Weekend & Holiday Scheduling: How to Ensure Employee Satisfaction

By Jeanette Coleman, SPHR & SHRM-SCP on Nov 20, 2023
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how to schedule employees fairly on weekends and holidays

Managing weekend and holiday scheduling can be a complex task, especially when holidays approach and employees naturally yearn for time off to spend with friends and family. In many industries, the necessity to keep operations running means that some staff must work through these periods, presenting a significant challenge for scheduling managers tasked with deciding who works and who enjoys the break. 

Here's the good news: There are effective strategies to handle weekend and holiday scheduling fairly. Transparent communication with employees, setting clear expectations, respecting seniority and utilizing a holiday rotation schedule template (many of which are available for free online) can greatly ease the process.

These steps help foster understanding and acceptance among employees regarding work schedule decisions. In this post, we'll explore key considerations for creating a fair rotating weekend schedule, along with tips for equitable holiday scheduling, ensuring both business needs and employee satisfaction are met.

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Establishing a Rotating Weekend Schedule

In today's dynamic work environment, effectively managing a rotating weekend schedule is essential for balancing business needs with employee well-being. This approach not only ensures operational efficiency but also respects the personal time of staff members. Here are four strategies:

1. Predictability for personal planning 

For businesses needing staff every weekend, consistency in the rotating weekend schedule is crucial. This allows employees to plan personal appointments and tasks with certainty.

For instance, if staffing is required every weekend, ensuring that those who worked over the weekend receive two consecutive days off during the week not only facilitates better planning but also allows employees ample downtime for relaxation.

2. Balancing weekend work among staff

In scenarios where small businesses have sufficient staff to distribute weekend work, a well-structured rotating weekend schedule is vital. Consider a company with four employees rotating weekend duties; assigning each to work the same weekend each month enhances their ability to plan for family and leisure activities.

Additionally, it's important to account for months with five weekends, ensuring fair distribution of workloads.

3. Prioritizing fairness and seniority

Fairness in planning a rotating weekend schedule is key. Offering senior employees the first choice for weekend work can be an equitable approach, while also communicating to newer employees the benefits of seniority over time.

Implementing incentives like weekend premium pay can also make weekend shifts more attractive, helping to balance the schedule fairly.

4. Reviewing and adapting the schedule

Continuously review and adjust the rotating weekend schedule. This approach demonstrates a commitment to fairness and considers the evolving needs of both the business and its employees.

Regular adjustments and feedback can lead to a more effective and satisfactory scheduling system for everyone involved.

How to effectively manage vacation requests

How to Schedule Holiday Rotations

Many small business owners have experienced tough holiday scheduling conversations when everyone wants to take time off. For those who don’t get the time off they want, morale can dip and tensions can soar. Add to this that people may want to extend their time off with several extra days around the actual holiday.

Here are steps employers can take to keep workplace holiday scheduling as fair as possible:

1. Provide open dialogue and a deadline

Openly discuss holiday and weekend scheduling needs with employees. Provide a deadline for time off requests around the holidays and stick to it. Be transparent and empathetic. Work to understand which holidays are most important to each employee and whether some employees will voluntarily work on popular holidays.

Keeping the lines of communication open and trying to approve as many requests as possible are the best steps toward fair scheduling.

2. Company holidays vs personal days

Let employees know which days are company holidays and which days they will need to use personal days well in advance. Be sure to include any days that the office will close early such as Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve. If company holidays aren't covered in your employee handbook, be sure to check out this expert-written sample holiday work policy that can be tweaked and used at your organization >>

3. Balance holiday coverage throughout the year

Consider dividing the holidays into two groups – spring/summer and fall/winter. Balance each employee’s holiday coverage within each season. For example, if an employee works Memorial Day (a spring/summer holiday in May), consider giving them time off for Labor Day (a fall/winter holiday in September).

Similar approaches can be taken to balance holiday scheduling when major holidays are close together, such as Christmas and New Year’s. Some companies also rely on seniority when scheduling holiday coverage. Employers that go this route should explain that the same employees cannot request the same holidays off multiple years in a row, regardless of seniority.

RELATED: How to Deny an Employee Vacation Request >>

4. Be considerate of all cultures and religious beliefs

Some employees may celebrate holidays such as Diwali (a Hindu festival of lights celebrating prosperity), Yom Kippur (a holy day for those practicing Judaism) and many others. Keep in mind that small business owners with more than 15 employees are subject to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on religion.

Religious discrimination includes refusing to accommodate employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs or practices – including holiday celebrations – unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship (more than a minimal burden on operation of the business).

Again, through open dialogue and appropriate conversations, managers can create a holiday work schedule that is inclusive of the entire workforce.

RELATED: How to Handle Holiday Vacation Requests >>

5. Operate efficiently

A good holiday scheduling policy begins with understanding the minimum number of employees that must work on a holiday. Small businesses should operate as efficiently as possible on holidays. In some cases, it may even be possible for the business to operate with reduced hours. This will allow for scheduling that accommodates as many requests as possible for time off on the holiday.

sample holiday work policy downloadable guide

Flexible Scheduling May Improve Holiday Scheduling Problems

Employees with the option for flexible scheduling overall are often more willing to return the favor when the employer requires flexibility around holiday scheduling. When juggling time off requests becomes too problematic, the company might consider incentives such as offering extra pay for delaying time off plans until a slower or less in-demand time of the year. It is especially important for employers to send the message that they support time away from work and to place restrictions on when people can use the time off they have earned only when necessary.

When it comes to scheduling employees in unique situations such as holidays and weekends, Axcet HR Solutions is your go-to source for expert advice and best practices. As a professional employer organization (PEO), we boast a team of certified HR consultants who possess the experience and knowledge you can trust from an HR outsourcing company. Count on us to provide you with the guidance and support you need to efficiently manage employee schedules, ensuring optimal outcomes in any challenging scenario.

If employee issues are cropping up, it may be time to outsource your business' HR. Find out if it's time to outsource HR and what your options are >> 

Contact Axcet HR Solutions

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