The Ultimate Guide To Handling Scheduling Conflicts: 7 Tips To Prevent A Workplace Disaster
When people work together conflicts are bound to happen. Be it creative, directional, or scheduling. They can range from trivial problems to major headaches.
Even the most reliable staff can make decisions that could lead to a scheduling conflict.
It could be due to customers rescheduling at the last minute, appointments being shifted around, staff swapping shifts, and holidays being regularly booked and canceled throughout the year.
The consequences of a scheduling conflict usually don’t end after the conflict itself.
It dons a different attire and presents itself in the form of staff losing their motivation and trust in the establishment, and loss in productivity and revenue.
Staff members who don’t trust their organization will naturally try to look for different opportunities. Gallup says that the cost of replacing a staff member can range from one-half to two times their annual salary.
In worst-case scenarios, you may even lose out on your best customers.
Can scheduling conflicts be avoided for good? Maybe in an ideal world where no one makes any mistakes. However, they can be reduced or maybe even eliminated using certain best practices and tools.
Here’s what we are going to cover in this blog,
- What is a scheduling conflict?
- Types of scheduling conflicts
- Tips to prevent scheduling conflicts at your workplace
- What can you do if you are not able to resolve a scheduling conflict?
What is a scheduling conflict?
To be put in the simplest of language, a scheduling conflict is any situation where the attention or presence of a person is demanded at multiple places/things/events at the same time. This is either impossible to achieve or causes low productivity.
Let’s take a look at the various types of scheduling conflicts to understand them in-depth and then figure out how to solve them.
Types of scheduling conflicts
1. Overlapping events
This occurs when the two services are assigned in close proximity to each other. The ending of one event would coincide/overlap with the start of another service.
Example: Appointment number one starts at 4:00 PM and number two at 4:15 PM when both of them have a duration of 45 minutes.
2. Booking unavailable time slots
This occurs when a service is scheduled on top of another existing event.
For example, a new appointment is scheduled to begin when the staff members are having their lunch or performing a time-sensitive task that was pre-assigned causing confusion in terms of prioritization.
3. Booking unavailable team members
This occurs when tasks or events are scheduled with unavailable team members. They can either be out of the office, on leave, or on holiday.
For example, a staff member requests an emergency leave, and his supervisor approves it. A different supervisor books an important meeting that day under the staff for a customer.
This occurred due to a lack of communication among the management and the staff is either forced to work or ask the customer to reschedule.
This occurs when two tasks or events are scheduled in the same time slot. This is pretty self-explanatory and is one of the most common scheduling conflicts.
For example, different people book you for the same time slot on the same day. They can either book at the same time or at different times depending on how appointments work in your establishment.
5. Last-minute callouts
This occurs when a staff member calls in sick, back out from an assigned task, or has some personal emergency.
Take the instance of someone whose wife is pregnant but not due for another week. He has a scheduled appointment at 6:00 PM with an important and high-profile customer. At 5:30 his wife goes into labor.
It is unreasonable and unfair as the management to ask him to stay and finish his meeting while he is having a personal emergency. However, the meeting’s status will be jeopardized. This is also one of the most common scheduling conflicts and can be very unpredictable.
6. Scheduling underqualified staff
This might occur as a result of one of the above scheduling conflicts or as a standalone one. The staff that is scheduled to perform the task is underqualified and won’t be able to do justice to the service.
For example, a barista is asked to take over as the chef, or the data analyst is asked to debug the code for a customer’s app.
Even though a scheduling conflict might be avoided on grounds of technicalities, it’s still considered one at the end of the day.
Tips to prevent scheduling conflicts at your workplace
1. Encourage team communication and collaboration:
Create a culture in your establishment where everyone takes responsibility for daily operations and scheduling.
You can also try to incentivize the staff to report scheduling mishaps and inconsistencies as soon as they spot them.
2. Use a centralized work schedule
You can use this method to know the whereabouts of all the staff at any given time in one single location
For this tip to be effective, three things need to be included in the schedule.
- Who is working at the moment (Designation, qualification, clearance, etc.)
- When they’re working (Either in shifts, hours in a day, etc.)
