HomeInspireDown to Business

How to avoid mistakes in shift planning


26th Apr 2022 Down to Business

How to avoid mistakes in shift planning
Using makeshift solutions like spreadsheet software and pen and paper comes with some downsides that make the resulting shift plans prone to miscalculations and mistakes.
As a business, you should make yourself aware of these flaws and look for ways to minimize them. There are some tools, like digital staff management software, that will help you avoid mistakes when shift planning. Here is what you need to look out for.

Common mistakes in shift planning and why to avoid them

Shift plans have been a part of many companies for decades, and yet there are some mistakes that keep popping up. As a business owner, these are the factors you should be aware of:

Using Excel or pen and paper to schedule employees

Analogue and makeshift solutions to shift planning, like Excel, are outdated. Modern tools for shift planning and time tracking come in the form of dedicated and intelligent software. They have all the features you need to create good shift plans and optimize other management tasks. One great example is the product range from German developer Papershift (https://www.papershift.com/en/schedule). Their software automatically includes the most important factors for digital shift planning and other tasks like time tracking.
Important factors:
  • App: The software can be used as an app. It has an intuitive design and can be used on static and mobile devices.
  • Interfacing: The software can interface with other digital technologies, like software for time tracking or accounting.
  • Streamlining: The software has no excess of features and complicated formulas, like Excel. It is simple and streamlined. Automated processes smoothen and lessen the workload.
  • Automated compliance: The software automatically checks the labor laws and avoids breaking them.
  • Fair distribution: The algorithms distribute the shifts fairly.
  • Mobile & flexible: The software can be used in the office, but also remotely and on the move.

Forgetting employee availability and time off

The bigger the company, the more data you need to keep track of. There are the needs of your business, the number of employees, the important qualifications some of them have, the hours they have already worked this month and their vacation times. Events that happen sporadically, like absences, are especially hard to keep track of. A software will, compared to a human, have no problem to juggle all these factors and not forget about them. This way, you won’t be accidentally understaffed.

Making and sending the schedule last minute

Employees need to be able to rely on the shift plans to plan their private life accordingly. That is why staff schedules should be handed in one or two weeks in advance rather than last minute. Otherwise, you will frustrate your staff and risk counting on workers who aren’t actually available on such short notice. The software can create shift plans far in advance and even include spontaneous changes in agreement with the employee availabilities and preferences.

Unequal shift distribution

If some employees are available at certain times or have special qualifications, it can quickly lead to them being booked more often than others. To avoid unfair treatments and costly overtime, the scheduling software will keep an eye on the even distribution that still keeps the individual preferences and abilities in mind.

Manually tracking employee shift swaps

Lives can’t be planned with 100 % accuracy. There will always be unexpected events that will lead to changed availabilities or company needs. When you work in shifts, it is normal to fill in for or be helped by other staff members when you can’t make it to work. If you fail to keep track of these changes, you can quickly miscalculate the hours your employees have actually worked, which can lead to multiple problems like overtime payments and inaccurate payslips. The software easily edits the shift plans to include any swaps.

Unclear communication

Printing out shift plans and hanging them up in the office is not a great way of communicating. People will have to actively go looking for their shifts and won’t always be aware of spontaneous changes. Streamlining communication helps you plan and prepare better and will reduce any losses created by miscommunications and hard to access information. The shift planning software gives you a mobile overview of the plans and can send notifications when changes have been made.

Not making data-driven decisions

The best plans are a result of analyzing a lot of data, regularly. You can’t create a perfect plan for one week and expect it to work as well for any week to come. A businesses’ needs can change for a lot of reasons, like seasonal demands. It is better to calculate the best shift plan for each day exactly according to all the information available to you. A scheduling software can collect data, like when the business typically experiences a rush, and create flexible plans that suit the acute needs.


Shift plans need to create efficient teams for a business day’s acute demands. Creating these plans by hand or with makeshift software can be challenging. There is a lot of data you need to analyze and reexamine frequently to find the best solutions.
A staff management software for shift planning can help you avoid the most common mistakes for staff schedules. It collects and analyzes the needed data and finds optimized solutions. The app also helps with communicating and creating consistency, fair plans, and flexible back-up. This way, you can cut the losses created by miscalculations and bad communication and work efficiently with optimal teams and happy employees. 
Keep up with the top stories from Reader’s Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter.