How to Handle Schedule Conflicts?

Natasa Djalovic
Last update on:
March 17, 2022 9:54 AM
Published on:

Employee scheduling is one of the most challenging activities for managers, regardless of the industry. 

Apart from being every manager’s nightmare, a schedule conflict is among the top reasons for employee dissatisfaction, meaning that they affect productivity and morale. According to Gallup, employees frequently quit because of poor scheduling and work-life balance. 

Ultimately, schedule conflicts result in an increased turnover, which can be expensive for your company. 

Stats say that the cost of replacing an employee can be as much as two of their annual salaries. Not to mention the immediate impact of scrambling to find an instant replacement to take over their workload. 

In this article, we’ll discuss this problem in great detail and offer solutions to help you run your business smoothly. 

What Is a Scheduling Conflict? 

Smooth workflows and ensuring your customers get the best service in a timely manner is the ultimate goal of every business. 

You can achieve this only if your employees are in the right place at the right time. 

Any schedule conflict is a roadblock that gets in the way of employee productivity and prevents them from completing their tasks successfully. 

Although the first thing that comes to mind when a scheduling conflict is mentioned is when an employee is scheduled to work in two locations simultaneously, overlapping isn’t the only such issue. 

The next section will list the most common schedule conflicts in the workplace and offer solutions for each of them. 

Last-Minute Scheduling 

Leaving such an important task for the last minute is a very bad idea. 

First of all, you can’t be sure your employees will be available on short notice. Plus, your employees have their personal lives too. If you want them to be productive and motivated, you should make sure they can organize their personal time. 

Irregular and unpredictable shifts take a toll on your employees and lead to an increased risk of fatigue, workplace injuries, and incidents. It’s mainly the case in some industries such as construction or home healthcare, where workers perform demanding tasks that require them to be focused. 

All this will impact your business, as stressed and overworked employees won’t be able to do their job properly and live up to customers’ expectations. 

Finally, in many states, employers are required to comply with scheduling laws. For example, as of January 1, 2021, the advance notice period in Philadelphia is 14 days instead of 10. 


* Create a shift schedule a month or at least two weeks in advance. This will give your team an opportunity to tell you if they’re not available for some reason so that you can tweak the roster on time and find a replacement. 

* Implement a scheduling solution to automate and speed up the process. Besides, it will allow you to make changes more easily. This can prove especially effective in the home healthcare industry since nurse scheduling software can be a real lifesaver.

* Create a standby pool consisting of flexible employees looking for additional work opportunities. Some people will be willing to jump in at short notice because they want to make more money, so it’s a win-win situation. 


Mainly referring to the hospitality and retail industries, clopening refers to the practice of having the same employee closing the place of business at night and opening it the next morning. 

Working such back-to-back shifts leaves employees with little time to rest and puts a great deal of strain on their physical and mental health. Clopening leads to employee burnout, loss of productivity, absenteeism, and more sick days. 

The cost of absenteeism is estimated to be around $3,600 per hourly worker per year and $2,660 per salaried worker per year. Therefore, it’s clear how shifting conflicts like clopening can be detrimental to your bottom line. 


* Encourage employees to communicate their availability. Timeero’s scheduling feature can be used to suggest a schedule while allowing employees to accept or decline shifts. Besides, implementing the scheduling software will enable you to have a 360-degree view of your roster and prevent clopening. 

* Set up regulations that will prohibit assigning consecutive shifts without the minimum rest period. 

* Introduce scheduling best practices concerning employee wellbeing.

Staff Shortage 

Not having enough employees to cover shifts or take on an increased workload is a complex issue. 

The root causes boil down to two things:

* You’re understaffed, or

* Your forecasting leaves much to be desired. 

In either case, you’ll let your customers down with subpar service, and your bottom line will take a hit. 

Easy fixes to which most managers resort include canceling the planned days off, asking backup employees to jump in, and offering to pay overtime. But these are just temporary solutions that won’t solve your scheduling conflict.

To ensure that your business is running smoothly, prevent any hiccups, and keep both your customers and employees happy, you need a long-term solution. 


* If you’re understaffed, the only viable way of sorting this issue out is to hire more employees, either part or full-time. Small business owners might feel that this will affect their operating expenses, but the benefits of having an uninterrupted workflow will by far outweigh costs. 

* If you have enough employees, the best way to close staffing gaps is by tracking your workload and predicting future trends. Plus, leveraging a workforce management tool will help you optimize your scheduling efforts and create buffers that will adapt to demand ups and downs. 

Double Booking 

Double booking is a typical schedule conflict, and it’s particularly common when managing a mobile workforce. 

This can create a lot of confusion and non-intentional no-shows. 

Imagine what happens if you’re running a health home care business and a nurse doesn’t show up for work because they’re busy at another location. The client will be left unattended and that can affect their health, which is a serious omission. 

Needless to say, you can’t hold your employees accountable for this, as this is solely a human error that’s the result of manual scheduling. 


It’s simple to prevent such oversights and improve overall shift visibility by ditching the manual scheduling method. 

