Scheduling Headaches

Tips for reducing last-minute no-shows and limiting absences.

Missed shifts, chronic tardiness and half-baked excuses are more than a headache for restaurant owners. Absenteeism is a drain on resources and morale, costing owners thousands of dollars a year. In fact, a report from RMagazine, using data from an industry report on the effects of absenteeism, shows that a small restaurant with three salaried employees and 20 hourly workers could lose nearly $75,000 a year to absenteeism alone.[1,2]

While some absenteeism is inevitable — people do get sick — there are steps every manager can take to limit last-minute call-ins and keep things running smoothly when absences occur.

Establish Clear, Consistent Scheduling Policies

Employees are more productive when they know what’s expected of them. When interviewing recruits, be clear about what shifts are available and ask them how many hours or shifts they can commit to every period. Post shift schedules at least a full week in advance so workers can let you know if they have a conflict. Establish clear ground rules for the number of absences or last-minute schedule changes allowed before disciplinary action is taken, and the penalties for coming in late.

Build in Flexibility

In today’s gig economy, most of your part-time staff and some of your salaried workers are probably juggling two jobs plus family responsibilities. Create a policy of requiring three hours’ or more advance notice of last-minute absences, and keep a list of employees who want more hours. Using one of the new (and free) staff scheduling apps available, managers can approve time off and find a replacement with a couple of clicks. Workers can even swap shifts with each other while keeping the manager informed of every change.

Don’t Ignore Employee Morale

Low morale is a leading cause of employee absenteeism, and it’s one of the easiest things to fix. Lead by example by engaging with each of your employees. Create a culture of communication and respect, and ask for their input on everything from the menu to how shifts are scheduled. And act quickly when one employee starts slacking off or grumbling. Bad attitudes can spread quickly, especially when it looks like someone is getting special treatment.

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