How to Make a Work Schedule

Making a work schedule can be a really laborious task when you’re using tools such as

Creating a work schedule with Hello Scheduling is fast and easy

Creating a work schedule with Hello Scheduling is fast and easy

Excel, pencil and paper, or work schedule templates in Word.  When creating a work schedule for your employees, you need to consider the following:

  • What shifts or coverage do I need?
  • What employees do I need to fill those shifts?  And are they available to work?
  • How much money can I spend on labor?
  • Are my employees getting the right amount of breaks?
  • How do I let my team know when there are changes to the schedule?

In this blog post, we’ll walk through each aspect of creating a work schedule.

What Shifts Do I Need?

One of the first things you should consider when creating a work schedule is exactly what shifts / coverage that you’ll need.  Your shifts or coverage level depends on a number of factors specific to your business.  Here’s a few examples:

  • A retail store might base their coverage on the number of customers they expect to service during a given time frame.
  •  A call center might base their shifts on call volume (i.e., the number of inbound calls they expect to receive).
  •  A home health care business or hospice’s shifts usually align with their clients’ need to be seen by a healthcare professional.
  • You might be in an industry that needs a 9 80 work schedule, which compresses 80 hours of work into 9 business days providing every other Friday off.

There are a few things to consider when creating shifts for your employees:

  • When should the shift start and when should it end?
  • How many employees will we need to work each shift?
  • What skills do those employees need to have? For example, in the case of a home healthcare business, you might need employees with a specific certification to meet with a client, such as CPR skills.

Selecting Employees to Work a Shift

Now that you’ve created your shifts to align with your business needs, we need to fill those shifts with employees.  There are number of things you’ll want to consider when scheduling staff:

  • Is the employee available to work?  For example do they have time off or are they unavailable?  If your business employs students, they can be incredibly difficult to schedule because of class schedules.
  • There are also interpersonal dynamics to consider.  Many employees don’t work well together — as a manager you’ll need to understand how your team works together, distilling that information into the schedule
  • Does this employee have the right skills for a shift?  In many businesses, not only do you need an employee that is available, but also has the right set of skills.  For example, you might need an employee that knows how to work your POS system — you don’t want to accidentally schedule someone for that shift who lacks the right training.

How Much Should I Spend on Labor?

Determining how much you should spend on labor is both art and science.  It’s also very related to our first section on setting up your shifts.  Determining your labor budget varies significantly from industry to industry.  Here are a few examples:

  • In many retail stores, determining what you should spend on labor directly ties to your expected sales.  Most retail businesses have their own formula, but ultimately a retail store’s labor budget is usually expressed as a percentage of sales.
  • In home healthcare, labor budgets can be determined based on expected revenues from seeing clients.  Many home health care businesses will negotiate a hourly rate with their clients.  A percentage of this hourly rate should be spent on labor.

Now that you’ve determined your labor budget, you have the difficult task making sure that your labor costs stay within your labor budget.

Are My Employees Getting the Right Amount of Breaks?

Break scheduling, and adhering to labor laws can be very difficult.  Every state, county, country, etc has it’s own labor laws and ways of calculating breaks.  As an example, in some states after an employee has worked 8 hours he or she is entitled to a paid 30 minute lunch break.  So in addition to scheduling shifts, you’ll also have to schedule breaks.

It’s important to note, the department of labor regularly audits businesses — especially those that have received complaints from employees about insufficient breaks — looking for records of “breaks taken”.

Making Schedule Changes and Communicating With Staff

After you’ve created a schedule — it will undoubedtly become out of date.  Someone will be unavailable to work, you won’t need someone to work a shift, etc.   Change happens.  If you’re using paper and pencil or Excel today, it can be very difficult for you to communicate with your staff about schedule changes.  Sure Excel provides you with a printable work schedule, but how do you go about doing the following today?

  • How would you find an employee from your staff that is available to work right now?
  • Where would you find this employee’s contact information?
  • How long would it take you to contact them?

Making changes after a schedule has been created can be one of your hardest tasks.  With online work schedule software, this task becomes much easier.


If you’re responsible for creating the work schedule in your organization you know how difficult this task can be.  With our employee scheduling software, you’ll be able to create schedules in minutes.

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