April 15, 2018

Scheduling Conflicts: The Most Common Staffing Issue and How to Solve It


Common employee scheduling conflicts occur when two events compete for an employee’s attention. Not only is this type of occurrence stressful for staff members, but it’s also damaging for productivity, as it can lead to unexpected absences and missed shifts. It is vital that line managers and schedule administrators optimize workforce management processes to prevent this staffing issue. Although some last-minute absences cannot be avoided, neglecting scheduling conflicts could lead to disgruntled staff members and increased employee turnover.


One of the most common employee scheduling conflicts occurs when a member of staff is scheduled to work at two locations or two conflicting positions at the same time. Usually, this happens when different line managers have access to the roster and make changes without efficient internal communication. To prevent this, the schedule should be stored in the cloud, so all changes are immediately visible to all stakeholders. Also, it is recommended to designate a single employee for staff scheduling to minimize the risk of mistakes and miscoordination.

Not enough breaks between shifts

Another common employee scheduling conflict occurs when shifts have been poorly assigned in a way that an employee doesn’t have a sufficient break between their two shifts. This often happens to businesses with recurring shifts and 24/7 coverage. If your employee has covered night shifts for the entire week and is then scheduled to go straight back on to the day shift, they won’t have enough time to adjust, which can adversely affect their mental and physical health. The same goes for working double-shifts, when an employee is scheduled to cover two shifts in a row. This can be detrimental for staff morale and productivity. If employees feel tired or overworked, they will not be able to give their best and could quit in frustration. In some industries, such as healthcare, fatigue due to poor staff scheduling is frequent and critical, as it can diminish the quality of patient care.

Scheduling conflicts and compliance

An increasing number of states are updating their labor regulation and adopting predictive scheduling requirements. Although adapting to these changes is challenging, organizations can leverage them as a selling point, given that predictive, flexible schedules can be a strategic advantage, attracting top performers and ensuring maximum productivity.

However, some businesses still do not need to adhere to these policies, so scheduling conflicts and other workforce management issues persist. An example would be the so-called clopening shifts, when a member of the staff is scheduled to work a closing shift, and then an opening shift the next day. This is not only tiresome for the employee, but also against the labor law in some states.

Resolving these common scheduling conflicts is where an employee scheduling platform can come in handy, as it provides line managers with a clear overview of who is working when, which staff members are available, and whether there’s a risk of overtime. More robust platforms even allow for shift trades, so staff members have more ownership over their working hours and can find a colleague to cover for them in no time.

The demands of any business can create dilemmas for most managers, and they can be tempted to try and inflict less than ideal employee schedules on staff as a way to meet these demands. In the long-run though, this can be very counterproductive—for the bottom line and the team.