Scheduling politics can get pretty tense depending on the place of work. Everyone has their ideal schedule and no HR policy can hope to meet everyone’s exact desires. You want to keep your staff happy, but you have to do it in a way that is fair.  

What is an HR worker to do? In this article, we take a look at a few ways you can help ensure fair scheduling practices. 

The Problem

Many jobs, such as those in the hospital setting, involve working nights or on holidays. If an employee gets too many undesirable shifts in a row they will most likely experience workplace dissatisfaction. Taken to the extreme, it may result in turnover, or worse yet, depression and anxiety. 

By prioritizing employee wellness, it is possible to make scheduling fairer for everyone in your place of work. 

scheduling practices
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Scheduling Software

There are HR tools that turn scheduling into a science. Using algorithms, these apps can break down schedules using customized perimeters, the result being that everyone gets a fairly distributed division of shifts. 

A perfect fix? Not quite. The word “fair” in this context may be relative to the unique needs and expectations of your staff. Some people might enjoy night shift. Others might appreciate holiday hours for the enhanced pay. 

Still, applications provide a dependable starting place from which you can establish your baseline schedule. From there it’s important to….


That’s right. No app can replace good old-fashioned communication. Although ironically enough, they can certainly help enhance it. Many of the same scheduling applications described above will also include communication features. Discussion zones where team members can talk with one another, make scheduling requests, volunteer for shifts, etc. 

Even with great communication, you will never be able to meet every request or satisfy everyone’s preferences. Nevertheless, communication increases your odds of addressing everyone’s needs while also having the added benefit of helping your staff feel appreciated and heard. 

Hear Everyone

Some people will inevitably be much more outspoken than others. It may be the squeaky wheel that gets the grease, but when it comes to scheduling, fair practices should be available even to the shy. Communication tools are a great starting point, but if you notice someone is staying quiet, don’t necessarily assume that they don’t have preferences. 

It may simply be that they aren’t the sort of person comfortable speaking up in a public setting. Consider reaching out from time to time to make sure everyone is satisfied with your scheduling practices. 

Notice is Important

Make sure that when you have to make adjustments to your schedule, they happen with adequate notice. This isn’t always possible. People skip shifts, things change suddenly. Sometimes last minute calls are inevitable. 

Nevertheless, the more notice you can give your staff, the happier they will ultimately be. 

Recognize the Human Element of the Situation

A little bit of recognition goes a long way toward employee satisfaction. No one wants to be handed a schedule and told “This is how it is, now and forever until we change our minds.” You didn’t say that before, of course, but that can be how it feels to the stressed-out employee who is already at the end of their rope. 

If you’re giving someone a tough schedule, think about acknowledging that you did. “I’m sorry, I know you don’t like nights. I’ll try to set you up right next week.” Simple statements like that can go a long way towards smoothing over an unpopular choice and just generally making the team members feel like they are valued as an individual. 

About 90% of working people say that recognition encourages them to work harder while improving their overall sense of workplace satisfaction. Even by acknowledging that you know a person won’t like to work nights, you prove that you care and are listening. 

Make Your Scheduling Formula an Ongoing Process

It’s also wise to go into the process with the understanding that your scheduling policies will never be written in stone. In fact, to maximize their effectiveness, you should make a point of keeping them as flexible and fluid as possible. 

Taking a rigid approach only shuts down your receptiveness to feedback, or even new technologies that have the potential to improve the process. 

Work with what you have and stay in the moment. A schedule that is pleasing one month may not go over the next. By being receptive to that concept, you can consistently create the best possible schedule. 

Make Hour Distribution Policies Clear

It’s important to keep in mind that “fair” doesn’t necessarily mean “even.” In fact, in certain situations fairness might dictate distributing hours based on merit. If you have to dole out shifts based on how your employees perform, make sure they understand the criteria they are being evaluated against, and what they will have to do if they want to get better hours. 

Some people may still wind up frustrated with the hours they get, but at least they won’t be able to say it caught them off guard.