8 common employee scheduling issues (and how to tackle them)

by Liam Martin
Scheduling Issues

A long line of customers, last-minute cancellations, and employee no-shows can affect any business. It impacts morale and productivity as your team would be overloaded with work.

So how do you fix these problems?

By adopting rock-solid employee scheduling practices

You need to chalk out a powerful scheduling process that protects your bottom-line.

In this article, we’ll cover eight scheduling challenges and highlight a few tips to overcome them so you can create great work schedules. We’ll also explain how this effectively boosts employee engagement.

This article contains:

(Use the links below and jump to a specific section)

Let’s get started. 

8 most common scheduling issues 

Businesses in any industry need staff on schedule to ensure workflows flow smoothly and they meet their clients’ needs on time. But various stumbling blocks can hinder optimal employee scheduling.

Scheduling issues are those issues that come in the way of a productive business day. They could range from employee unavailability to inept systems of employee scheduling. 

So here are the most common scheduling challenges every business owner might face:

1. Employee shortage

For any business to run efficiently, you need to have enough employees running the show. 

For example, you can never predict what a typical day has in store in the service industry. An unexpected demand could spring anywhere, anytime! 

And if you’re short-staffed, it’s everyone’s worst nightmare — you may not have enough employees to deal with a problem.

Additionally, if you don’t know your employee availability and manage team members inefficiently, you can add to the scheduling chaos. 

For example, let’s suppose you’re running a store and your cashier left early to attend to an emergency, and your grocery bagger is a no show. A sudden influx of unappointed customers will add stress to the team. Without extra hands, it also increases the waiting time of customers.

This might affect morale, productivity, sales conversion, business reputation, and ultimately your bottom line. 

2. Overscheduling

We’ve heard it before: too much of anything is good for nothing.

One of the main downsides of an inefficient scheduling process is that employees would constantly have to work overtime.

A little bit of overtime now and then doesn’t sabotage your business. But too much of it can skew work/life balance. It can lead to lower productivity and increase operational costs due to overtime payments.

Not paying careful attention to the work schedule adds to employee scheduling problems. 


If overlooked or not given due attention, your staff may end up with a ‘clopen’ slot – i.e., doing the last shift for the day, followed by the first shift for the next day. This is a direct result of poor scheduling.

For example, if you’re in the healthcare industry, patient care quality reduces when your staff (especially nurses) doesn’t have enough rest before clocking in for the next shift. This nurse scheduling problem takes a toll on everyone, including the doctors. 

3. Unfair scheduling

It’s okay if you’re highly confident about an employee’s skills and abilities, but you shouldn’t play favorites – as you could face charges on the grounds of discrimination.

Another thing to be wary of is not giving an employee the required time off and not being up to date with the ever-changing laws of employee scheduling, 

Failing to give advance notice (typically 7 to 14 days to inform of shift changes) or not being careful with allocating night shifts, last minute scheduling, etc., could lead to paying penalty charges

For example, in Philadelphia, from January 1, 2021, the predictive scheduling law’s advance notice period increased from 10 to 14 days. This means your staff must be notified of any scheduling change 14 days prior to the day of work, as prescribed by law. 

4. No formal employee schedule

Resorting to rigid employee scheduling practices or following older ways of staffing is a time killer. And the end result is always a poor schedule.

Likewise, last-minute scheduling can also cause stress. So you need to find that sweet spot that gives your staff a good enough notice period.

Now, using manual spreadsheets to set your team’s schedule can drain time and money, as there are too many variables to account for. 

You need to slot availability, time off, and approvals for every staff, apart from tracking leave 

balances and permissions, shift preferences, seasonal events, etc. 

So using manual methods makes it both inflexible and incompetent to meet the needs of any growing company. Instead, it’s best to use employee scheduling apps like Time Doctor.

5. Employee vacation & absences 

One common scheduling issue is factoring in an employee’s need to take time off due to illness, personal emergency, or a vacation break. 

 As a manager, you’ll need to shuffle things around, even if you have already set up a perfect schedule. 

