under control. This applies to all businesses that employee hourly workers. 


Sales patterns

Retailers may have busy periods based on sales patterns, such as holiday shopping seasons or end-of-season clearance sales. Scheduling more employees during these times can help ensure that the store can handle the increased demand.

Customer traffic

Different times of day may see more or less customer traffic, and scheduling more employees during peak times can help ensure that customers are able to receive assistance and complete their purchases efficiently.

Employee skills

Different roles within a retail store may require different skills, and employees may have different levels of experience. 

Scheduling employees with the appropriate skills for each shift can help ensure that everything runs smoothly and that customers are satisfied.

Beauty and wellness

Appointment scheduling

Many beauty and wellness businesses like salons and spas, operate on an appointment-based system. 

Scheduling the right number of employees to handle appointments can help ensure that clients are seen on time and that the business runs efficiently.

Employee skills

Scheduling employees with the appropriate skills for each service can help ensure that clients are satisfied and that everything runs smoothly.



Patient demand

Medical businesses like hospitals or clinics may have varying demand for services based on patient needs. Scheduling the appropriate number of employees to handle patient demand can help ensure that patients receive timely and appropriate care.


Staffing requirements

Depending on the type of medical business, there may be specific staffing requirements to ensure proper care and safety. Scheduling employees to meet these requirements helps everything run smoothly so that patients receive the best care possible.


Training and certification:

Depending on the specific roles within a medical business, employees may require specific training or certifications. Scheduling employees with the appropriate training and certifications can help ensure that patients are in the right hands.


Employee scheduling tips to help streamline the process

1. Understand your business needs

Understanding your business needs helps ensure that you have the appropriate number of employees with the right skills and availability to meet demand. 

Know when your business is busiest and what tasks need to be completed, so you can schedule employees more effectively and efficiently. 

2. Know your employees’ skills and strengths 

By understanding what each employee is capable of, you can schedule them in a way that plays to their skills and strengths. This can help improve productivity and efficiency, and keep customers satisfied. 

Your employees will also feel more engaged and motivated when they’re assigned tasks that align with their strengths and abilities.

3. Use spreadsheets to create schedules

This is one of the oldest employee scheduling methods, and one that many business owners still use today. Using shift schedule templates on programs like Microsoft Excel will help you assign work shifts, manage absences and track employees.

Although there are more effective employee scheduling methods, spreadsheets will still do the job. You can enter the name of an employee on your document and schedule hours efficiently. You might need a calendar and calculator to help you, though!

4. Plan schedules on paper

Yes, some companies still use paper-based schedules to assign working hours. This employee scheduling method has been used for centuries — it’s cheap, convenient and doesn’t require any software.

There are a number of drawbacks to paper-based schedules, however. It can take a long time to schedule workers with the pen and paper method — half of all employers say they spend at least two hours every week compiling schedules — and you could easily lose your schedule or make mistakes.

Paper-based schedules also make it difficult to comply with federal and local legislation. The proposed Seattle “secured scheduling” law, for example, will require employers in the retail and food and beverages industries to keep schedules for three years and notify employees of schedule changes two weeks in advance.

5. Use social media for scheduling

Some employers are using social media to schedule work shifts. Employees can post their availability and preferred shifts in a private Facebook group, for example. While this method provides more flexibility for employees — especially those who work from home — it can be difficult for employers to track work schedules effectively.

Social media can be beneficial when it comes to sharing work schedule information, however. Employers can post work shift changes on Facebook or Twitter, and employees can access this information on their smartphone or tablet.

6. Leverage Intranet scheduling

Intranet pages provide your staff with a communication hub. Use this platform to keep employees updated with the latest news and developments in your company. You can also use your intranet pages for work schedules. 

Employees can manage time-off requests and post their availability, while your HR team can post work schedules in one place.

7. Allow employees to pick and adjust their own schedule

Giving employees this option can help with scheduling in a few ways. Firstly, it can increase employee satisfaction and engagement since employees are given more control over their work schedule. This can help reduce absenteeism and turnover, as employees are more likely to stay with a company that offers flexible scheduling.

It can also help make sure shifts are always covered, since employees are more likely to show up for a shift they’ve chosen or adjusted themselves. This can reduce the need for last-minute schedule changes or emergency calls to fill a shift.

It also helps reduce the administrative burden on you, your managers or HR staff. Instead of spending time creating and adjusting schedules, you can simply approve or deny employee schedule requests, freeing up time for other tasks.

8. Try employee scheduling software

Employee scheduling software combines several planning tools that make it easier to assign shifts, manage time-off requests and post work schedule updates. Programs like Homebase eliminate many of the errors associated with conventional scheduling methods like spreadsheets and paper-based schedules.

Trusted by over 100,000 businesses, Homebase lets you compile a schedule in just minutes. You can share your schedule with your team, manage changes quickly and view information about your employees on one dashboard.

Scheduling with Homebase

These five shift scheduling methods help you create schedules and shift patterns. While some employers still use traditional methods like pen and paper, new technologies like employee scheduling software have streamlined attendance tracking and workforce management to prevent scheduling issues.

Our work scheduling app makes it easy for you to build schedules and forecast labor costs. You can even manage shifts, time-off requests and schedule changes from your smartphone or tablet. Click here to learn more about Homebase’s free work scheduling software.


What is the best way to set employee schedules?

The best way to set employee schedules is to be predictive of your staffing needs and work with your employees to create reasonable weekly schedules ahead of time. You can use employee scheduling tools to manage timesheets and transparently communicate your scheduling needs to your team.

How do you solve scheduling problems?

You can solve scheduling problems by providing efficient communication tools to enable shift swapping as needed and discouraging absenteeism. Having the right employee scheduling tools in place will help your employees trade shifts and help you manage your staff according to your business needs.

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