How To Manage Employee Schedules Effectively: A Guide for New Business Owners

As a small business owner entering a leadership role for the first time, we get it: juggling all of your day-to-day responsibilities is overwhelming. From building—and keeping—a tight-knit team you trust, to managing employee schedules, to consistently growing revenue, running a business on your own can feel more like running a marathon. But if you train and prepare for the challenges ahead, your path to success will be much smoother.

And while it might be easier said than done, we’re here to help!

Figuring out the best way to manage employee schedules is a key aspect to ensure your business runs efficiently. It may take some trial and error right out the gate, but you don’t have to go it alone—or rely on outdated manual methods. 

Leaning on scheduling software like Homebase takes the guesswork out of how to handle shift-swapping, time-off requests, team availability, and more.

Are you ready to take control of your scheduling process? Let’s walk through everything you need to know to streamline your employee work schedules without wasting your time.

What is an employee schedule?

An employee schedule is a framework that clearly lays out the specific hours and days of the week your employees are expected to work. Sounds straightforward enough, but creating an organized schedule can get complicated when dealing with different types of work shifts (full- and part-time, seasonal, rotating, etc.) and employee preferences. 

Keeping your team happy while ensuring all shifts are covered requires both flexibility and strategic thinking. An effective work schedule needs to strike a balance between accommodating your employees’ needs, complying with labor regulations, and maximizing your business’ profits and productivity. 

Pro tip: Make sure you create a schedule with a mix of employees of varying skill, experience, and performance levels. Let the more experienced team members show the newbies the ropes so they can learn on the job. 

Managing an employee schedule: 4 things you need to think about

If you think mastering complex scheduling is impossible and you can’t wrap your brain around every variable, let us be your guide. There’s no shame in needing a little support to keep things flowing efficiently. 

Having this simple list in your back pocket is a great place to start. Here are the top four things you need to consider before, during, and after sharing a schedule with your team.

1. Availability (before the schedule happens)

Taking time to get to know your employees and their specific needs around availability will go a long way when creating a strong schedule. It’s important to consider your employees’ job satisfaction while making sure all shifts are covered. 

If a member of your team requires wiggle room for personal reasons like being in school or managing child care, try your best to accommodate them. This is a much easier task if you know your team’s availability ahead of time.

Building flexibility into the schedule by using a tool that shows real-time availability will help to avoid last-minute scheduling conflicts. Bonus: it’ll also show your employees you respect them in and outside working hours. The result will be a reliable schedule with adequate hours for the team as a whole. 

2. Time-off requests (before the schedule happens)

Depending on your industry, certain times of year, like summer and just before Christmas, can be super busy for small businesses. They’re also popular for vacations and holidays. So how do you balance accommodating time-off requests with adequate shift coverage during these peak times?

Setting up paid time-off policies like blackout dates, request limits, and advance notice will automatically streamline this process so you’re not left understaffed and scrambling to find replacements. Once your team submits their time-off requests, you’ll be able to approve them in a fair, informed way while ensuring no shift is left uncovered. 

3. Shift-swapping (while the schedule happens)

With a team of any size, shift-swapping is bound to happen. Last-minute commitments, illnesses, and incidents can pop up at any time, so it’s vital you’re prepared when this happens. 

Using a scheduling system your employees can access on-demand enables them to seamlessly swap shifts with other team members. This removes one item on your to-do list while giving them a sense of control and independence. 

Easy-to-use tools like Homebase make shift-swapping a breeze, with built-in communication functions like a messenger feature and immediate updates/reminders. Keeping open and accessible lines of communication between you and your team will make staying connected when changes arise completely effortless.

4. Double-checking clock-ins when doing payroll (after the schedule happens)

The ability to go back and check when your employees clock in and out not only keeps your team accountable, it also streamlines your payroll processes. Tracking your employees’ hours using a time clock app that automatically syncs up with payroll reduces data entry errors and ensures your team gets paid accurately and on time.

Using an automated system will also help to make sure you aren’t overscheduling people, that you’re tracking overtime hours, and that your employees don’t engage in time theft. 

How to automate the scheduling process (so you don’t waste your time)

1. Sign up for scheduling software

You may prefer to manually handle scheduling (pen and paper, spreadsheets, etc.), but it’s far more efficient to use automated software. With so many free and low-cost options at your fingertips, you really can’t lose.

Why not test the waters with the basic version of Homebase? This user-friendly system is ideal for businesses with one location and up to 20 employees. 

Best of all? It’s totally free.

2. Get your team to submit their time-off requests through the app

Once you get your team on board with a scheduling app, you’ll never look back. Using a software system will provide you with a complete overview of time-off requests across your whole team, making it easier to accept or deny them based on shift coverage needs. You’ll also be able to track trends, set restrictions, and create policies in real time.

2. Get your team to submit their availability through the app

Having your team submit their availability ahead of time means less of a scheduling headache for you. Based on this availability data, your scheduling app can create a template or auto-schedule you can easily modify as needed, alerting your team immediately of any schedule changes. 

4. Get your team to swap their shifts in the app

Leaving shift-swapping in the hands of your employees will empower them to take responsibility for ensuring shifts are covered, even if you have an approval policy in place. There are so many benefits to allowing shift-swaps for you and your employees, like:

  • Quick resolutions to minimize disruptions
  • Boosting employee satisfaction, morale, and retention by offering flexibility (a study by Future Forum explains how important this is)
  • Increased employee autonomy through managing their own schedules
  • Cost-efficiency by reducing the need to hire temps 

5. Have your scheduling app connect directly to your payroll

Using apps like Homebase make it possible to sync your schedule directly to payroll—music to any new small business owner’s ears! No more comparing spreadsheets and manually inputting numbers, which puts you at greater risk of human error.

Bonus: All PTO can be automatically added to employee timesheets and easily incorporated into payroll too. 

Empower your team to help manage their schedule

At this point, it’s clear why enlisting the help of scheduling software is a win/win situation for you and your team. Real-time, on-demand access to schedules with automated notifications? Yes, please. Easy submission of PTO requests and shift swaps? Absolutely! 

If using an app with all the conveniences of integration, communication, automation, and more makes scheduling sound easy breezy, it’s time to get started with Homebase. Keep your team accountable and empower them with independence, while you take back some of your precious time. Smooth, efficient operations are on the way. Let’s brighten up your business’ future!

Your scheduling chaos ends here—try Homebase for free.

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