self scheduling: how to implement in your business

Self-Scheduling: Everything You Need to Know

Scheduling employees is a complex task with many variables to consider and adjust. To reduce the burden of scheduling off management’s shoulders, many businesses apply self-scheduling—letting employees pick shifts they want to work or trade shifts with coworkers.

Self-scheduling allows employees to have more control over their work time, making them more likely to be happy and engaged. Employers can use the time spent on tedious scheduling to work on other important aspects of the business.

However, without proper guidelines and procedures in place, self-scheduling can become hard to control. In this post, we’ll discuss how self-scheduling works and how you can implement it effectively in your business.

What is self-scheduling?

Self-scheduling is when employees schedule themselves into shifts by claiming shifts they want to work or trading shifts with coworkers.

Self-scheduling gives employees more flexibility and control over when they work whereas managers don’t have to do all the scheduling work.

self scheduling

How does self-scheduling work?

Self-scheduling comes in 2 main forms: claiming open shifts and trading shifts with coworkers.

Open shifts are shifts that haven’t been assigned to any employees. When the manager/scheduler creates the work schedule, they can post some open shifts and notify employees. Eligible employees who want to work extra hours can claim open shifts they can work (often on a first come first served basis).

After employees have filled themselves into open shifts, the scheduler will finalize the schedule and share an official work schedule with all workers. If there are empty open shifts, the scheduler will assign specific employees to those shifts.

Besides claiming open shifts, employees can swap (trade) shifts with coworkers if they can’t work their assigned shifts.

To make sure shifts are only filled with qualified people, you can add an approval step where shift claims and shift swaps will go through your review. Automated self scheduling apps can make this approval step easier for you.

Self Scheduling vs Shift Bidding?

Self scheduling allows employees to choose their own shifts based on availability and preference, often within set guidelines or requirements.

Shift bidding is a process where employees bid on available shifts, and the person in charge of employee scheduling will decide who gets the shifts based on specific criteria.

Who can use self-scheduling

Self-scheduling is common in industries that operate on shift work:

  • Healthcare
  • Hospitality
  • Retail
  • Security
  • Manufacturing
  • Cleaning services
  • And more

Any businesses that require flexibility in operations and staffing can benefit from self-scheduling.

Benefits of self-scheduling


Self-scheduling is a flexible way for schedulers to fill shifts with qualified and available employees. Employees can arrange their work time and scheduling strategies to suit their personal lives. If they’re busy, they can find someone else to cover a shift for them.

Morale & productivity

When employees have control over their work time, they can maintain a better work-life balance. They can arrange time for family and friends, eat and sleep, work and play. That helps prevent burnout and improve well-being, meaning you can see more engaged and productive employees.

Recruitment & retention

Flexible work arrangements appear to be one of the most sought-after factors for some potential candidates. Job seekers and employees love the ability to choose the best time to work. That’s why self-scheduling can be a huge plus to attract talents and retain good workers.

Fewer no-shows

Employees can be absent due to family reasons, schedule conflicts, illnesses, and many other reasons. When employees schedule themselves, they’ve considered their availability and preferences before claiming a shift, so no-shows are less likely to happen. In urgent situations, they can swap or trade shifts with coworkers so the shift is still covered.

Reduced time on employee scheduling

Scheduling requires the scheduler to take into account many factors: overtime, skills, qualifications, availability, and preferences. That can take lots of time and effort. By letting employees choose when to work, you can reduce the time spent on employee scheduling.

self scheduling

How to implement self-scheduling

Determine how you want to apply self-scheduling in your business

Self-scheduling should work well with the current types of work schedules in your business. Whether it’s split shifts, night shifts, or clopening, see if you need to make changes to how you’re scheduling your employees.

Do you want self-scheduling to be the entire schedule or just a small part of the schedule? How do you make sure only qualified workers can claim the shifts?

Experiment to see how self-scheduling works before making it official. For example, try scheduling 2-3 open shifts per week before making the whole schedule open.

Set procedures

Set the steps for different situations involved in scheduling:

  • How employees claim open shifts or trade shifts
  • How you review and approve shift claims/shift swaps
  • How you handle unpopular shifts that no one picks
  • How employees know if they’re eligible to work certain shifts
  • How you handle back-to-back shifts and unfilled shifts

Choose smart tools

Self-scheduling requires lots of exchanges and updates. It’s hard to make changes and notify updates to everyone if you use a paper or spreadsheet system.

Self scheduling software like Camelo make it easy to adjust self schedule, create self scheduling template, manage open shifts, and approve shift swaps. Employees can view and claim shifts that match their availability. They can trade or swap shifts with coworkers.

shift swapping on Camelo work schedule maker
Employees can offer or trade shifts themselves using Camelo app

Inform staff

Whether self-scheduling is a small part of your work schedule or makes up your whole schedule, make sure your employees have a solid understanding of what they need to do.

Before making major changes in your scheduling practices, consult your employees and take their opinions. Talk about the purpose and benefits of self-scheduling. Provide training, demos, and written guidelines about the procedures of self-scheduling.

Take feedback

Ask your employees if self-scheduling is working and what you can do to improve the process. Making the process easier and more convenient for employees help them reap more benefits from this scheduling method.

An example of self-scheduling guidelines

Fill in the necessary information to this example of self-scheduling guidelines to create your own:

Scheduling process

  • Rotation period
  • When employees expect to receive a new schedule
  • Length of time that the schedule is effective

Scheduling requirements

  • Predetermined criteria for claiming a shift: qualifications, skills, duties, etc.
  • Hour requirements: Each employee must work 20 hours per week or 10 shifts per month.
  • Restrictions regarding shift alignment: Employees can’t work back-to-back shifts.
  • How you handle schedule conflicts: What will you do if requirements aren’t met or if shift conflicts happen?

Time off request rules

  • How you manage staffing on recognized holidays
  • How you schedule people for holidays that fall on or around a weekend. e.g. someone working on a Saturday Christmas will get a day off the following week
  • How many people can request time off within a period of time


  • Overtime rate
  • How overtime is recorded and tracked
  • Whether or not approval is required for working overtime


With so many moving parts to consider and plan while scheduling employees, self-scheduling can be a powerful tool if you can implement it effectively.

To meet business demands and stay compliant while keeping your staff engaged, try self-scheduling with powerful employee scheduling software like Camelo. It simplifies scheduling and claiming open shifts, swapping shifts, and manager’s approvals. Try it for free today →.

Employees can schedule themselves by claiming open shifts on Camelo app
Your team can schedule themselves by claiming open shifts on Camelo app

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