The Limits of Scheduling with Excel

We know Excel isn't the best system for employee scheduling and we've written down all the reasons why.

The Limits of Scheduling with Excel
Photo by Mika Baumeister / Unsplash

Employee scheduling is a very dynamic process. It requires intelligent manipulation of employees, jobs, and shifts, and comes with layers of important data. While a spreadsheet is great for storing, archiving, and calculating numeric values, it lacks the sophistication required to organize a schedule effectively.

If you’re currently using a spreadsheet for your scheduling, you’ve likely already encountered some of the limitations that come with Excel and are aware that a spreadsheet isn’t the most efficient solution for your employee scheduling. If you’re considering using a spreadsheet for your scheduling, here are some reasons to consider a Workforce Management System instead.

It’s Time-Consuming

The largest problem we’ve seen others encounter with using Excel is the time it takes to get the main scheduling components; employees, jobs, shifts, etc. to properly display in their spreadsheet. While it may seem like a quick and simple process, there are layers of underlying data that need to be considered. What is the employee’s availability? What qualifications are required for the job, and does the scheduled employee meet them? How do you factor in time off requests and manage overtime? The impact of these layers of data and information can be time-consuming and confusing, which is the opposite of what we are trying to achieve when we create a schedule.

It Can’t be Automated

Scheduling with a spreadsheet lacks the luxuries offered by a workforce management system. There are no formulas to handle the intricacies of scheduling and applying pay rules. A workforce management system on the other hand allows you the ability to automate many of your scheduling practices. In a workforce management system, you can set up repeating shift patterns, fill open shifts with qualified workers, apply specific pay rules, create timesheets for payroll, and much more.

It's Not Interactive

If a conflict arises in your schedule, a spreadsheet is not set up to notify you. Nor will a spreadsheet inform you of vacancies in the schedule that need to be filled, or if an unqualified employee is working a shift. When working in Excel it’s solely up to the scheduler to catch these problems, whereas a workforce management system can catch these problem areas and provide you with a solution.

It’s Error-Prone

Even the most meticulous person makes errors every once in a while. With a spreadsheet, your data is all being entered manually making it more subject to human error. The larger your workforce, and the more frequently you update your schedule, the greater the chance of those errors getting through the cracks. These small errors compound, leading to costly grievances and lost revenue. A workforce management system helps drastically reduce these human errors, preventing double booking, and incorrect scheduling.

There is no Security Control

While you can protect a spreadsheet, Excel doesn’t offer differing security levels for groups of employees. It’s an all-or-nothing situation. With a workforce management system, levels of access can be locked for groups based on your preferences. You can control both the terms of activities, such as being able to set up, view, and edit the schedule, and the terms of organization; such as the area or group within your organization you wish to allow access to.

It Doesn’t Help with Change Requests

After you’ve spent hours in Excel, you’ve completed your schedule and distributed it to your team. Then comes the influx of emails, texts, phone calls, and office visits from your team, requesting changes to the schedule. Excel doesn’t offer a way to keep track of these requests, and when you’re making these changes, you’re faced with a cascade of edits to your schedule that leave you needing to invest even more time into making sure everything works together.


If you’re scheduling a small group of employees, with no need for skill consideration and limited employee interaction, you can probably live with Excels scheduling limitations. However, if you see your company growing you will find the time it takes to enter and update everything manually becomes greater and more expensive, with the likelihood of errors creeping in increasing with each new addition. A quality workforce management system, like WorkSight Flow, is set to grow with your company. From a scaling pricing plan to additional support features being available, WorkSight Flow wants to see you and your business succeed.