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How to Create Shift Schedules

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Managers in many retail stores and restaurants must schedule employees in a variety of shifts, often using three or more different shifts to cover a 12-hour day. Shift scheduling allows a greater number of employees to work at an establishment while keeping labor costs under control. Use shift scheduling to organize your labor crew and effectively cover your business without overscheduling.

Identify the busiest times of your work day by checking sales reports for the past four weeks. While the day's business will vary, you should see basic trends in daily sales. Most business will see two or three busy periods every day, with slow periods in between.

Separate your work day into 4- or 6-hour sections. Include the busy times in separate sections. The length of your busy times will dictate how long the shifts are.

Unless you are operating a coffee shop or restaurant that is open for breakfast, schedule an opening shift with a minimum number of employees. Most workplaces are not extremely busy first thing in the morning, so save labor by only scheduling those people needed to get your business up and running for the day.

Bring in more people half an hour before the first rush should begin. This will allow employees to clock in and get effectively working before the customers can overwhelm them. A team that is already working together can deal with a rush much more effectively than one that is trying to step in and catch up.

Schedule first shift employees to leave after the rush dies down. Leave a minimum staff on in the middle of the day, enough to take care of any customers you may have but not so many that they have leisure time.

Add another larger group of people half an hour before the second rush of the day. Make sure that all stations and sections are up and running efficiently before any large amount of new business comes in the door.

Schedule most of the employees to leave after the rush is over. Keep a skeleton staff to clean up at the end of the day and close the store. Make sure that there are enough workers to get the job done in a reasonable amount of time, but don't overschedule in an effort to cut down on closing time.


Use shift scheduling to employ a mixture of full-time and part-time employees.


Always schedule employees to arrive at least 10 minutes before the person that they are replacing is scheduled to leave.