Managing time is a big part of managing people. Creating work schedules is not an easy task. It’s rare that everyone will get the shifts they want. Predicting busy times and arranging for staff accordingly doesn’t always go smoothly.


When creating shift schedules, there’s a lot to consider. You have to know who can work, how many people you actually need, and how to find the balance between providing excellent customer service and staying within budget.


You’ve probably already got some sort of system for creating work schedules. And while your technique may work, there is always room for improvement. There are some major things to consider when sitting down to write a shift schedule—the business needs and the employee needs. Let’s take a look at some factors that affect scheduling.


Consider business needs when creating a schedule template


Your employees are important, there’s no doubt about it. Without them, your business wouldn’t be where it is today. But the reverse is also true—your employees need the business to be successful. Here are some business needs to think about when making a schedule.


  • Busy times- You know when your peak hours are. If you run a bakery, the business is probably pretty busy in the morning. If you run a bar, your customers won’t stop by until later in the day.
  • Who’s available to work- The employees you have should be able to cover all the shifts available. If you know you’re always short-staffed during certain times, start looking for employees who can fill in.
  • All positions filled during a shift- During busy times, make sure you have all front of the house and back of the house roles filled. During slower times, positions can overlap. For example, you can have wait staff pour drinks or bus tables.
  • A mix of new employees and veterans- You don’t want a shift full of newbies. Who will make decisions and solve problems? Likewise, a shift full of experienced staff is great for customer service but can blow your budget.
  • Know what’s happening in town- Local events can bring in a lot of new customers. If you’re not prepared, you’ll be short employees and those new customers may never come back.
  • Check the weather- The forecast can be unpredictable, but keep an eye on the weather anyway. If heavy rain or snow storms are predicted, you can assume you’ll have fewer customers.
  • Customer satisfaction- People want to feel taken care of when dining out or paying for hospitality services. In fact, just read the Yelp reviews of any local restaurant to see that people mostly comment about service and food quality.


Consider employee needs when making shift schedules


Employee needs must be taken into consideration when planning work schedules. Keeping your employees happy means you’ll spend less on money on training new people. Here’s what you should know about your employees:


  • They need certain times off. Sometimes employees request certain shifts. You should find out if that’s because they prefer working at certain times of if they’re absolutely unavailable at other times. You may need to work around class schedules for students and working parents.
  • They don’t want to “clopen.” Employees who are at work late one night don’t want to get up for the opening shift the next morning. It’s not great for their sleep patterns. Tired employees make mistakes, which isn’t good for business.
  • They want to help (to a point). When there’s turnover, employees don’t mind picking up extra shifts. But if you don’t hire new staff quickly, you risk burning out your experienced employees.
  • They’re looking for consistent work and reliable paychecks. Part-time employees know not to expect steady eight-hour shifts every day, but they’re also looking for a little stability. They’d like to be able to join a Wednesday trivia group or a Sunday afternoon book club.
  • They’re willing to be flexible. You want to be sure to give your employees a fair number of hours. See if any of them can work split-shifts. You might have several volunteers who can work in the morning and the come back later in the evening.


Sitting down to make a schedule


There’s a lot to consider when it’s time to make a schedule. So, here are some tips to make that process a lot easier.


  • Use an app for scheduling employees. The tools available through Planday can be used to create schedules, accept change requests from employees, and let employees communication with each other about swapping shifts. Apps for scheduling employees keep all the work schedule communication in one place.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to make the schedule. Employees need some notice to arrange for things like transportation and child care.
  • Look at data. Assume your business will grow from month to month, even slightly, and account for that.
  • Be willing to cross-train. If you’re going to minimize staff during slow times, make sure to train everyone on new roles and responsibilities. Don’t just assume they’ll know what to do.
  • Set deadlines for schedule requests. Let employees know when you’re going to work on shift scheduling so they can tell you when they need time off.
  • Listen to feedback. If employees constantly feel frustrated with their schedules, they’ll leave. Likewise, if customers complain about the service, they won’t come back.
  • Know the laws about scheduling. Don’t forget to take overtime and breaks into consideration.


Scheduling lots of part-time employees can feel like doing a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. Ensuring everyone gets enough hours and the business is still successful is a constant balancing act. If you’re still using paper scheduling, it’s time to consider an app for scheduling employees. Set aside time every week or two to work on the schedule. Make sure to communicate with your staff about last minute changes. Creating work schedules is not easy, but the right information and tools can make it smoother.


Lisa Andersen
Lisa Andersen Content Editor
Part of Planday’s content team in Copenhagen, Lisa is into yoga and loves good writing. Her experience includes working with communication and PR for international grassroots organizations in Argentina and Bolivia.