Feb 26 2010
Asking your boss for time off is like going to confession. Hear me out: your life (and/or soul) is in the hands of this one person; a person who, among other things, has suboptimal management skills. Both give you a hard time. Rightly or wrongly, you are wracked with guilt. And even if you get what you want – absolution or vacation – it comes at a cost. You can go to heaven and party with Bob Marley, but first you have to say your 10 Hail Marys first. And sure, you can get that afternoon off to go check out the women’s roller derby championship, but you’ll pay for it, what with those dirty looks from your co-workers who think you’re slacking (you are.) Both conservation is encased in weird vibes.
ShiftPlanning is a dynamic, free scheduling tool that not only takes the pain out of these conversations, it also makes everyone’s lives easier by providing a single interface where employees’ schedules can be monitored and managed, freeing up people’s time to, you know, actually work or something. Because the only thing worse than having to ask your boss for vacation is taking that vacation, only coming back to find out that your boss thought you said September, rather than October. (How someone could confuse the two is beyond me, but that’s your boss for you.)
The site itself is clean and crisp and effectively articulates the breadth of ShiftPlanning’s features. I particularly encourage you to check out their tutorial video here. In addition to these nifty scheduling features, it also provides robust reports, user dashboards, and neat extras, like mobile access and file sharing, depending on your threshold of employee schedule management masochism.
The tool makes your boss’ life easier by allowing them to manage their employees’ schedules, approve or reject vacation requests, and – what I like the most – compel their employees to find cover if they can’t work. This latter piece is great for employees too. For starters, the act of finding someone to cover your shift is generally an in-person exercise which can get huddled – people are inherently sneaky and wicked. And worse yet, there’s no audit trail for these conversations if someone flakes. It’s even better if you can’t appear in person to have this awkward chat: if you wake up with totally sick poison oak, rather than calling the only co-worker who actually seems to like you – and there’s no chance they won’t ignore your call – you can access all employee available online, in the safe and impersonal medium of the Internet. And heck, in the process maybe you’ll find out other people in the office like you after all, but were too shy to say anything because you kind of come across as self-absorbed and stand off-ish. Maybe you’ll even meet your soulmate!
The closest analog to a tool like this that I can think of is Microsoft Outlook. But my gut is telling me that Outlook falls a bit flat in comparison. For starters, while users can generally see if other employees are busy or on vacation, due to user access rights, it’d be more complicated to work the trade-shift angle, which Shift Planning allows elegantly. In fact, the Outlook version of shift-trading probably would go something like this:
Mike (sees Rich in the pantry): Hey Rich.
Rich: Hey Mike.
Mike: Whatcha got there?
Rich: Tuna fish.
Mike: Ahhh…[awkward pause.] Hey Rich, you know how we have to come in one Saturday a month during the busy season?
Rich: Yeah, it’s the worst.
Mike: Ehh…well, something came up, and I can’t come in this Saturday. Long story, but there’s this [mumbled]…eh…roller derby…[more mumbles]….Allentown…[more mumbles]…met…eharmony–
Rich: — You know what Mike? I just remembered something, gotta run, bye bye.
Mike: [Stares vacantly at the toaster oven, a gentle tear rolling down his face. His damp face says, “Now what?”]
But hey, even if Rich wasn’t such a self-centered jerk (I heard he went to boarding school in Carmel), is that much of a consolation? Even if Rich said yes, you’d still have to slink into your boss’ office tell them the news. “And Rich is ok with this?” the boss would say. “Yeah, I just talked to him.” “Can you bring him in here?” And then things just turn gross.
The example above is set in a cryptically corporate office, where, ShiftPlanning would work just fine (especially in a smaller office.) That said, I feel like its sweet spot is in the service industry, particularly for those smaller businesses that can get lost in the cracks: too small for something like Outlook; too big for Post-It notes left to feebly flutter away when posted next to the walk-in freezer. At the end of the day, the beauty of good software like ShiftPlanning’s is that it takes any connection you may have to other people and utterly obliterates them. This is nice, especially when the connection involves invasive and gnarly work-life topics like approaching your boss about vacation. Now if only saving your soul were that simple. And free.