- Where they’re working (Location, region, home, etc.)
This system must be dynamic in nature. If it can’t be updated in real-time, then it should be updated every shift or at least daily.
A static system would give out half information and it can be detrimental to scheduling and nurture conflicts. This method will find success only if everyone actively participates in the process.
3. Keep backups
Keeping backups helps you solve the immediate crisis. You can keep a list of people who are qualified to perform the given task if a problem arises. They should also be aware of what is going on so that they can step in even at the last moment.
This method is not very easy to implement or sustain in the long run without a wider vision given the number of people involved. However, the solution it offers is worth every bit of the amount of work that goes into it.
4. Budget for breaks
During project planning, while allotting for slack, make sure you allow time for breaks as well. This may include breaks like casual or medical leave, maternal or paternal leaves, public holidays, etc.
It can also be small things like not scheduling appointments during someone’s lunch or close to their leaving time.
Scheduling back-to-back shifts may harm your staff’s productivity and ultimately may result in them taking an unrequited leave of absence which would then overflow into a scheduling disaster.
5. Allow staff to propose alternate times
Any conflict that you don’t have to solve for yourselves will be energy and time saved to solve another problem.
Allow your staff to swap their shifts or offer those that don’t fit in with their schedules to their colleagues without a lot of formality provided there are approval processes to regulate them.
They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses better and have a better understanding of who knows what’s better. Their swapping will be based on mutual understanding and acceptance.
This will also result in better teamwork and nurture a caring culture.
6. Identify dependencies
Some certain appointments/services require a pre-requisite. It could be another appointment or service that needs to happen before the current appointment can go ahead.
These dependencies must be identified early on so that they can be added to the scheduling process. Customers can be more flexible than you think. Some of them are understanding and willing to reschedule to a different time.
7. Use a Scheduling Software
Scheduling software is a tool that helps you adequately manage your appointments and automate most of your daily admin. Using a scheduling software is the easiest and most efficient way to avoid conflicting schedules.
One such software is Appointy.
It has smart and intuitive features that minimize the possibility of scheduling conflicts. It allows users to set their availability, block personal time, sync with personal calendars (Google/Outlook/iCal), automate resource allocation to appointments, and much more!
It eliminates double booking and all other sorts of scheduling conflicts through its intuitive features. It only shows the available slots to customers and enables users to block time on their calendar in which no appointments can be scheduled.
What can you do if you are not able to resolve a scheduling conflict?
Let’s face it, sometimes a scheduling conflict can’t simply be avoided and the damage has been done. What can you do then?
Let’s go over some do’s and don’ts to gracefully deal with such a situation,
- Communicate with all the stakeholders involved that you are not able to attend/perform the appointment/service well in advance if the situation allows for it.
- Always be polite and respectful while you explain your circumstances.
- Apologize for the inconvenience caused and offer a small explanation if the situation demands it.
- Do not overexplain. It will make the situation more awkward and worse than it is supposed to be. An elaborate explanation generally conveys that you are trying to conceal something
- Do not reschedule a meeting/task to assert dominance over your customers or colleagues.
- Do not try to use other means to cancel the meeting if you are not going to make it. For example, convince others to not attend or fake a scenario.
Scheduling conflicts can severely affect the productivity of an establishment and create a ruckus in daily operations.
According to a study, 53% of staff say a role that allows them to have greater work-life balance and better personal well-being is “very important” to them.
It is an avoidable accident provided you have the right tools and management policies in place.
At the end of the day, it is important to understand that you and your staff members are humans, and mistakes are bound to happen. Colleagues or customers may not always cooperate when you need them to.
The only way to prevent such a catastrophe is by investing in good scheduling software that is reliable and can adapt to your establishment’s needs. We hope this blog helped you out in figuring out how you can handle scheduling conflicts.
Best of luck, and may your shifts never be double-booked ever again.
We at Appointy, help business owners grow and run their businesses with our online scheduling software. This blog was a part of our ‘Manage your Business’ category, where we provide expert tips, and resources, or simply talk about the challenges that small and medium businesses face every day.
If you have any thoughts on this blog or would like to chat about your business struggles and achievements, let us know in the comments below.
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