August 4, 2021

Still Using Spreadsheets for Staff Scheduling? It Might be Time for a Change


Using Excel spreadsheets to schedule employees is not ideal, but there are a variety of reasons many managers are still doing it. Most often, it’s simply because they’ve been using it for years and they don’t have time to look for alternatives. Although spreadsheets can work for some small businesses with only a few employees, they can lead to frustration in larger organizations or those with more complex schedules. Here are some reasons spreadsheets might be a detriment to your operation.

Schedules that are created on a spreadsheet are typically either printed or emailed to employees. As Deputy Chief Roberts at the Lansing Police Department discovered, this method is not ideal for operations that have frequent schedule changes.  The police department implemented ScheduleAnywhere employee scheduling software, which saved the department time and hassles. 

“We used to have a paper schedule, which would get misplaced or lost,” said Roberts. “Manually updating and re-printing the schedule when changes were made was extremely time consuming.”

When changes are made to the printed schedule, administrators can’t be certain that everyone sees the updated version and has the most current schedule information. Similarly, when schedules and schedule changes are sent out via email, employees may not be looking at the most current schedule, which can result in scheduling errors, missed shifts, and improper staffing levels. Employees who work in multiple locations could have more than one schedule to keep track of, and often are double scheduled when managers don’t share schedules across the organization.

“Staff members were being double scheduled daily,” said Ginny Carpenter, staffing clerk for Bethany Retirement Living in reference to using spreadsheets for staff scheduling. “It was difficult to find an individual’s schedule with so many spreadsheets.”

Although spreadsheets appear to be straightforward and simple, they can make creating weekly schedules a time-intensive project. Managers at Bethany Retirement Living transitioned to an online employee scheduling system, which simplified their scheduling process.

Entering data, copying formulas, formatting, and recalculating can quickly eat up a manager’s time that could be spent on other important tasks. Even more time is spent on ongoing maintenance and re-entering repeating schedule information such as rotations and patterns each week.

Filling open shifts when spreadsheets are used for scheduling requires additional time – and plenty of it. Managers must sort through the schedule to determine who is available and has the proper qualifications to fill the shift. Then, they begin the arduous process of calling or emailing individuals until they find a replacement. The entire process is tedious and inefficient.

Companies that operate 24/7 and schedule for shifts often have robust schedules, and managers must track time-off requests, employee training and certifications, and ensure every shift is covered by the right employees. All of these take managers away from day-to-day operations and other core responsibilities. They also leave the organization open to the risk of human error, which can result in improper staffing levels and non-compliance. Factor in filling open shifts, managing shift swaps and other schedule changes, and it’s hard to imagine managers have much time for anything other than employee scheduling.

When you look at the ways spreadsheets can hinder employees and managers, it’s easy to see why spreadsheets aren’t the ideal scheduling solution for most operations.  Are you ready to see how staff scheduling software can streamline the scheduling process, while saving time and money? Try ScheduleAnywhere employee scheduling software FREE for 30 days!

Image  ©boygointer/