Scheduling Conflict: How Can Remote Teams Avoid Them?

Scheduling conflicts - how to avoid them

If you manage a team, you’ve probably had to deal with scheduling conflicts more than once. Whether a team member called in sick on a busy day or there was an error in schedule plans, scheduling issues can be incredibly frustrating. They can disrupt the entire day and lead to the delivery of low-quality work or even complete failure.

Some of the causes of these conflicts include employee no-shows, last-minute scheduling, and double bookings. These issues can force other employees to work long hours or work too many consecutive days, which can result in employee burnout, low morale, and a drop in productivity.

If left unchecked, burned-out workers are 2.6 times as likely to seek employment elsewhere, which is bad news for your business.

The good news is that you can develop strategies that will help you handle schedule conflicts when they arise. More importantly, you can prevent them from happening in the first place.

What Is a Scheduling Conflict?

A scheduling conflict in the workplace is a situation when two events or tasks compete for your time and attention at the same time. It also describes a situation in which a team member has been assigned double shifts at once or where you have too many workers on the same shift.

Regardless of how it happens, a scheduling conflict requires that a team member is in two places simultaneously, which is impossible. Scheduling issues are rampant in organizations that have multiple shifts and can be quite complicated for remote teams.

If scheduling errors are not addressed, team members can become frustrated, lose trust in managers, and seek work elsewhere.

Poor employee scheduling has numerous ramifications, including:

  • Unhappy employees. A study published in the American Sociological Association revealed that unpredictable schedules result in unhappy workers. It also found that employees who are asked to cover for others tend to be dissatisfied at work.
  • A drop in sales. An increase in employee turnover leads to understaffing, which not only makes it challenging for businesses to hit company goals but also results in overworked employees.
  • Tarnished brand name. Your brand reputation can be damaged if it becomes associated with understaffing issues and overworked employees. This will also hurt current employees’ morale and motivation.
  • High turnover. According to a Workjam study, 62 percent of managers stated that their associates have had to quit over ongoing scheduling conflicts. According to the survey, poor scheduling fuels a “vicious cycle of employee turnover and manager overtime costs.” And, as data from SHRM shows, the average cost per hire is approximately $4,700, which is extremely expensive. We haven’t even mentioned indirect costs, such as lost knowledge when an employee leaves, the time spent to find new hires, and the time the new hire takes to become fully functional.
  • Time wastage. A 2015 study indicated that UK businesses wasted up to £28,000 every year on inefficiency caused by poor internal systems.
  • Mental health issues. Workplace stress due to overworking and working long hours can lead to poor mental health among employees, which in the end, affects their output and overall business success.

Considering these consequences, resolving scheduling issues is essential to the smooth and successful running of your business.

What Are the Common Types of Scheduling Conflicts?

Before we share tips on how to handle scheduling conflicts, it’s important to identify the types of scheduling conflicts affecting your workforce. Some of the common scheduling conflicts you may encounter include:

1. Double booking 

This occurs when you schedule two tasks in the same slot. For instance, you assign two different tasks in the same time slot to one team member. When you do so, you’ll be forcing the employee to complete both tasks faster, risking low-quality work and errors due to multitasking.

2. Last-minute cancelation

An employee may wait until the last minute to notify you that they can’t complete the assigned task on time, leading to last-minute scheduling. In some cases, this might be inevitable, such as when the employee is sick, needs to travel, or has some other unavoidable circumstance to attend to.

3. Booking unavailable team members

Failure to determine the availability of employees before finalizing their schedule can hurt your workflow processes. Say you assign a team member who’s away on a meet-the-client trip with the task of leading the daily stand-up meetings.

If you don’t detect this error early, it will lead to a delayed or canceled meeting due to a lack of a leader.

On the other hand, if you discover this glitch on time, you may find someone else to take over. Even then, that person may not be well prepared to lead the meeting, resulting in an unproductive meeting.

4. Overlapping events

When the end of one task or shift overlaps with the start of another, it usually results in confusion and inconveniences for one or both teams. Say you’re working on a design project and are just nearing its completion when the lead designer is assigned to head another project.

Instead of focusing on making the final touches and preparing a presentation, you’ll have to complete the task by yourselves or bring a new team leader up to speed. This might end up causing lots of inconveniences and delays.

Here’s another example. Consider you have your weekly meetings, which run from 10 am to 10.45 am. On this day, however, it turns out you have a client meeting scheduled for 11 am. To make it in time for the client meeting, you’ll be forced to skip the end of the team meeting.

5. Booking unavailable time slots

Due to poor scheduling, you may not be aware that a specific time slot is already dedicated to a certain task. As a result, you end up booking that time slot for a different task. Take an example where an organization has several departments, each with its leader or manager, all managing the same team.

It might be common to assign a new task to a team member who’s already working on another assignment. The employee might have to choose the most important/urgent task or let you know that they aren’t available at the moment.

6. Unofficial scheduling

To ensure effective scheduling, you must assign specific people to handle the scheduling process. When you leave the role to everyone on the team or to too many people, you can expect chaos, confusion, and frustration.

Don’t be surprised when employees take it upon themselves to make changes to shift swapping and fail to inform management. Likewise, you may find too many workers on the same shift while other shifts have fewer than usual employees.

