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How to Create Healthy Scheduling Habits that Reduce Shift-Swap Frustration


Scheduling employees to work is a necessary part of running a business. With that, there will likely be employees who need to swap shifts from time to time. But these scheduling changes can be a major source of frustration for managers, and even costly to the business. For example, when an employee trades shifts with a higher-paid staff member, this can add unexpected payroll expenses to the shift. Similarly, when an employee trades shifts with an inexperienced coworker, this can cause a decline in service or production, resulting in more man-hours required to complete the same amount of work. Fortunately, you can learn to manage shift swaps effectively by adding a few simple procedures to your scheduling routine.

1. Maintain an open-door policy

The negative effects of a shift swap are magnified when managers aren't notified in advance. Often this occurs because employees are afraid to notify managers for fear of being turned down, or the manager is simply never around to be notified. In such cases, employees may try to change shifts without managerial consent, figuring that as long as someone shows up to work, everything will be fine. Maintaining a visible presence for your employees can help ensure they feel comfortable coming to you with any schedule changes or concerns.

scheduling changes

2. Develop a consistent scheduling process

Most scheduling confusion stems from a lack of consistency in the scheduling process. Sometimes schedules are prepared weeks in advance, while other times the manager may finish it just a few days ahead of time. Last-minute schedules can be extremely problematic and even costly to the business. Some jurisdictions now require that a certain amount of advance notice be provided to employees for work schedules and schedule changes. For example, the Fair Work Week Act in Oregon, which takes effect next summer, will require employers with 500 or more employees to provide at least a week’s notice of schedules and on-call shifts. Last-minute schedule changes may also mean additional pay for employees.

To help minimize confusion and potential extra costs, it’s important to develop and uphold a consistent scheduling routine. When your schedules are prepared several weeks in advance, most employees will be able (and willing) to plan outside activities around their work schedules, or notify you before the schedule is made if a conflict arises. If you are scheduling well in advance and are still experiencing excessive shift swapping, you may want to consider improving the quality of your hires.

3. Update your employee handbook

Review your employee handbook for specifics concerning scheduling changes. Consider a handbook policy that clearly states:

  • When employees will receive upcoming shift assignments
  • Deadlines for submitting schedule change requests or shift swaps
  • The process for getting approval for a shift swap
  • Disciplinary procedures that may occur when failing to comply with the scheduling policy

Setting these clear expectations can help corral employees who would otherwise push boundaries on schedule changes and shift swapping. You can foster support among your staff by upholding accountability to the policy, even for yourself – be sure to complete schedules on time, every time. Check for any local, state, or federal statutes that might apply to your business and confirm that your policy complies with any advance-notice requirements concerning schedules. Sticking to a detailed policy can help you avoid unexpected labor costs and unhappy employees.

shift swapping

4. Consider scheduling technology

While creating employee schedules by hand can certainly be a chore, scheduling technology can automate most of the process, including the coordination of a shift swap if needed. With an online scheduling solution such as Paychex Flex Time, managers can facilitate the scheduling process efficiently and minimize the need for last-minute shift swapping. This technology can also minimize the added costs associated with shift swapping if it does occur. Flex Time allows employers to set restrictions on specific shifts, ensuring that only qualified employees are considered for coverage.

By incorporating these habits into your scheduling routine, you can avoid the frustrations of shift swapping while still allowing your employees the freedom and flexibility to preserve a healthy work/life balance.

This website contains articles posted for informational and educational value. Paychex is not responsible for information contained within any of these materials. Any opinions expressed within materials are not necessarily the opinion of, or supported by, Paychex. The information in these materials should not be considered legal or accounting advice, and it should not substitute for legal, accounting, and other professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant.