The benefits of self-scheduling: requesting employee availability no longer works

Letting your team choose the shifts they want to work may be a nice incentive for team morale and retention – but it can also be the ultimate blessing to remove most scheduling headaches for everyone.

Schedules are very personal. The best schedules are created by the calendar owner themselves!

What’s wrong with regular scheduling?

Generally speaking – nothing. At companies with regular 9-5 hours there’s not even much to schedule. Managers who want to provide flexibility may offer the option to choose alternative working hours, and some companies do not enforce hour tracking at all.

But in some industries it isn’t an option to let your employees get work done on random evenings and weekends. For example, retail, hospitality and healthcare services can only be provided at a certain time and place – and therefore require detailed schedule planning.

For these shift-based teams, calendar planning is usually a multi-step process.

  • Request employees to submit their availability or day off requests
  • Create a work schedule for each employee
  • Publish schedules to employees
  • Spend a lot of time re-scheduling when employees remember the personal commitments they forgot to report

Creating a schedule that works for everyone and covers the necessary demand is an intense job that managers tackle on a monthly basis. 

Employees can have many valid reasons for not sticking to their announced availability during the time it takes to publish the schedule.

  • They have family commitments that often appear last moment
  • They work multiple jobs, and juggle two or more schedules at the same time 
  • They have some personal agenda like school or hobbies that gets scheduled on the go

With the whole world moving towards a more impulsive lifestyle, regular scheduling is also becoming more and more exhausting for shift-based teams.

What is the advantage of self-scheduling?

Giving the employees a responsibility for their own schedules can solve most of the conflicts described above.

The autonomy to be in control of their schedule makes people more motivated to show up and get things done. After all, they’ve chosen to work these days, and it’s a different perspective from being assigned to a schedule made by someone else.

Of course it’s impossible to account for all emergencies that prevent people from showing up to the job, but selecting their own shifts makes them much more likely to account for all the possible obstructions.

Managing a self-scheduled team also takes off a lot of administrative burden from the employers, as the employees fill in most of the schedule by themselves. There may be some leftover shifts that need to be assigned, but this is certainly much less work than piecing together a whole schedule. 

Even when companies use AI-based scheduling tools that do most of the work in terms of forecasting the staff demand and prescribing relevant working hours, the robot planner won’t be able to magically read the mind of all employees. It will still be the manager’s job to move shifts around until all workers confirm the schedule. Setting up a self-scheduling process only requires the manager for a final cleanup.

Self-scheduling and shift-bidding 

For companies with shift-based work it can be extremely worthwhile to establish a process for self-scheduling. Some managers delegate the whole scheduling to the employees, and some leave 25% of the schedule open as a flexibility perk. 

Either way, the open shifts need to be easily accessible for employee signup. Self-scheduling can be as simple as having a staff meeting where everyone collectively fills in their name on the whiteboard. The digital alternative for this is creating a public spreadsheet online. 

For more convenient scheduling, teams can use planning and scheduling apps that support self-signup. Some apps will also let employees do shift-bidding – allowing them to request suitable shifts but still leaving the final word of confirmation to the manager.

Guidelines for self-scheduling

Don’t forget about practical issues when selecting a method for self-scheduling. Even with self-scheduling, your final calendar should comply with the relevant business rules and legislation.

  • What is your way for blocking employees from booking overtime
  • What is your way of checking schedule compatibility with local labor laws (Working Hours Act etc.)

Digital tools allow setting these data points as limitations, as well as certain qualifications or requirements for some shifts. For example, shift managers can have a separate schedule, but on some days a person with manager qualifications can still pick a shift from the regular operations calendar.

See our recommendations for self-scheduling tools in this blog post – or jump straight to the Zelos Team Management page and check out our super simple and free team scheduling app that has both self-signup and shift-bidding capabilities. Just go to our product page and create a free account to get started!