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This paper focuses upon employee rest breaks, or reliefs, in workforce scheduling. Historically, the workforce scheduling literature has largely ignored reliefs, as less than 18% of the 64 papers we surveyed scheduled reliefs. The argument has been that one need not schedule reliefs in advance, since they can easily be scheduled in real-time. We find this argument to be flawed. We show that failing to schedule reliefs in advance will have one of two undesirable outcomes. First, there will be a less profitable deployment of labor should all reliefs actually be taken in real-time. Second, if some reliefs are never assigned or if relief-timing restrictions are relaxed so that more reliefs may be assigned in real-time, there will be a disgruntled and less productive workforce and perhaps violations of contractual obligations. Our findings are supported by anecdotal evidence drawn from commercial labor scheduling software.


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© Elsevier. Final version published as: Thompson, G., & Pullman, M. E. (2007). Scheduling workforce relief breaks in advance versus in real-time. European Journal of Operational Research, 181(1), 139-155. doi:10.1016/j.ejor.2006.05.018
Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.