9 Ways to Create Fair Work Schedules in the Workplace

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how to schedule employees fairly

Creating fair work schedules is often pushed to the bottom of an HR team’s list of priorities, but failing to take scheduling seriously has significant consequences for your company. 

If you don’t create schedules that reflect the needs of your workforce, you run the risk of unbalanced workloads, staff shortages, complaints of favoritism, and, at worst, increased employee turnover.

Instead of leaving it up to chance, it’s vital to streamline the scheduling process and make sure it works for everyone. 

The result? 

Improved employee morale, and increased employee engagement in the long haul. With that in mind, let’s explore how to schedule employees fairly with scheduling tips for managers. 

What Makes a Schedule Fair for Employees?

A fair schedule for employees takes into account the needs of every individual.

When managing a workforce (especially for shift-based work), it won’t always be possible to schedule everybody at their preferred time. 

This doesn’t mean, however, that employee preferences should be discarded.

By giving employees notice ahead of time when publishing a new schedule, accommodating vacation and sick days when possible, and distributing shifts evenly, you’ll keep your workforce happy, healthy, and productive. 

What Are the Benefits of a Fair Staff Schedule? 

Every employer benefits from higher staff retention, reduced labor costs, and a workforce that can help you meet business demands. 

Here’s how a fair staff schedule can make those benefits a reality:

Scheduling to meet business demands

When was the last time you went above and beyond to meet the needs of somebody who didn’t appreciate your time? 

Probably, never. The same goes for your employees.

The more you try to accommodate their needs, the more flexible your staff will be when it comes to scheduling to meet business demands. 

If you give your employee time off for that holiday they’ve been planning for years, they’ll be more inclined to help when you need some last-minute extra hands on a busy Saturday evening. 

Higher staff & higher staff retention

Happy staff are more likely to stay at your company, more likely to work hard, and ultimately, more likely to help you make money.

With the average employee costing 6 to 9 months’ salary to replace, keeping valuable staff is more important than ever. 

Creating fair work schedules in the workplace shows staff that you respect their time both at work and outside of work.

Plus, it allows employees a better work-life balance and reduces claims of favoritism. 

To put it simply, the fairer the schedule, the happier the staff. 

Manage labor costs with more precision

If you rely on just a few employees to work for the majority of the hours, the overtime costs soon add up. 

To keep a closer eye on your labor costs and keep overtime to a minimum, make a fair work schedule with the help of performance management tools, such as Voilà! 

9 Tips for Creating Fair Work Schedules

Here are some employee scheduling tips to keep your workforce happy and productive:

1. Talk to your employees

Even if you understand how to make a fair work schedule, it’s not always possible.

 There will be occasions where you have to say no to an employee because of business needs, and in these situations, it’s crucial to have open dialogue for transparency. 

Asking honest questions about rotation preferences ensures honest answers, and allows you to do your best to accommodate everybody’s needs. Ask employees to share their preferences, when they’re willing to compromise, and what are their non-negotiables.

It’s useful to find out the shifts they prefer, which shifts they can’t work on, and which shifts they’ll work if the need arises. 

Communication really is key.

With that information, you can do your best to schedule employees in a way that makes sense for everybody’s individual needs, but also works for your business. Your efforts to include employees won’t go unnoticed. 

2. Define your rules

Define rules that best fit your employees’ needs.

For example, balance unpopular shifts to ensure everyone takes a night or weekend shift once in a while. 

Better yet, you can prioritize those with the fewest hours and set recurring shifts to include one weekend day per two weeks for every employee, or work with balancing hours.

Adopting this method also ensures there’s no favoritism when it comes to scheduling shifts. 

Example of some scheduling rules: 

To best look after your employees’ wellbeing and reduce overtime costs, put in rules that limit the amount of time a given employee spends working in one go. 

Examples of scheduling rules include: 

  • No overtime over 12 hours
  • No closing shift followed by an opening shift
  • No one employee working more than 50 hours in a given week

3. Agree on fairness and implement an optimal process to ensure it

Now that you’ve agreed on a fair scheduling process with your employees, it’s time to put it into action. 