For example, you may need to alter your schedule if a new employee postpones their start date due to a sudden appointment to receive the COVID 19 vaccine.

It’s not uncommon to have multiple leave requests the same week due to a seasonal break. 

If you haven’t incorporated an emergency or backup plan to handle staff unavailability, poor communication at the last minute can derail the work schedule – making it hard to find a replacement.

6. Shift swapping 

Shift swapping gives your staff the option to exchange their shifts with colleagues, allowing them to manage their own time.

While letting your staff cover for each other has its benefits, it could impede the staff scheduling process. 

An inexperienced replacement staff or a substitute could forget their new shift – which can cause needless schedule disruptions. Additionally, project managers could face undue stress with scheduling if an employee fails to update their unavailability in the scheduling software, causing a delay in your operations.  

7. Employee turnover

Employee turnover is an inevitable part of any industry. This means new team members bring their own skill sets, experience, and schedule preferences to the table. 

Managing this ever-changing aspect can be time-consuming, not to mention resource-draining, resulting in more training and onboarding processes.

Without an employee retention strategy, a high turnover rate could affect your business.

You’ll need to figure out why employees are leaving your company. You can gauge your scheduling style to see if it leads to poor communication or poor employee engagement.  

8. Conforming to labor laws

Complying with local labor laws is one of the key aspects of employee scheduling. These laws protect the rights of shift employees. 

But this can add another layer of constraint and complexity to the already difficult task of staff scheduling.


The laws are constantly changing. Additionally, you have to factor in multiple rules to ensure compliance, or you might have to pay penalties. 

For example, according to Michigan labor laws, employers are not supposed to change work schedules unless they’ve notified the employee 96 hours in advance. Otherwise, employees must be given at least two shifts off and paid overtime for the extra shift worked.

8 simple tips to overcome scheduling challenges 

Here’s everything you need to know to overcome common scheduling issues:

1. Hire enough staff

To run a small business optimally, a manager must have enough staff on board. 

By hiring more people, you’ll have a more reliable schedule. This can empower both organization and staff and helps everyone to serve customers better.

Here are some tips to help you hire a suitable amount of employees:

  • Hire so that you have the right blend of experienced and junior staff. 
  • Ensure that you have enough members available in the morning, evening, weekend, etc.
  • Forecast or predict how many employees you would need to prevent understaffing.
  • Upskill your workforce to extend the employee lifecycle. This increases the profitability of an organization and maximizes staff’s earning potential.

2. Offer time between shifts

Having a fair schedule that allows the staff to work optimally, with enough time to head back home and rest, is crucial. 

While some jurisdictions (including Vermont, Oregon, New York, San Francisco, etc.) have passed scheduling rules for better management and breaks, it hasn’t made its way across all jobs and industries. 

It’s still up to every business to make it count – so adopt a consistent policy that benefits all your staff. You can also constantly monitor shifts to see employees don’t have a clopen slot.

3. Maintain effective communication 

Communication plays a pivotal role in the success of any organization.

You should set up a clear and transparent communication channel for your whole team. Ensure that your staff routes their messages through one preferred medium alone. 

For example, if you use Slack for communication, don’t accept messages via emails or text messages. This ensures there are no mix-ups or delayed messages.

Consistent accountability allows efficient shift swapping, prior notifications, and other schedule-related information.

4. Set clear expectations

A key to successful workforce management is to be open and honest about expectations and policies. It adds clarity to the process and removes scheduling challenges, helping you avoid mishaps and miscommunication. 

As a manager, you can set up a schedule notice to go a minimum of 7-14 days in advance. Or you could follow a set notification and compensation policy for last-minute scheduling changes. 

Be up-to-date with the laws that govern staff policies and get to know your employees to see who’s ready to volunteer during emergencies, and set up overtime bonuses.

Additionally, you’ll have to be fair and consistent when dealing with many time off requests at the same time.  

5. Reduce employee turnover

Seeing your best employees go is a difficult pill to swallow, but turnover is inevitable, so closely follow the reasons why they leave. 

