Staffing Management

How to determine weekly work hours for your staff

By Akshay Sachdeva

Feb. 2, 2022

Do you know how to set weekly work hours for your shift workers?

The average number of weekly hours worked by full-time employees in the U.S. is 41.5 hours. It’s lower in European countries, like Denmark, where it’s 37.2 hours per week.

The statistics are only an approximation. Your business and staff needs are unique. And you need to learn how to determine weekly work hours for staff in a balanced, methodical way — balancing between staff productivity, staff morale, business profitability, and legal requirements.

Here’s how to determine the right number of weekly working hours for your staff:

#1: Understand your staff needs

While setting weekly work schedules, it’s important to learn your staff’s work and life goals. Some workers might be college students, while others might have family commitments. Talk with them to discuss their weekly work schedule expectations, so you can take that into consideration.

If you set the weekly work hours too high, it may be bad for your staff’s health and productivity. A study by the World Health Organization found that working more than 55 hours a week increases the risk of having a stroke by 35% and the risk of dying from heart disease by 17%.

Setting weekly work hours too high can be counterproductive as it unnecessarily overworks staff and often causes burnout. Research shows that productivity falls sharply after 50 hours per week and drops dramatically after 55 hours. On the other end, setting weekly work hours too low may not compensate your staff to levels that keep them satisfied.

Set weekly hours in a way that enhances staff productivity while keeping them healthy and happy. This requires empathy at an individual staff level so you can set weekly hours for each staff member most effectively. This will also boost your employee retention rates, leading to higher profitability in the long run.

The best way to achieve higher productivity and morale is to view the exercise of setting weekly work hours as a collaborative effort between you and your staff. You need to seek their feedback before and after setting their weekly hours. This will help you evaluate their preferences and know how they’re feeling after delivering a full work week.

Being human-centered in your approach is essential when scheduling for maximum employee productivity and satisfaction.

#2: Evaluate what your business needs

Business is about supply and demand. When your sales are high, you need more staff to help you deliver on customer expectations. The million-dollar question then is: How do you predict sales demand so you can set the weekly work hours to meet it?

The simplest way to predict sales demand is to examine your historical sales data. You’ll know the shifts where you’ve been busy in the past and ones that have been quieter. And the chances are high that sales will follow a similar pattern in the future, too.

Use revenue and shift data from your employee scheduling software to set weekly work hours accurately for meeting sales demand. More importantly, you can avoid the expensive mistake of overstaffing or understaffing.

You also need to minimize employee turnover as much as possible. Fast-food chains like McDonald’s are offering flexible hours and higher hourly rates to their employees. Following a similar tactic could help you reduce employee turnover costs to a large extent, making your business more profitable in the long run.

Know your personnel needs to effectively set working hours. From past experience, what mix of employees do you need for which shifts? How many supervisors and entry-level employees do you need on each shift? These questions will help you determine how many hours you need from each level of employee.

You must allow shift workers to cover for one another in case anyone falls sick, so you can maintain the same number of weekly hours you’d originally planned. Empowering employees to pick up the shift of a sick staff member will prevent you from being understaffed.

#3: Stay within legal boundaries

You need to ensure your weekly scheduling is compliant with both local, state, and federal laws. For instance, in New York City, retail and hospitality companies with over 20 employees aren’t allowed to have staff on an ‘on-call’ basis. They should be given a written schedule 72 hours in advance, so they have a predictable schedule.

There may also be laws in your state that need you to give a certain amount of gap between shifts to allow your employees to rest. In New York, you’re required to pay an additional hour of pay to staff who work split shifts, i.e., working two or more shifts per working day.

You also need to follow overtime laws. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires non-exempt workers to receive overtime pay for any time worked over 40 hours, and some states even have different laws regarding overtime pay. And in certain circumstances, legislation may set limits on the amount of overtime employees can work, so you need to keep this in mind too.

If you plan weekly work hours meticulously with your employee scheduling software, you’ll realize you can avoid overtime costs, or at least prevent them to a large extent. The right employee scheduling software can help you navigate these laws and make it easier for you to set weekly hours.

Use predictive scheduling features within your employee scheduling software, so you can create weekly work schedules ahead of time. Avoid annoying your employees who might be pedantic about their working conditions.

Move toward a lean workforce to set optimum weekly hours

Aim to move toward a lean and agile workforce to ensure your business is setting weekly hours cost-effectively. Remember, weekly scheduling proves to be a balancing act between staff satisfaction, business success, and legal standards. By fulfilling these three needs in a flexible way, you are sure to strike the perfect amount of weekly work hours for your staff.

If you want to continue the conversation about how to set weekly work hours for your business, please feel free to contact us today. We’re here to help.

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