Using a smart employee scheduling tool and workforce management app like Voilà! allows you to streamline the rotation process by creating rules through custom variables such as seniority, accumulated hours, and performance.

That way, you can automate the scheduling process within the rules you’ve set out to keep your schedules fair and inclusive. 

4. Streamline the process in your scheduling tool

Once you have your process in place, it’s time to set up your priorities. 

Whether it be basing it on seniority, job title/role, or balancing shift, it’s best to set them right away. Plan schedules weeks ahead but always allow room for flexibility to take place. 

You can also take it a step further by setting different assignment steps, starting by seniority, for example, and, after reaching a certain level, offering a shift to employees with the least scheduled hours so everyone has a chance to prove themselves and enjoy flexible scheduling.

Use Voilà! to your advantage

 Once you’ve identified your chosen scheduling patterns, you can save time with Voilà!’s scheduling templates

You can add employees and group them for department and team, to make for easier shift-swapping and a better overview of each team’s rota.

While managing and reporting on labor costs all from one place. 


5. Communicate changes and continue to optimize 

Like most things in life, nothing is set in stone. 

Don’t be afraid to test your process and adapt! 

Some things make sense on paper, but in practice, there’s always room for improvement. It’s important to adapt your scheduling process based on your employee’s performance and emotional well-being. 

After all, nobody should work shifts they dislike. 

If a certain shift is leaving employees working poorly or they are just miserable about it, it’s time to re-adjust. 

When it comes to creating rotating shifts, variety is key to creating balance.

Optimizing your rotations ensures favoritism isn’t taking place and builds employee trust.

6. Support employees when needed 

As an employer, it’s crucial to show empathy and understanding when employees find themselves in a situation that means they have to change a shift at the last minute. 

If a member of staff needs to swap shifts unexpectedly, support them by helping them find a replacement. If one of your employees is going through a hard time, allow them to take paid time off if they need it. 

Smart scheduling can help make this process easier, by allowing you to find a suitable replacement that’s ready to work at the touch of a button.  

7. Have a plan for vacation and sick days 

Owners and managers should have a plan in place for how they handle vacation days and sick days. 

This could be by placing a seniority-type system for vacation and limiting the number of sick days one can take off in a year, or alternative ways to handle vacation and sick days, such as rotating which employees get to select their holidays first every year.

Once your system is in place, you can do away with time-consuming manual requests once and for all with Voilà!’s leave management solution, which automates employee leave on one handy platform. 

8. Forecast demand to avoid overtime for certain employees 

As it is, labor costs are increasing exponentially. 

Paying out overtime only increases labor costs, leaving you with less money to spend on innovation, profit maximization, and employee rewards. 

The key to avoiding paying too much overtime is forecasting demand. With scheduling software, you can see in advance how many staff members you’ll need and when, allowing you to schedule enough workers in advance instead of relying on one or two employees to work overtime shifts. 

Plus, distributing hours more evenly across the workforce leads to a fairer workplace where nobody feels left out or undervalued. 

9. Share the schedule well in advance 

Nobody likes to have an obligation dumped on them at the last minute, and your employees are no different. 

If you only inform staff of their shifts the night before, it won’t come as a surprise that many employees will be unavailable.

 By scheduling shifts well in advance using smart scheduling software, you can give employees plenty of notice to change or swap their shifts if they can’t attend while showing that you respect their time. 

The Bottom Line

Creating fair work schedules in the workplace doesn’t have to be difficult, especially with automated technology. 

Making sure everybody has their needs accommodated as well as possible involves clear communication, defined scheduling rules, flexibility, and having a good idea of demand in advance. 

Your employees (and your bottom line!) will thank you for it. 

Once you understand how to schedule employees fairly, with the help of Voilà!, you can create scheduling processes that work for you and your employees with minimal fuss. 

Need to manage last-minute changes from the palm of your hand? No problem.

Want to find your ideal fit for every available shift? We’ve got you covered.

Voilà! makes scheduling employees fairly easier than ever before. 

For more information on how Voilà! can revolutionize your scheduling processes, book a free demo today.