If it has anything to do with business policy or a scheduling problem, it helps you reassess the process and make changes.

Here are some ways to reduce employee turnover:

  • Establish consistent and fair policies to win their rest.
  • Communicate shift changes well in advance.
  • Build a great work environment that can propel your staff members to stay.
  • Utilize the potential of scheduling software and strengthen employee lifecycle even more via growth opportunities and healthy competition. 

6. Regulatory compliance

Compliance is an integral part of business, and an employer needs to be well aware of the local laws. This protects your business and validates to your staff that you got their back. 

Here are some ways to ensure legal compliance:

  • Keep an eye out for scheduling limitations, warranted time off, and give enough advance notice of the schedule. 
  • Be wary of the clopen problem, as lapses in your process will incur heavy audit fines. 

Employee scheduling software prunes out many of these issues: saving your time to focus on important tasks (rather than scheduling) as most of the features are automated via an algorithm.

7. Use scheduling app

For a growing company with many variables, using an efficient system is key. This way, you’ll be able to identify open shifts, manage every shift assignment, and tackle scheduling issues.  

Scheduling software acts as an aid for a perfect scheduling solution. 

A scheduling tool can help you:

  • Schedule tasks and shifts.
  • Streamline staff member workflow.
  • Help verify shift overlaps.
  • Avoid a clopen problem and prevent any over scheduling conflict. 
  • Customize schedule options
  • Evaluate schedules using real-time metrics like attendance. 

All of this is necessary to create a successful work week schedule. 

And this is where a scheduling app like Time Doctor comes in.

What’s Time Doctor?

Time Doctor Homepage

Time Doctor is a powerful employee time tracking and performance management tool used by major companies, like Ericsson, as well as by small businesses, like Thrive Market, to boost productivity across the board. 

Here’s how Time Doctor can help you improve your scheduling process:

  • Track time manually or automatically with in-built time trackers.
  • Get deep insights into employee attendance issues with the attendance report. 
  • Create shift schedules and custom employee schedules with the work schedule feature.
  • Monitor real-time data with accurate reports to easily analyze productivity, time spent on a project or task for accurate billing, and more.
  • Set up and customize payroll, automate timesheets for easy payments, and integrate with payment providers such as PayPal.

8. Vacation & leave management

Absentee management is really easy with an employee scheduling app

The scheduling software allows employees to apply for leaves, so the managers and HR department can quickly approve or deny vacations. 

It can remind employees how many leaves are remaining in a month to plan their vacations accordingly. These tools can also integrate with calendars and give timely shift reminders to employees – reducing the overall workload for the HR department. 

3 key benefits of efficient employee scheduling 

Let’s take a look at the benefits of efficient scheduling:

1. Reduces employee stress

A reliable schedule is a crucial factor in the growth story, as it creates a happy workplace for employees

Scheduling is indeed an art that makes all the difference. It factors in the personal needs of every worker, giving them a stress-free environment to employ their skills. 

2. Improves business efficiency

A fair and flexible schedule lets the staff thrive and increases employee retention. This means a boosted staff morale and a lower turnover rate, saving plenty of time and money.  

Better work-life balance also reduces scheduling mishaps, as there is no burnout.

When the work atmosphere ticks all of the above checkboxes, your team enjoys working. This makes way for a happier and better-served customer base.

3. Enforces legal compliance

Staying on top of scheduling needs through skilled workforce management helps you automatically comply with legal laws. 

Using scheduling software can help you here as it reduces the risk and labor costs by optimizing employee time. Most employee scheduling software also comes with automated checks for violation, customization, auditing, relaying notes, etc. 

Wrapping up

Employee scheduling doesn’t have to be that difficult.

All you have to do is tailor a scheduling process to suit your business needs. Stay clear of data anomalies and schedule imbalances by tracking, optimizing, and managing with an employee scheduler tool. 

Go over these powerful yet simple scheduling solutions that we have laid out for you, and you’ll be able to master the art of scheduling!

View a free demo of Time Doctor

help managers focus on what matters most
time doctor ratings

Related Posts