Creating the work schedule for your staff can often lead to headaches, particularly if your staff is a large one. Some club owners are turning to software to make the work-scheduling experience more palatable while others still rely on less technological methods.

For the past year and a half, Lisa Siefert, group exercise and program manager at Union Station Multiplex in Chicago, has created the scheduling for three groups at the club: group exercise department, the fitness floor staff and the Pilates personal trainers. Other department heads create the schedules for their department staff. The company does not use scheduling software except for a booking program for its personal trainers.

For the past two months, Brian Kenney, operations manager at Lifestyle Family Fitness at The Tampa Palms in Tampa, FL, has used a software program to schedule employee hours and keep track of the budget.

Each of them had tips about how to schedule employee time.

  • Create your schedule for a set period

    Siefert creates her schedule for a month, giving employees more time to plan ahead for their personal activities. The month before the scheduled month, all employees put in their requests for days off and personal time. Kenney prefers to set the schedule a week in advance.

  • Consider using scheduling software

    Part of the reason Kenney sets the schedule for just a week and Siefert sets it for a month in advance is that Kenney uses software to do the scheduling while Siefert does not. Therefore, it makes sense for Siefert to plan schedules for a larger chunk of time when she sits down to create the schedule.

    Depending on the size of your club, you may want to look into scheduling software. The software can cut down on the time it takes managers to schedule their staff.

    Many software systems can track vacation time, sick time, lieu time, and other time defined by the user. Many also analyze past activity and prepare data for payroll. Often, the software will allow you to print out reports, such as daily, weekly or monthly employee schedules, absences, activity summaries and activity charts.

    The software often allows you to select employees by type or skills. For example, if you need a Pilates instructor to work a Saturday, you can bring up all the Pilates instructors that are available on that day and plug one into the system.

    Some staff-scheduling programs are available on the Internet, which allows employees to view schedule online and place their requests into the program. It also allows the schedule to be viewed from home.

    The software Kenney uses not only schedules the employees' hours but it also tracks employees as they clock in using a paperless handprint system that makes it impossible to falsify clock-in records. The software also prints daily, weekly or pay-period reports.

    Kenney says that the benefits of using the software include the ability to take advantage of his budget to its maximum capacity. At clubs he worked at prior to Lifestyle Family Fitness, he may have had budgets of $2,000 a month and only used $1,400 of it. Since using the software, Kenney has gone from using 85 percent to 90 percent of his budget to using 98 percent of it.

    “It depends on the philosophy of the company,” says Kenney. “If they want you to save, you can cut back using it. Our philosophy is that they give us a certain amount to spend and they want us to spend that much.”

    So, the software offers peace of mind knowing that he's not way over or under budget but as close to the budgeted number as possible, Kenney says.

  • Keep employee hours as consistent as possible

    Siefert and Kenney agree that a consistent schedule is best for most employees. The schedule for the fitness floor staff at Union Station takes everyone's personal lives into account. The group is divided into three shifts — morning, afternoon and evening. Unless someone is on vacation, the hours are kept fairly consistent for each employee.

    Because no one wants to work weekends, the club hired part-time people to work on Saturdays and Sundays. Most weekday employees are full time and they appreciate having a 9 to 5 job during the week, Siefert says.

    “If they get employees who can commit each week to the same time, then it's easy [to create a schedule],” Kenney says. “If they can't it's more frustrating.”

  • Create a priority list

    For the group exercise department, Siefert has a priority list that goes by seniority and the formats each employee can teach. The higher an employee is on the priority list, the more likely that he or she will get first pick on times and classes. Also included is a point system, which means that employees who volunteer a lot get their first choice for classes.

  • It may seem simple, but managers should think ahead to the ebb and flow of member visits. In January and February, your health club is much busier, which will mean more floor staff and sales staff will need to be available. During the summer, however, the numbers may decrease, so your employee schedules should be adjusted accordingly.