scheduling conflict

7 Expert Tips for Handling Scheduling Conflicts

Scheduling conflicts are an inevitable part of managing a team and a business. But you can put policies in place to handle these conflicts when they arise and even take steps to prevent them from happening in the first place. Learn how in this article.

Here’s what we’ll discuss:

Common scheduling conflicts

Calendar to prevent scheduling conflict

Scheduling conflicts are events that create problems for the efficient and productive flow of your team’s workday.

These conflicts typically fall into three broad categories:

  • Conflicts caused by customers or clients
  • Conflicts caused by mistakes in the schedule itself
  • Conflicts caused by unforeseen personal needs

While all three may seem like similar occurrences, the last two are very different from the first.

The first type of conflict — those caused by customers or clients — has more to do with external forces and variables that are often beyond your control.

Handling them is a matter of setting up standard operating procedures that allow your team to rearrange their work to accommodate canceled appointments and customer no-shows.

The last two types of conflicts — mistakes in the schedule and unforeseen personal needs — have more to do with internal forces and variables and are very much under your control.

As a manager or owner, you can create policies and practices that make these conflicts easier to overcome and even prevent them from occurring in the first place.

For the remainder of this article, we’ll focus on the most common internal scheduling conflicts that most businesses experience at one time or another.

1) Double bookings

This scheduling conflict occurs when you accidentally schedule one employee to work in two places, or with two different responsibilities, at the same time.

For example, employee A may be scheduled to work Monday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at both of your business’s two locations. Or, employee A may be scheduled to work on project one and project two at the same time.

A team member can’t be in two places — or do two things — at once, so the only solution is to rearrange the schedule.

2) Overlapping events

Overlapping events are very common scheduling conflicts that occur when two tasks, or two shifts within the workday, start and end within the same period of time.

For example, employee A may be scheduled to attend a meeting that runs from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., but they are also scheduled to attend a different meeting that runs from 10:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

Again, employee A can’t be in two places at once, so the only solution is to rearrange the schedule.

3) Booking an unavailable time slot

Pins on a calendar

Depending on the type of schedule your business maintains, booking an unavailable time slot may not be something you have to worry about.

If your business is only open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., the only way to book an unavailable time slot would be if you accidentally scheduled an employee to also work 1:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.

If, however, you’re also scheduling team tasks within the 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. workday, you may accidentally schedule them to engage in a task during their lunch break — a time when they are, technically, unavailable for work.

4) Booking an unavailable team member

Booking an unavailable time slot may be unlikely for your business, but booking an unavailable team member can happen to anyone.

This scheduling conflict occurs when you assign someone to work on a day that they’ve already been given permission to take off.

For example, back in April, employee A requested June 5th off to take their mother to the doctor — and you granted her permission. In May, as you’re creating the June schedule, you accidentally schedule employee A to work on June 5th.

5) Last-minute employee cancelation

As scheduling conflicts go, last-minute employee cancellations are the most common. These happen when an employee fails to show up for work or calls in to tell you that they can’t make it for whatever reason.

These scheduling conflicts are, by far, the most disruptive, because your team is left short-staffed unless you can find a replacement to work in their stead.

Tips for handling scheduling conflicts

Setting up scheduling

1) Publish the schedule well in advance

To help avoid scheduling conflicts, publish the first draft of your staff rota well in advance so that you and your employees have time to:

  • Plan your personal lives around the work schedule
  • Make the needed changes when activities conflict

If you release the schedule the day before it goes into effect, your team members won’t have time to make accommodations for work and personal appointments.

2) Make the schedule available anywhere, anytime

Scheduling conflicts often occur because employees don’t have access to the schedule when they’re making plans outside of work.

With modern workforce management software, however, you can store frequently-used team documents — like the work schedule — in the cloud where employees can access them anywhere, anytime.

3) Allow employees to self-schedule

A simple and effective way to prevent scheduling conflicts is to allow your employees to self-schedule.

Start by scheduling one or two of your best employees for each shift. Then, give everyone access to this incomplete schedule and allow them to fill in when they want to work.

4) Take advantage of automation

Take advantage of automation to prevent scheduling conflict

Advanced workforce management software helps you handle and prevent scheduling conflicts by automating a large portion of the process.

With a single tap or click, you can instruct the app to find and schedule an employee for a specific shift on a specific day based on variables such as:

In some cases, you can incorporate such information as absenteeism rates and even past weather data to help avoid scheduling conflicts.

The system then sorts through the relevant information, finds a candidate, and inserts them into the schedule.

5) Make employees responsible for finding substitutes

Giving your employees the responsibility for finding a substitute to cover a shift they can’t work is a great way to handle scheduling conflicts that arise because a team member has to attend to an emergency outside of work.

Instead of an employee calling you (or texting or emailing) to say they can’t come in, they can send out a notification informing everyone that their shift is up for grabs and then follow through with lining up someone to take their place.

6) Build an availability chart

Building an availability chart for those times when an employee can’t find their own substitute is an easy and effective way to handle scheduling conflicts as well.

The simplest version is just a list of each employee and what days and times they’re willing to work (aside from their regular shifts) if you need them.

A more complicated version is another work schedule listing available employees who can come in on short notice (kind of like an on-call schedule).

7) Create a backup for your backup

With a good availability chart in place, you may never need to go this deep into searching for an employee to help you handle scheduling conflicts, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.

Set up a list of former employees, part-time team members, and prospective employees who interviewed but didn’t get hired as a backup to your backup.

Prevent scheduling conflicts with Sling

Woman checking scheduling calendar

One of the best ways to prevent scheduling conflicts from throwing a monkey wrench in your workflow is to use workforce management software, like Sling.

The Sling suite of tools makes it possible — and extremely easy — for teams of all sizes to access the schedule anywhere and anytime, self-schedule when necessary, take advantage of automation, communicate freely, and find substitutes with a few clicks or taps.

For more free resources to help you manage your business, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit today.

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