Creating an Effective Shift Swapping Policy

Creating an Effective Shift Swapping Policy

Spencer Rule 24/06/2018 4

From time to time, your employees may end up needing to swap shifts. This is not an uncommon occurrence, but if you don’t have the right systems in place, even a seemingly innocuous and routine procedure could end up causing a major headache for management.

Let’s say, for instance, you’re expecting Jody to show up for the Monday morning shift. But she swaps shifts with Steve without you knowing.

Only, Jody is typically the one opening, and Steve doesn’t have a key to the store. He doesn’t know what the opening procedure is either, and didn’t bother to ask, because he didn’t know it was going to be an issue.

If you usually show up a little later on a Monday, you might not have that luxury when Steve takes over Jody’s shift. You might get a call a little earlier than you were expecting.

The above scenario is a good reason to have an effective shift swapping policy. Here are some tips on how to set it up.

Educate Your Employees

If your employees don’t know what your expectations are, they have no way of living up to them.

They should be introduced to your shift swapping policies as part of their training and onboarding.

If there is a formal process you require them to go through to swap shifts, they should be versed in it. If they need to notify anyone specific to request time off, they should be told who that is.

To ensure this information sticks with them, you may consider giving them an employee handbook, or a simple handout that explains what they should be aware of with swapping.

Share The Schedule With Your Employees In Advance

Sometimes, your employees will need to take time off on short notice. This isn’t ideal, but it is a reality many managers face.

If you share the schedule with your employees well in advance (preferably two to four weeks in advance), it’s likely that you will encounter fewer issues.

Your team members will be able to look ahead and see when they’re supposed to be coming in, which can help them identify conflicts in their schedule ahead of time.

Then, you can ask them to notify you of any shift swaps they’re planning to make so you can adjust the schedule and nip issues in the bud.

Keep The Schedule Predictable


Image: Rob Bye

For better or for worse, employees tend to get used to working certain shifts over others and begin to plan their lives around it.

If there are any sudden changes to the schedule, you might end up inviting conflict in the workplace. Even if certain team members have told you that they’re “flexible”, if their shifts suddenly change after three months of predictability, they might get upset because they’ve gotten used to the routine.

In an instance where you need to rotate day and night shifts, you need to communicate this ahead of time. As much as possible, mitigate any surprises that could catch your team off guard.

In addition to keeping the schedule predictable, talk to your employees and determine what their preferences are. You can get a good sense of when they’re willing and able to work, which can help you schedule your people in at the right times.

Allow Your Employees To Split Shifts

Some of your team members may not need the entire day off. For instance, they may have a simple personal matter or errand to tend to that will not require them to be away for the full length of their six-hour shift.

If you allow your team members to split shifts, you can maintain a sense of consistency at the workplace. In the above example, you could have one person working for three hours, and another covering the other three hours. You can ask the originally scheduled employee to prioritize whatever tasks need to be handled by them so the person covering for them isn’t taken aback by what you might otherwise require them to do.


Although the importance of policies should not be underestimated, manual processes will only take you so far.

For instance, if you’re still passing around an Excel spreadsheet by email, you probably know by now that it’s challenging to maintain an up-to-date copy of the schedule. There’s a good chance you’re trying to compile multiple versions of the same document, which is a pain. Communication via email and SMS text can easily slip through the cracks too.

A scheduling tool like ZoomShift can help you set up and maintain your employee schedule more effectively. You can even build your shift swapping rules into the tool your team members use to swap shifts.

When you automate the process, it requires less of your time, you won’t need to babysit your employees, and you’ll keep your team members happier, because they won’t have to get your approval for every swap.

Final Thoughts

Writing a shift swapping policy is a valuable exercise.

Utilizing an employee scheduling tool can help you streamline scheduling.
Put two and two together, and you’ll have a highly effective system that can run on near autopilot.

Are you looking for a better way to manage shift swapping? Check out our shift rules and shift swapping features for employees and employers.

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  • Jack Grime

    The best way to keep your strong talent is to implement an easy process for employees to swap their shifts.

  • Laura Maguire

    Highly advanced scheduling software that includes a mobile feature makes swapping easier.

  • David Harper

    Inclusiveness lets everyone look out for the best interest of their coworkers and the company.

  • Kimberley Clinch

    Good article. I think it's important to execute a plan that is compatible with your business needs and culture.

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Spencer Rule

Marketing Expert

Spencer is Head of Growth and User Acquisition at Zoomshift. He is driven by the constant challenge of enacting change in someone through meaningful relationship. That’s why he loves marketing. He has 8+ years of experience in lead generation, content marketing, inbound marketing, paid reach, digital marketing, marketing strategy, analytics, SEO, branding, and social media. He is also passionate about marketing automation, B2B lead generation and content strategy. Spencer holds a Bachelor degree in Communication from Boise State University.

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