Expert Tips for Avoiding Employee Scheduling Conflicts

As an employer or manager, you should strive to prevent scheduling conflicts from happening in the first place. Some of the steps you can take to proactively avoid scheduling issues include:

1. Understanding your team better

Get to know some personal information about your team members that might affect schedule planning. Things like preferences, needs, skills, and qualifications can affect the working habits of your team members and the final results.

Knowing who works well when and how can resolve some aspects of scheduling conflicts.

2. Planning well in advance

As the common adage goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. According to experts, effective planning is seven times more likely to yield success.

Schedule planning doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply list all the upcoming tasks and events and schedule them in your calendar. That way, you won’t be in for surprises and nothing will go unattended.

Once you plan your entire week’s schedule, publish it a few days early so that teams can review and plan their personal lives around the work schedule. In addition, publishing the schedule in advance gives you and your teams a chance to make any necessary changes.

3. Make the schedule accessible anywhere, anytime

Scheduling conflicts usually happen because team members, particularly those working from home, don’t have access to the schedule when making personal plans. With remote work on the rise, it’s now more important than ever to make the work schedule accessible to everyone, regardless of their location.

Fortunately, thanks to technology, the cloud now makes it possible to share documents and files, like a work schedule, where employees can access them anywhere, anytime.

4. Allow team members to schedule themselves

Another effective method to prevent scheduling issues is to allow employees to self-schedule. Each team member will pick a shift that they feel is more suitable for them, based on their lifestyles and work habits.

Allowing this kind of flexibility with your remote workers makes it easier for everyone, considering that each person will be held accountable for their actions. What’s more, employees can find substitutes to cover a shift if something comes up, like a family emergency.

5. Implement automation

Advanced team management software can automate a large part of the scheduling process and resolve scheduling conflicts once and for all. Such platforms give you the option to schedule an employee for a specific time slot on a specific day based on various variables, such as:

  • Overtime limits
  • Employee availability
  • Project budget
  • Skills
  • Experience

The software then sorts through the information, finds the employee, and adds them to the schedule.

6. Set clear expectations from the onset

Each team member should know their specific role in the team or project. Let them know if you allow self-scheduling and when they should notify you of changes in work shifts. In addition, request employees to notify you in advance about their availability.

On top of that, clearly define policies about PTOs, sick days, vacation, and absenteeism in the employee handbook.

7. Add slack time

Whenever you’re planning a team-wide schedule, consider adding some buffer or project slack for when things go south. For instance, delays might occur due to drastic weather that might affect the internet and power supply.

Similarly, if the client’s work will take two weeks to complete, quote the client three or four weeks to act as a buffer for unforeseeable situations. 

The free slack time will allow you to find solutions to a scheduling conflict if, and when it occurs.

8. Encourage transparency and open communication

Poor communication in the workplace can result in friction, distrust, confusion, and scheduling issues. It also causes a lack of predictability and stability when handling projects. Consider creating a process through which employees can easily and quickly communicate with management about matters that affect scheduling.

A streamlined process ensures that issues are addressed as soon as they arise and no team member is overworked.

9. Have a backup plan

Scheduling conflicts are inevitable, that’s why you must set up backups for when they arise. For example, you can develop a list of part-time team members, former employees, and prospective hires who were interviewed but didn’t get hired as a backup.

This can help cushion you from the negative impacts of no-call, no show employees.

 How to Handle Scheduling Conflicts in Remote Teams

  • Consult your availability chart to get information about who isn’t scheduled and can step in. Use this list to reach out and reassign tasks to another team member who is available.
  • Take the lead. If one team member is absent during a slow period, you might consider proceeding with one less employee than usual, or you could step in to fill the role.
  • Consult with your employees to find out who can work a double. Some employees may not have a problem clocking in early or clocking out late. Just be sure to encourage them to take longer breaks to prevent fatigue and burnout.
  • Reschedule non-urgent or less important tasks until you find a replacement. If the scheduling conflict is going to affect deadlines, communicate with the client early to let them know of the expected delay.
  • Determine what makes employee scheduling so difficult and find ways to rectify those issues. When something goes wrong with scheduling, take it as a chance to learn something different and make efforts to prevent such mistakes from recurring. Moreover, review your workflow to find out what works best for your team and what doesn’t.
  • Be empathetic. So long as you manage people, a scheduling conflict will arise every now and then, whether your team is local or remote. When it does, it can be stressful for everyone concerned. To maintain good workplace relationships, try to be empathetic. Don’t make excuses or blame anyone for the mistakes. Instead, find out why the error occurred in the first place and put measures so that it doesn’t happen again.

Prevent Scheduling Conflicts with Traqq

One of the most effective ways to help you schedule effectively and avoid encountering scheduling conflicts is to eliminate human error. A remote workforce management platform like Traqq not only empowers you to identify the most productive employees but also when they are most productive.

It makes it easier to monitor your team’s work schedule via clock in and clock out times. The time tracker gives you an insight into your employees work schedules, so you can identify their working habits. This insight can prove useful when assigning tasks and developing strategies to maximize your team’s productivity.

Traqq lets you create unlimited groups and assign each group a manager to simplify scheduling and workload tracking.

In addition, it automatically creates and updates online timesheets, ensuring that no activity goes untracked. The tool also prevents unauthorized overtime and ensures team members stay within the project budget to keep expenses in check. 

If you and your team struggle with scheduling conflicts, implement Traqq time tracking software to get a quick glimpse into your team’s performance and work schedule.

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