How to Effectively Manage Staff Scheduling During Holiday Seasons

The bane of many managers’ lives is coordinating staff rotas during holiday seasons. Staff scheduling during busy periods can lead to sleepless nights and stressful days, if not controlled correctly. In this blog, WhosOffice explains how to manage staff scheduling effectively.

Public holidays are something to look forward to, with Christmas, Easter and Bank Holidays bringing the promise of an extra day off or block of time away from work. But while you’re wishing for your next holiday to come sooner, your managers are doing the opposite.

Not because they don’t want time off; it’s the stress of staff scheduling that weighs heavily on their minds. For large enterprises with a significant number of staff, all with different working patterns and demands, keeping track of who’s available isn’t easy. Equally, for SMEs, bosses want to honour holiday entitlements without the company grinding to a halt.

With the reputation of the business on the line, managerial staff can’t afford for their team to be under-resourced. But without spending hours at the desk crunching the numbers and creating complicated spreadsheets and rotas, how can you effectively manage staff scheduling during public holidays and peak periods?

In this blog post, the team at WhosOffice have come together to share their expertise. Read on to find out more!

Ringfence holiday requests

Let’s face it, most of us want to book holidays during popular periods in the year, such as Christmas and the summer. And while most businesses do all they can to accommodate for this, certain industries simply can’t shut up shop or allowa huge number of staff to be off at the same time.

In shift-based industries such as retail, hospitality and healthcare in particular,  staff are still needed to work during public holidays —in some cases, right round the clock. As such, scheduling staff means striking a delicate balance between giving people the time off they want, and keeping the organisation running effectively.

There are two ways that managerial and HR staff can walk this line effectively. Firstly, it’s vital to plan shifts effectively in advance, to establish exactly what people are needed and when. This way, minimum requirements are clearly laid out before any leave requests are processed – and online shift planning software can make short work of putting advance schedules in place. Secondly, clear policies need to be developed and implemented to ensure that every employee understands the protocol on public holidays. While it may be easy to let everyone take the day off in some businesses, other organisations may wish to ringfence holiday requests, so that people cannot automatically assume that a Bank Holiday means a day off work.

This doesn’t mean to say that time off can’t be requested; however, companies need an effective way of managing annual leave applications in line with shift plans, to make sure that time off is allocated fairly, and that adequate cover is still in place.

Give your team the reins

Shift planning is a lot for any one person to manage, especially if they are dealing with other employee admin, such as controlling the holiday calendar. In an ideal scenario, the workload should be shared – while still giving senior staff overall authority.

This democratic approach to staff scheduling can be achieved in two ways, both of which involve shift planning software.

Firstly, investing in a scheduling platform that every member of the team can access centrally is the easiest way to ‘divide and conquer’ shift planning. While team leaders will still need to be responsible for putting the actual shift patterns together (too many cooks spoil the broth), it’s much easier to collaborate with colleagues when everyone is using the same digital system. Equally, general employees can be given limited access to certain functions – such as checking their rota online or volunteering for open shift opportunities, cutting down the admin burden on their managers.

Secondly, effective shift planning relies on an accurate record of staff availability, and this part can be delegated to any member of the team. By choosing a shift planning platform with a built-in holiday calendar, staff can log and manage their own leave requests online, and this can be synchronised with upcoming schedules to show exactly who’s available to work on key dates such as peak and public holidays.

Create quick response capabilities

In businesses where each member of staff brings different skills to the table, it can be even harder to ensure that you get your staffing levels right when scheduling rotas during peak times.

The features we’ve already talked about make it much easier for employees at all levels to visualise shift plans easily, so that adequate cover can be arranged. But importantly, an easy-to-see overview makes it much easier to spot problems – and respond to them quickly.

Good shift planning software will flag when a mistake has been made, such as scheduling someone to work when they’ve booked time off, or allocating hours outside an employee’s contract. Armed with this information, managerial staff can look at who can replace that person, updating and sharing that rota in advance of the shift.

By striking this balance of flexibility and attention to detail, shift-based businesses have the ideal approach to manage staff workload effectively – particularly during challenging times like peak annual leave periods and public holidays, when time off is in highest demand.