Staggered Work Schedules for Individuals vs. Departments – What’s the Difference?

July 8, 2020 | 760 views

Staggered Work Schedules for Individuals vs. Departments – What’s the Difference?
Staggered Work Schedules for Individuals vs. Departments – What’s the Difference?

There are a few common, alternative work scheduling methods: including compressed workweek, flextime hours, and staggering. Staggering employee schedules means that start times, break times and/or end times can vary. Depending on your organization’s needs, it is one way to satisfy your staffing needs and those of your employees.

When using a staggered schedule, an employee’s work time (and hence the end time) could be ten minutes or a couple of hours before (or after) the start time of fellow colleagues. This results in fewer people working in the same environment. Other goals may be to reduce commute times. For some employees, it allows mom or dad to pick up children after school or attend to other family needs.

During a pandemic, staggering employee shift schedules has the added benefit of reducing the number of employees present at the same time and reduces the opportunity for employees to congregate before or after a shift. There are two primary ways to stagger—either by individual employees or by department, each with different benefits and challenges.

Staggering Employee Schedules

Staggering individual employee schedules is often used to enhance coverage. For example, a clinic or franchise that is open 24/7 has to cover all hours, but also staff more for busier times. In these scenarios, management will choose shift times that match the volume. If the busiest hours tend to be in the afternoon, then more people are scheduled and staggered to reflect the historic and anticipated flow of patients and customers.

Likewise, staggered employees suit manufacturing locations that have a limited number of workstations but who need to keep production ongoing. It can incorporate part-time workers well, too, because no standard, 8-hour shift needs to be used by all.

Staggering Department Schedules

Staggering schedules by department offers flexibility for companies based on their department role. In this scenario, individuals within the department share arrival times and end-of-shift times. It is beneficial when departments perform different functions that occur at different times of the day. For example, schedulers and logistics personnel might start earlier to plan the schedules for technicians or service personnel who arrive later in the day, ready to follow the appointment schedule provided to them.

The methodology of staggering a department could also be applied to staggering hours by location to enhance communication. A national organization, for example, could enhance accessibility to other key people if start hours are staggered by time zone. A west-coast regional location could start early in the morning to accommodate inter-region communication with an east-coast location.

Your choice of staggering by the individual or by the department is meant to enhance productivity and efficiency. Whether it better serves customers or enhances internal collaboration, the result is a shift away from traditional hours. With thoughtful consideration of client and company needs, you will achieve greater collaboration and positive results.


Author Profile Jon Forknell is the Vice President and General Manager of Atlas Business Solutions, Inc., a software marketing company specializing in employee scheduling software, including ScheduleBase employee scheduling software, and other business software solutions. In the past, Jon has been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Atlas Business Solutions was named as one of Software Magazine’s Top 500 Software Companies in 2004 through 2007, and 2010, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2018.

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