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Time is precious. It’s something once spent, you can never get back.

As a manager and/or business owner, making the most of time is crucial. There are so many hours in the day, let alone the business day, and it may seem like your to-do list is never ending. Regardless of how you plan your schedule, you never know when an issue will arise that will require your immediate attention.

A recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) poll of managers of hourly staff indicated that they spend anywhere from one hour to 12 hours per week on scheduling and shift-swapping alone! Scheduling is an important part of running a business, but in a standard 40-hour work week, it shouldn’t take 25% of available hours to schedule your entire staff. Utilizing technology can help make the most of your time by automating tasks.

Finding ways to better organize and manage labor schedules is a key component to proper business efficiency, especially in the convenience or grocery industries with a variety of hourly workers to manage. There are several scheduling apps, software or other solutions available that are little to no cost to use.

Automating labor scheduling can help your organization in many ways:

1. Managers will be able to use their time on value-added processes

If you’re spending 12 hours per week on scheduling, that means you have fewer hours to train, improve customer service, recruit, analyze sales numbers, manage your employees, and perform other tasks that are needed to run a successful and profitable business. Shift scheduling software helps automate the actual scheduling process, sends out notifications to staff, helps you manage approving shift adjustments, and aligns your schedule to your demand – all resulting in fewer hours of your day managing labor scheduling.

2. Increased employee engagement

Would you ever guess that a predictable or set schedule would play a part in employee engagement? Providing a predictable schedule that employees expect from week to week affords them the ability to manage their work-life balance. If they know they will have Tuesday afternoons off every week, scheduling routine appointments and time to themselves becomes easier for them and they won’t need to take other time off from work to make those events.

3. Better communication and expectations

If the labor schedule is available electronically or on your employee’s phones, they are better able to manage their time outside of work, find replacement workers faster, understand their schedule and you’ll likely hear less “I didn’t see the schedule” excuses. Plus, depending on the software, you can automate notifications once shifts are assigned or even auto-fill shifts.

4. Increased health and productivity of employees

Shift work sleep disorder is common in individuals who work nontraditional shifts (including rotating shifts) outside of a traditional 9am – 5pm timeframe. Every year, the National Sleep Foundation polls Americans on their sleeping habits. In 2008 specifically, their Sleep, Performance, and the Workplace poll reported that 63% of shift workers said that their work schedules allowed them to get enough restful sleep. That means only about two-thirds of workers have the ability to stay awake, energetic, and alert while on the job. Sleep also impacts their ability to have meaningful relationships and deal with depression and moodiness.

Where to Start

So, where do you start with scheduling automation? There are many online resources available to help managers save time and help mitigate risk for turnover and injury on the job through improved scheduling.

Start with a simple Google search of “employee scheduling tools” for a variety of options, ranging from subscription-based business models to free solutions, each designed for businesses of varying sizes. Make sure to determine the needs of the organization, set a budget, and consult employees on features they would like to see in a schedule tool as you begin.

Get more tips on solving labor issues with our free ebook, Solving Your Labor Challenges: 3 Challenges Every Foodservice Owner Faces & How to Combat Them.