Scheduling conflicts happen when two meetings or tasks are booked in the same time slot. It can be annoying or even stressful if there is a conflict in your schedule. But if you are a manager setting schedules for your team, it can be a nightmare as it can be a time waster.
Types of Scheduling Conflicts
This happens when you schedule two or more tasks in the same time slot. Another example is when you book one team member to work on the same shift twice. Double booking also includes scheduling multiple events concurrently. A typical example is booking two meetings at the same time.
Booking Unavailable Team Members
Another common reason for scheduling conflicts is when you assign work or an event to a team member who is unavailable for that time slot. That person could be working on another project, on leave, or in a different time zone.
Scheduling two events or tasks that overlap will result in an unnecessary rush or incomplete work. For example, you book two meetings or client presentations one after the other, with not enough time in between. Or you schedule a team member at the tail end of a project to join a new one.
This is when a team member backs out of an assigned task or event at the last minute, leaving you no choice but to find a replacement to finish the work or cancel the meeting. Last-minute callouts happen when people get sick, emergencies happen, or other tasks are prioritized.
Messy Shift Swapping
It can be chaotic when employees are allowed to trade their shifts with one another. There are many back-and-forths to finding another team member willing to trade and get the shift swap approved. Misunderstandings could also happen, resulting in missed shifts.
How to Avoid Scheduling Conflicts
Scheduling conflicts are inevitable, especially for last-minute calls. However, there is a lot you can do to prevent most scheduling conflicts.
1. Plan and Set Clear Expectations
Planning is the most crucial part of any project, including schedule planning. Checking with your team members about their availability, booking their schedules in advance, and confirming their assigned tasks will minimize scheduling conflicts.
Also, set clear expectations for your team. Your team members should know their specific roles, tasks, and deadlines. You should also have developed policies and processes about taking leave during a project and doing shift swaps.
Your project will run more smoothly, and you will avoid schedule conflicts when your team members know what is expected from them.
2. Make a Centralized Team Schedule
You need a centralized calendar for your team that everyone can see. Your team schedule should show who is working, what they are working on, and where they are at any given time. This allows your team members to check and report any potential scheduling conflicts.
Scheduling conflicts are also more likely if you still create and update your team calendar manually. You should consider using cloud-based project management software or a team scheduling app that can be updated in real-time and prevents double-booking and overlapping events. Even if multiple managers are working on a project and updating the schedule, a centralized schedule will provide a clear, up-to-date calendar that everyone can refer to.
3. Encourage Team Communication
Your team calendar will not prevent calendar conflicts if your team members do not inform you if they are suddenly unavailable for some reason or if they see conflicting schedules or overlapping events you may have missed.
Encourage your team to be proactive in giving you feedback and immediately reporting conflicts and last-minute callouts. Better yet, establish a process for notifying you about these issues.
4. Add Buffer Time
Your perfect schedule can get messed up when unforeseen events happen. An emergency at home or work, an accident on the road, a computer crash, and a power interruption are a few examples of what could go wrong.
The only remedy for things beyond your control is to add a sufficient buffer for your project and specific tasks. This is referred to as project slack, the amount of time a task can be delayed before it impacts the deadline.
5. Have a Backup
Always have a Plan B. This means having backup employees and resources in case a team member is suddenly unavailable or other problems arise. Map out each team role or task and identify one or two backup employees for each one. And this includes you if you need to step in at the last minute. This gives you options to fill the gap and keep the project going.
Even if your team members do not like to be the designated backup, they need to accept this as part of teamwork and ensure their project’s success. You can also offer incentives for backups who are eventually called on to step in. This makes an otherwise dreaded situation into something more attractive.
Handling Scheduling Conflicts
Scheduling conflicts can still occur even after careful planning, a centralized calendar, and backup resources. So, what do you do then to handle them?
Avoid blaming people, including yourself, for problems due to scheduling conflicts. Yes, it can be stressful, especially for critical projects, but staying calm and positive shows your team that you have got things under control. Taking your time and having a clear head also prevents you from having a knee-jerk reaction and making decisions you might later regret.
Instead, review your team calendar, and check your available options, including your backups. If your team members know and accept they could be tapped to substitute at the last minute, it will not shock them. They might not like it, but this is where some finessing and negotiating come in.
If a task or meeting is not critical or urgent, consider rescheduling it. You can move the job if it will not adversely delay your project or reset your session if attendees tell you they don’t mind.
Rescheduling gives you time to resolve calendar conflicts, rearrange tasks, and devise a workaround. Offer an apology for the inconvenience, but it should not be a big deal if it is neither crucial nor time-sensitive.
Call for Backup
This is when you go to Plan B. Reassign the work to your backup employee with similar experience and skills. It should not come as a surprise if you have set clear expectations and informed all your team members about this possibility.
Offering an incentive like a day off or free lunch makes the sacrifice a little more worthwhile. In the end, your team should have the proper mindset that everyone needs to work together to accomplish a goal, even if it means filling in at the last minute.
The right centralized scheduling software makes all the difference in managing your team’s schedule. TimeTracker by eBillity offers a scheduling function that enables you to automate your employee rostering and easily share schedules with your whole team from one centralized location.
Start your free trial today.