Running or managing a business with full-time and part-time staff is, more often than not, about coordinating and scheduling your employees. It’s a thankless task and one which can eat up a great number of hours in the working week as you deal individually with each member of staff regarding their hours and responsibilities.

For lots of businesses, the tried and tested method of charting staff hours and events out on pen and paper or an excel spreadsheet is still in use, but both have serious limitations that slow you down and could lead to confusion amongst your staff.

Thankfully, there are better ways to go about staff scheduling rather than just good old pen and paper. We’ll explain how to schedule your staff and highlight the different tools you can use to make scheduling easier.


What makes an employee schedule effective? 

An employee schedule should be the hub of information that employees turn to, to organise and plan their time. The schedule should be detailed and accessible and include the following features as a minimum:


  • Accurate and reflective of employee availability

  • Align with data such as sales numbers

  • Easy to understand and share across platforms

  • Comply with local laws and regulations

An effective employee schedule will consider team members’ skill level and experience, ensuring that employees aren’t assigned to tasks that they aren’t trained in. The schedule should also avoid typical errors like double booking staff or putting people down at times they’re not actually available.

To schedule your staff effectively, you must consider factors inside and outside your business’ control. Internal factors relate to staff availability and roles, and external factors can be the number of sales made.


How to schedule staff 

We’ll explain how to schedule your staff in a few simple steps to keep your business on track for success.


Consider your capacity in advance 

Planning is the key to successful employee scheduling. Making sure you have enough staff for busy periods ensures that customers receive the level of service they expect. On the other hand, making sure you aren’t overstaffed for certain shifts will benefit your finances. View historical booking data and appointments already scheduled to work out how many employees you need. 

You may find common themes and seasonal trends in the data. For example, activity centres will likely be busier during the summer months whilst spa retreats may have increased bookings at weekends. When viewing your staff schedule, you may have to recruit more employees that are available to work at these peak hours.


Assess employee availability 

A scheduling app can help you assess employee availability and view attendance statistics to see when team members normally work. Understanding when your employees like to be scheduled will improve morale and create a positive company culture.

To achieve this, you can give employees full control and let them choose regular shift patterns in the scheduling app. They will also be able to see unassigned extra shifts and take the chance to work overtime if they wish.

Team availability can be influenced by preferred working hours (some employees may work better in the morning, some may prefer to work weekdays), other commitments like childcare, annual leave and sickness. When you use a scheduling app, you can see each team member's availability in a calendar view, so it’s easy to access the information you need to schedule people.


Adhere to regulations on working hours 

UK regulations on working hours and rest periods should always be on your mind when scheduling staff. The regulations on how long an employee can work a week differ depending on age and the type of work, so check out the regulations on working hours on the government website.


Make a list of employees that need extra shifts

When managing capacity and scheduling staff, it’s important to know who would like to work additional shifts. Some employees would love the chance to earn more money and have the time to work more often. Checking this detail could save you from having to recruit an extra employee - saving costs and maximising efficiency. 

Create and update in real-time a list of employees that are willing to work the hours. If you have people cancel their shift at the last minute or have an emergency to deal with, the list will be easy to access and help will be on the way in no time.


Automatically send the schedule 

As soon as the schedule is created, it should be automatically sent to employees and updated in real-time. Having the schedule in advance improves communication and everyone knows where they stand.

With a scheduling app, everything is online so you remove the hassle of creating rotas on loose pieces of paper. As well as increasing the chances of employees seeing it, they can view their schedule from their phone anywhere, at any time.


Allow employees to access and change the schedule 

Employees will have peace of mind if they can access and change their schedules. Last-minute commitments can crop up, and in the age of flexible working, staff will appreciate employers that give them the freedom to manage their time. 

Of course, you should set some boundaries. For example, members may only be able to change their schedule 24-48 hours before the shift starts. Or in the event of an emergency staff can change their schedule and utilise the list of people that are open to extra hours.

With a scheduling app, employees of all levels can make schedule changes, which takes the load off managers and improves business efficiency.


Reassess the schedule regularly 

Once you’ve done all the groundwork and created your first staff schedule using the scheduling app, don’t get complacent. It can be easy to copy the same schedule every week, but this relies on nothing changing from the week prior.

Reassess the schedule regularly to ensure that it reflects current staff availability, business capacity and bookings taken. Remember to take your opening hours into account - do you have extended or reduced opening hours at certain times of the year?


Best tools for scheduling employees

The method of scheduling employees with complex spreadsheets and stray pieces of paper is a thing of the past. It’s not effective and technology has advanced so much that there are loads of alternatives to choose from. From messaging services to dedicated scheduling apps, we’ll give a rundown of the best tools for scheduling employees.


Slack Channel 

Slack has made an impression in the business world over the last couple of years, and it’s easy to see why. Their super fast instant messaging platform has dozens of fantastic business focussed features like channels, drag and drop sharing and instant search. You can also host video calls/conference calls for when staff are working from home.

It’s also handy for managing schedules within your business. Set up a dedicated ‘schedules’ channel in your team’s slack group to create a space solely dedicated to the latest schedule information. Whether you want to swap shifts or assign an employee to a certain location at a specific time, you can let people have updates on the go.

You can drag and drop an excel sheet in the channel so your staff can see what the latest hours are, or simply discuss who’s doing what and when. Its greatest asset is in helping staff find cover for their shift.

Another benefit of Slack is that it's multiplatform, with applications built for Windows, iOS, Android and Windows Phone.


Shared Google Calendar 

When it comes to business tools, there’s no company quite like Google. Whilst many businesses have begun to adopt Google Docs for its collaborative writing and editing tools, Google Calendars remain a somewhat underutilised tool for scheduling.

Its main advantage comes from the deep integration that Google Calendars offer with smartphones, letting your staff see their shifts from anywhere, at any time, with updates sent live to their devices.

To start a shared Google Calendar, create a new calendar and begin to add events as your shifts, ensuring that you include your employee's email address as an attendee of the event. With your schedules set, invite your employees to subscribe to the calendar and sit back as your staff enjoy their latest schedule. It’s not perfect, but with so many people already using Google’s services, it’s accessible.


BookingLive’s Scheduling Software 

BookingLive enables your business to take secure bookings 24/7 on any internet enabled device, but that’s just one of its many features. Most interestingly for this conversation, BookingLive's system allows an admin to assign staff to the events they create within the system. These staff will then be unavailable for clashing events as a result of this.

Say, for example, you run a tour guide service. Your 1 PM tour is listed as an event within the system, you can then assign a member of staff to, which they can clearly see on their schedule. The system will automatically make these members of staff unavailable for any clashing events. That solves one of the biggest problems when it comes to scheduling – awkward clashes and double bookings, avoiding extra stress on staff and disappointment in customers.

Learn more about the best free scheduling apps on our blog.


Get started with BookingLive for free 

BookingLive offers a leading scheduling solution to help you manage your appointments, organise staff and improve your business operations. Automating admin tasks, sending reminders, processing payments, and assisting your marketing strategy are some of the many capabilities. 

If you’d like to chat with our expert team to learn more, call 0800 1310 342 or email We also offer demos of the Enterprise booking system and you can sign up for a free small business account here.