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Identifying and Avoiding Scheduling Conflicts

Many companies hire hourly employees who may not work the same schedules every day or week. For these businesses, effective scheduling is vital for smooth operations. Scheduling conflicts are inevitable from time to time, but there are ways to quickly resolve scheduling issues and help prevent them from happening to begin with. Learn about common scheduling conflicts, review tips for managing conflicts with the work schedule and consider how to prevent scheduling conflicts from arising.

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Common types of scheduling conflicts

Companies seem to face similar styles of scheduling conflicts regardless of their industry or field. If your business creates ever-changing schedules for your employees, it’s important you’re aware of common scheduling conflicts so you can take steps to avoid them:


Double-booking happens when you book the same employee twice or more for the same shift or book them for the same shift in different locations. Most often, double booking happens when an employee manually creates a work schedule rather than using a scheduling program.

Scheduling unavailable employees

When employees take time off for vacation, especially if they put the request in some time in advance, the scheduler might forget and put that person on the work rotation despite their lack of availability. This can also happen with sick days or last-minute time off requests.

Unbalanced shift distribution

Some employees, due to their availability or requests, may have more shifts than others in a week. A lack of employee-work-hour-balance between staffers can lead to conflict if you do not give everyone the opportunity to request or receive sufficient work hours.

Insufficient break time

Some industries require lengthy shifts. For example, many doctors and nurses work 12-hour shifts rather than traditional eight-hour shifts. These professionals must have sufficient time between their shifts to rest and recuperate before returning to the workplace. Not providing enough break time between shifts is another common scheduling conflict.

Unofficial rescheduling

While the official schedule is often produced by a single employee or a small team working together, once it’s released, some employees might trade shifts to better meet their personal demands. Occasionally, these unofficial shift swaps can lead to confusion, miscommunication and potentially missed shifts.

Last-minute schedules

Some companies try to eliminate unofficial shift rescheduling by releasing work schedules within a few days of the workweek. Unfortunately, this can actually lead to more last-minute schedule changes since your staff doesn’t know if they have conflicts with the schedule until just before they need to work.

Related:Conflict Management: Three Examples for the Workplace

Benefits of managing scheduling conflicts

Scheduling conflicts can lead to severe consequences for both the hourly staff and the company. Prevent scheduling conflicts and manage inevitable changes to the schedule to:

  • Boost morale:When employees see that their supervisors care about their work-life balance and want to create a schedule that supports them, the staff will get a boost in morale.
  • Ensure employee wellbeing:Making sure employees have adequate time to rest in between shifts allows your staff to take care of themselves and perform their best work during their shifts.
  • Increase productivity:Employees who feel heard and respected through effective scheduling practices can be more productive on the job, especially when they don’t have to work overtime last minute.

Tips for handling scheduling conflicts

If you manage employee schedules, it’s likely you’ll encounter conflicts from time to time. Use these tips to help you handle scheduling conflicts and to resolve them quickly and effectively:

  • Stay calm:As you find a solution to the scheduling conflict, remain calm and positive. Your tone and demeanor model for your staff how to respond to the situation. If you’re easy to talk to, then they’ll respond in kind.
  • Review your roster:Check your full roster of employees and look to see who’s not scheduled at all for the day. Call those staff members to see if anyone is available to pick up the shift.
  • Offer perks:If you’re having trouble finding someone to take the shift, consider offering perks like a free meal or additional paid time off as an incentive to take the shift.
  • Schedule yourself:To fill gaps in scheduling, consider taking a shift yourself or asking another manager or supervisor to work that day.
  • Extend hours:Ask employees already scheduled to work the shifts before or after the open one if they’d be willing to work overtime. Include perks like longer breaks, an employee meal or other incentives to entice them to accept the overtime shift.

Related:Identifying Different Conflict Management Styles

How to prevent scheduling conflicts

The best way to manage scheduling conflicts is to keep them from happening whenever possible. Follow these steps to avoid common scheduling conflicts.

1. Create an availability tracker

Make an easy-to-use tracking system for employees to submit their availability ahead of creating the schedule each week. Ideally, this would be a software system that everyone can access from work or home, so all the requests are available for the scheduler to quickly peruse.

2. Use scheduling software

Consider purchasing software customized for creating employee work calendars. Usually, this type of software automatically hides employees who listed themselves as unavailable so they’re not slotted into a shift they can’t work by accident. It can also ensure that shifts are assigned as equally as possible and work to avoid overtime.

3. Allow for trades within the system

If shift trading is common in your company, allow your staff to trade shifts within your software or scheduling platform. Using a specific program ensures that no shift will be left blank since the people trading will have to make sure they’ve filled in the shift before exiting the program.

4. Provide a communication feature

Allow your staff to message with the shift scheduler through a formal work channel about last-minute schedule changes or other needs. Keeping the system centralized will help everyone involved in the scheduling process ensure there are no open shifts.

Scheduling conflicts are an inevitability in companies with hourly employees. Establishing best practices for scheduling and quickly managing any conflicts will lead to higher company morale and fewer issues on the job.

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