As any planner knows, it is difficult to foresee the events that become obstacles to the future you planned. The workload represents the starting point and is what drives everything else in the scheduling process. Therefore, its accuracy is as important as its definition.
This workload changes as it proximity approaches. A planner can review the workload for tomorrow with much more accuracy than the workload in a month from now. The planner will have access to much more accurate weather, trends of the week, latest events, etc that will influence both the number and the shape of the workload.
When the schedule is built, it is usually done with a workload that has far proximity and therefore less accuracy. But once the schedule is done and communicated to employees, it is very difficult to make dramatic changes to that schedule (that schedule represents the employee’s life, remember?).
Since a planner knows they can’t change the schedule and know that the workload is approximate, it is good practice to leave some wiggle room for the schedule to be adapted later. Of all the formulas that were discussed earlier (rounding the employees, measuring in seconds vs. minutes, etc), one of these steps can be padded or rounded up to give breathing room to both the planner and the employees.
Now some of you may say that rounding up is counter-productive and goes against business sense to stay competitive and find ways to cut costs. My argument against that is that if you only focus on the aspect of employee productivity down to the second, you may end up with turnover ratios that are high, absenteeism that is high, overtime costs that are high, etc. The human factor will take over and all the standard HR ratios will start creeping up.
Obviously, you can’t round too high since you won’t be competitive at all and not produce any profit as an organization. There is a balance, but with my experience, a balance just a tad in favor of rounding up will prevent hidden issues to creep up later down the road.
The important thing in adding wiggle room is to round up ONCE only. If you pad the number of seconds up, then the number of employees up, then the hours up, etc, you will end up with a much higher workload than you normally have.
The trick is to be as accurate as you can be (depending on your business) and then identify ONE of your math steps to be rounded up. Ideally, you pick at either end of the spectrum (either on the initial task measure or at the end when you say how many hours or employees are required).