Just like in almost all previous cases, an employee scheduling solution that will facilitate and automate creating shifts is a must. 

Having all your employee schedules in one place means easily spotting that you’ve double-booked an employee. A centralized work schedule that shows every team member’s assignment will help you eliminate the chances of such incidents that can seriously damage your reputation. 

Avoid schedule conflicts by using a reliable employee scheduling solution

Chaotic Shift Swapping 

While shift swapping is useful since it allows your employees to better organize their time, it can turn into a mess if not properly carried out. 

For example, employees who decide to trade shifts might not have the same qualifications, which will result in a shift being covered by an inexperienced worker. In some cases, employees forget about the swap and fail to show up for work.

So, although this kind of flexibility means less work and responsibilities for managers, you should be aware of its downsides and a possible schedule conflict that might ensue.  


* Create a shift swapping procedure and insist that employees who want to trade shifts inform their manager. This way, the schedule will be updated in real-time. 

* Use a feature such as Timeero’s Who’s Working to employee availability and help them swap shifts effortlessly and without disrupting your work processes. Since it comes with a notification system, your employees will get a notification via email or text message reminding them about their assignment. 

Timeero’s Who’s Working  feature
Timeero’s Who’s Working feature

Last-Minute Cancellations 

Managers dread last-minute cancellations, and with good reason. 

Finding a replacement that will accept a shift and save your department on short notice can be a difficult task. 

Even though it’s not always a matter of irresponsibility, the fact that an employee called in sick won’t make any difference to you - there’s still a shift to be covered. 

But, this schedule conflict goes with the territory, and all you can do is try and mitigate the impact. 


* Introduce a policy that will avert last-minute cancellations and outline how much in advance an employee has to inform the manager that they won’t be able to make it to work. 

* Identify a potential intentional absenteeism pattern and talk to employees that frequently cancel at the last moment. 

* Use a scheduling tool that offers an employee availability feature so that you can easily fill the shift without having to blind call everyone from your employee list. 

Unbalanced scheduling 

Respecting your employees' wishes and preferences when making a schedule is OK, but only if that doesn’t get in the way of objectivity. 

If it’s always the same people who get to get the graveyard shift, for example, while others almost never work weekends, the odds are that some of them will be disgruntled. Even if it’s not your intention to be unfair, trying to balance customers’ and employees’ preferences with job requirements can be complex. 

And if you don’t succeed, this scheduling conflict can snowball into a toxic workplace atmosphere, reduced productivity, and employee disengagement. Employees who are under the impression that they’re not treated fairly will lose motivation, and subsequently, their performance will suffer, translating to poor customer experience and lower profits for your company. 

According to research studies, employees who are not engaged cost their company an equivalent of 18% of their annual salary


Investing in an employee scheduling tool is the best solution for this scheduling conflict too. It will allow for more balanced scheduling. You’ll be able to consider your employees’ preferences, but not at the expense of not having experienced people on a certain shift. 

It will also help you with rota management and eliminate the stress and hard work from the process. 

Booking Unavailable Employees

Calling your employees on their day off or while they’re on vacation is another schedule conflict that can hurt their productivity and motivation. 

Such incidents show that your planning skills need some improvement and that your employees’ wellbeing isn’t your top priority, both of which send a bad message. 

The last thing your hard-working employees want to hear while they’re trying to unplug and unwind is your voice over the phone asking them to come to work because there’s nobody to cover the upcoming shift. 


* Check your employees’ availability before creating a schedule. Good communication is vital in preventing any schedule conflict. 

* Cross-train your employees so that they can step in when their co-worker is not available. This way, you can cut costs related to hiring additional people and expand your pool of available replacements. In addition to that, this approach will offer your existing workforce more opportunities to acquire new skills and earn more. 

Too Much Overtime 

This schedule conflict can negatively impact your employee morale, motivation, and productivity. 

While there’s no limit regarding how many overtime hours an employee can work, this is a two-edged sword. 

First of all, some employees prefer to stick to their regular 40-week, and if you keep on asking them to fill additional shifts, they won’t be happy about it despite incentives and more money. 

On the other hand, you should monitor your hourly employees and keep their overtime hours in check. Too many extra hours will affect their productivity, which means that your customers might not get quality service. 


The best way out of this situation is to set limits to overtime work. For this, you need a time-tracking platform that will not only notify you when an employee is about to hit their overtime quota but also if someone forgets to clock out or tries to engage in similar suspicious behavior. 

So, How Do You Deal With Scheduling Conflicts? 

Almost any schedule conflict could be avoided with proper employee management strategies and sufficient planning. However, as scheduling is a complex and time-consuming activity, using a manual approach will make it prone to human error. With a robust employee scheduling and time-tracking platform, you can facilitate the process and prevent potential scheduling oversights or mistakes. 

Natasa Djalovic

Natasa is a writer specializing in the IT and software industry with 6+ years of experience in content writing and online marketing. During that period, she wrote more than 1,000 articles and several ebooks. She majored in English language and literature and loves cats, sneakers, and candy. When she's not working, she's probably binge-watching Netflix.

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