Staff Scheduling Made Easy: 5 Key Tips for Small Businesses

Running a small business comes with its fair share of challenges. Staff scheduling is one area that can be extra tricky to manage. However, with the right tools and strategies, these challenges can become opportunities for growth and efficiency.

Without an established system in place, things can get chaotic, time can slip away, and employees may become frustrated. It’s also essential to meet union rules and labor laws to avoid potential issues.

Luckily, there are scheduling solutions you can apply that will help revolutionize your small business operations and give you peace of mind.

Invest in scheduling software

To make staff scheduling easier, you can look into automation. Scheduling software is an ideal solution for putting your scheduling on autopilot and keeping your team members on track. Plus, you’ll save loads of time on the back end by eliminating those tedious manual tasks. 

Within your scheduling software you can easily track time-off requests, auto-schedule tasks based on your team’s availability, and control your labor costs by managing your employees’ time clocks. You can prevent employees from clocking in early, automatically clock out for them if they’ve forgotten, and get alerted when someone is approaching overtime so you don’t have to sweat the little details.

Scheduling software also takes some of the weight off your shoulders—you can create accountability with your team members by allowing them to pick up and change shifts, manage their own availability, and request time-off. Plus, scheduling changes are shared instantly across the team so communication is clear and there’s less confusion about shifts.

Being able to see your schedule all in one place makes sure you remain compliant with labor laws and union rules, and keeps you from over- or under-scheduling. You can easily take a look at your staffing distribution and adjust where necessary.

Forecast demand and plan accordingly

Your business is dynamic and you are not going to have the same customer demand every day, week, or month. With an automated scheduler, you can integrate with your point of sale systems to analyze historical sales and customer traffic data. What season of the year is your busiest? And when are you the slowest? Rather than using intuition or guesswork to organize your schedules around demand, you can use your tracked data.

It’s important to account for seasonal fluctuations and special events so that you don’t either over-staff your schedule and waste employee hours that could be designated elsewhere or under-staff during busy times and overwork your employees. You don’t want to lead them to burnout—76% of employees say workplace stress affects their mental health, and 75% experience burnout.

Using your software tool, schedule staff based on anticipated demand and your team will be more efficient, productive, and satisfied.

Implement self-scheduling and shift bidding

Encouraging your employees to choose their shifts based on their availability can be a game-changer for your business. With self-scheduling, team members can choose shifts that align with their availability and qualifications—saving you time and giving them better work-life balance. Similarly, shift bidding offers a fairer approach, with managers reviewing bids and assigning shifts based on employee qualifications rather than solely on a first-come, first-served basis. 

It’s also important to establish clear rules and guidelines to ensure fairness and transparency in the process, promoting trust and collaboration among your team. This approach also allows employees to have greater control over their schedules. Ultimately, self-scheduling and shift bidding not only streamlines the scheduling process but also enhances employee satisfaction and engagement, leading to a more harmonious and productive workplace.

organized homebase

Cross-train and develop a versatile workforce

If you find yourself lacking a sufficient amount of coverage options for open shifts, you should consider cross-training your employees and expanding their professional range. The greater amount of skill sets they have, the easier it will be to create an informed schedule and keep operations on track. Train your employees to handle multiple tasks and roles so you’re not relying on one or two individuals to accomplish specific tasks.

When your workforce is more versatile, scheduling becomes much more flexible and your coverage options go way up. That gives you peace of mind knowing that you won’t be in over your head trying to fill spots with employees who are under-qualified or not be able to fill shifts at all. 

Unexpected things can happen, so building a multi-talented pool of team members guarantees you an ironclad back up plan. Plus, your team members get to expand their range of knowledge and advance in their positions! Win-win.

As you work to cross-train your employees, it’s important to foster collaboration and team spirit along the way. That way team members will work better together, understand how their roles function with one another, and you will create a happier, more productive team.

Leverage part-time and on-call staff

Facing last-minute sick days, no call/no shows, and unexpected employee exits can be tough for any small business owner. However, there’s a silver lining! By proactively building a pool of reliable part-time and on-call workers, you’re not only prepared to handle any staffing gaps but also building a resilient and adaptable team.

Not having part-time and on-call staff can be another area of risk for overworking your staff members and leading to burnout and even resignation. On-call employees are super beneficial for last minute coverage emergencies, and part-time staff can be leveraged to cover peak periods with a high customer demand, such as seasonal changes and special events. 

You can also utilize independent contractors where it makes sense—as of 2017, there were 10.6 million independent contractors in the workforce. Contractor agreements require less commitment than a full-time W2 employee and you can grow or shrink your pool of contractors as you see fit.

All of these options, whether part-time, on-call, or contractor roles, help you better cover shifts, manage time appropriately, and reduce the need for excessive overtime. 

Staff scheduling transformed

It’s time to streamline your staff scheduling process and drop those time-consuming manual tasks and frantic shift coverage scrambles. By working in these effective hacks—leveraging software, identifying demand and planning ahead, utilizing self-scheduling, and creating versatility among your staff—you’ll effortlessly stay on top of your scheduling needs without breaking a sweat.

Looking for an easy-to-use, all-in-one scheduling software (that is also completely free)? Homebase has an everything app made for small business owners to build schedules, communicate changes, and keep your team accountable.


What are the best staff scheduling software options for small businesses?

Homebase offers a completely free, all-in-one app that helps small business owners build schedules, communicate changes, and keep their team accountable. Automate routine tasks with templates or auto-scheduling, add shift notes or instructions, and set alerts for PTO requests and overtime. No more going back and forth with your team members—everything is automated through the Homebase app.

How do you forecast demand accurately for staffing purposes?

You can easily integrate your point-of-sale and other systems with Homebase to track sales and analyze historical data which will give you an idea of when your peak times of high customer demand are. That way you can more intuitively schedule your staff to meet those needs and avoid over or understaffing.

What are some best practices for implementing self-scheduling?

When you implement self-scheduling and shift bidding, be sure to clearly lay out the policies and parameters required by employees and maintain open communication channels. You can also use the automated features of Homebase to set parameters and auto-fill shifts based on employee qualifications.

How do you ensure fair and equitable scheduling among employees?

Overstaffing and understaffing can become a problem when you are managing scheduling manually. To ensure fair and equitable scheduling, use the Homebase tool to track hours worked, overtime, breaks, and time off among your employees and schedule each employee with these things in mind.

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