The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a harsh blow to many businesses. Either by choice or by government mandate, countless retailers and restaurants have closed their storefronts or pivoted to online ordering and curbside pickup in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus. By the end of March, 630,000 U.S. retail outlets had closed their doors, and restaurants and bars nationwide had shut down onsite dining. 

As some localities start to ease social distancing restrictions, retailers and restaurants are thinking about how they can reopen their doors for business while still protecting the health and safety of their employees and customers. At least initially, this may involve limited hours, reduced capacity, and new staffing requirements, as well as social distancing measures and stricter protocols for cleaning, hygiene, and personal protection.  

Reopening storefronts will likely present some unique workforce management challenges - especially when it comes to scheduling. Because we’re navigating uncharted territory, there’s no playbook for how to staff locations in a safe manner to meet an as-yet-unknown demand for goods or services. As a result, employers need to think “outside the box” to come up with scheduling strategies that prioritize the health and well-being of staff and customers above all else.  

We’ve been communicating with customers as they make plans to reopen for business — whether that takes place next week, next month, or further down the road. Businesses operating in states or municipalities with predictive scheduling laws will need to post employee schedules up to two weeks in advance of reopening, so working to develop strategies now will help ensure they’re ready to roll when they get the green light from authorities.  

Using Scheduling Groups for Shift Control 

I want to share a scheduling strategy that one Kronos customer is using to help them manage through these uncertain times. They are creating scheduling groups and assigning them to shifts A, B, C, etc., thereby ensuring that the same employees are always working the same shifts. That way, if one employee tests positive for COVID-19, the manager can quarantine only the exposed shift instead of the entire workforce. Likewise, if contact tracing shows that an infected customer visited the store, the manager can act quickly to quarantine the shift on duty at the time of potential exposure while leveraging the other scheduling groups to keep the business operating safely. 

If you haven’t taken advantage of the scheduling group feature in the past, this might be a good time to check it out. Kronos solutions enable you to create and name a scheduling group and assign an unlimited number of employees to it. All employees in that group will inherit the same schedule, eliminating the time-consuming task of assigning shifts to each individual employee. Applying shift and pattern templates to scheduling groups can further speed and simplify the schedule-building process, freeing managers to focus on strategic priorities as your business adjusts to the evolving pandemic situation. 

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Whether to Offer Self-Service or Not 

In the initial phases of reopening, you may also want to consider temporarily disabling certain Employee Self-Service features, such as Request Open Shift, Request Shit Swap, and Request to Cover, to better control shifts and simplify quarantine measures should they become necessary.  While these self-service options offer flexibility and convenience for employees, they may not make sense when managers are trying to keep the same employees working together consistently. You can easily enable these features once again when it becomes safe to mix different employees in different shifts.  

We’re Here to Help You Navigate What’s Next 

Kronos will continue to provide information and practical guidance as customers make plans and implement protective measures for gradually reopening their businesses. Developing and deploying effective scheduling strategies will be critical for keeping your employees and customers safe as we emerge from the pandemic and embrace the new normal.   

Published: Monday, May 11, 2020