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Creating a work schedule is not easy. Whether your team of employees is as large as a few dozen or as small as a handful, finding a way to fit everyone’s hours, hit minimums, and keep the team happy is tough. Fortunately, Excel can help make it a lot easier.
Excel templates remain one of the most useful tools in the history of computing. They’re great for managing tasks and projects, keeping finances in order, tracking fitness progress, and just staying organized in general — but scheduling is one area where Excel really shines.
5 Important Tips When Making a Schedule
Before diving into the actual scheduling process, keep the following considerations in mind. They’ll ease the entire process and reduce the amount of stress that piles up on you. Scheduling will never be easy, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare.
Know your employee’s preferences. The kind of preferences you can take into account when scheduling will differ from field to field (e.g. retail vs. warehouse), but it’s important to at least try to accommodate your workers.
Do some employees have a slant towards mornings? Or maybe evenings? How many hours does each employee want per week? Are there any timing restrictions, such as an unwillingness to work Sundays? Do certain employees have synergy and compatibility?
You can’t accommodate everyone, but it’s a good goal to shoot for because it can improve productivity and atmosphere — but most importantly it’ll build trust, and trust goes hand-in-hand with respect.
Track employee absence requests. As if it weren’t hard enough to juggle all of your employee’s preferences, there are time-sensitive issues that will pop up every now and then. For example, someone needs a few days to take a vacation or to mourn a lost family member.
Fortunately, this can be kept simple by using a versatile tool like Google Calendar or a calendar plugin for Thunderbird. A quality to-do list app like Todoist (reasons to upgrade to Todoist Pro), WorkFlowy (our WorkFlowy review), or Wunderlist (our Wunderlist review) can work well, too.
Make the schedule ahead of time. Obviously you can’t make it too far ahead of time in case situations change, but definitely avoid waiting until the day before. A good rule of thumb is about a week in advance.
If only procrastination was that easy to beat, right? Everyone struggles to get things done to some degree, which is why we’ve written a lot about anti-procrastination strategies, avoiding Internet distractions, and really overcoming procrastination.
By making your schedules ahead of time, you give yourself some breathing room in case sudden changes need to be made.
Assign the most important shifts first. By “most important”, we mean “non-negotiable”. If someone absolutely needs to work a particular shift, fill it in first and set it in stone. Once all of the necessary shifts are filled, it’s easier to mix-and-match the remaining shifts with available employees.
And always keep at least one contingency in mind. Ideally you’d create multiple schedules (e.g. Plan A, Plan B, etc) but that can take up a lot of time, so at the very least you should identify the employees who are most likely to fall through and have a backup plan in case they do.
Make the schedule easily accessible. Letting your workers see the schedule beforehand is good for two reasons: they can point out any errors and they’ll appreciate the heads up so they can plan out their own weeks around the schedule.
Since we’re going to be using Excel templates to create our work schedules, the preferred option is to upload them straight to Google Drive. It will convert to Google’s spreadsheet alternative and allow you to share it so that others can see. Heed these tips for collaborative Google Sheets if you’re new to it.
And don’t worry about security. Unless you’re handling government secrets, Google Sheets is secure enough for everyday users like you and me.
Free Excel Template Downloads
With those tips out of the way, here are a handful of awesome Excel templates designed specifically to help employers plan out worker schedules for the week. It’ll still be hard work, but much easier if you use one of these templates.
Templates are available as XLSX files for Excel 2007 and later versions.
Comprehensive Work Shift Schedule
This work shift schedule by Spreadsheet123 is one of the more comprehensive templates out there. It’s good enough to rival some of the scheduling software available for download on the web, yet somehow this template is available completely free of charge.
When you open it, you’ll find different sheets for: Employee Register, Work Shift Schedule, Time Card, Salary Budget, Attendance, Occupancy, Settings, and Help. The Help sheet is a mini-tutorial that will show you how to get started with the schedule.
Honestly, we highly recommend this one. We have a couple of other suggestions below this one, but none are as good and you should only check them out if this one is overly complicated for what you want to do (which is certainly a valid complaint).
Download: Work Shift Schedule
Weekly Shift Schedule
This weekly shift schedule by Business Management Systems may not be as comprehensive as the one above, but it’s great for smaller teams. It’s simpler, which means its easier to learn and easier to use. Highly recommended for those who want a middle-of-the-road scheduler.
It comes with three sheets: Schedule, Shifts, and Employees. All you have to do is list your employees and their hourly rates in the Employees sheet. Then define the start time and end time for each available shift in the Shifts sheet. Afterwards, the automated Schedule sheet becomes self-explanatory.
The only downside is that it can only go up to 20 employees and 9 defined shifts, making it great for small and medium operations, but implausible for larger companies.
Download: Employee Work Schedule
Daily Shift Schedule
Maybe you don’t need all of the automated bells and whistles that come with the two templates mentioned above. Maybe you prefer to do things as manually as possible and all you need is a truly basic schedule to tinker with. If so, then use the one provided by Vertex42.
This template doesn’t do any work at all. Its only purpose is to give you a predesigned schedule that you can fill out by hand. When finished, you can print it out (or upload it online) for everyone to see, and it’s easy enough to start afresh every week.
Download: Shift Schedule Template
Excel Makes Your Life Easier Yet Again
Feel free to modify these templates to your needs, if they aren’t absolutely perfect for you (as long as you don’t redistribute them). If you want to customize, but don’t know where to begin, we recommend learning Excel formulas first.
And before you go printing your completed schedules, check out these tips for printing Excel sheets to make sure everything comes out properly.
Which template is your favorite? Did we miss any good ones? Do you have any tips or tricks for scheduling your employees? Share with us in the comments below!
Image Credits: Weekly Time Sheet by Andrey_Popov via Shutterstock, Scheduling Tasks by faithie via Shutterstock, Workstation Illustration by faithie via Shutterstock, Empty Schedule by xtock via Shutterstock