Pharmacy OneSource Blog

Pharmacy Staff Scheduling: 9 Signs Your Spreadsheet Has Reached the Breaking Point

If you are using a spreadsheet to manage your pharmacy staff schedule, yet aren’t satisfied with how well it’s working, it may be time to examine whether the spreadsheet has exceeded its ability to help you.

A spreadsheet provides simple row-based schedules that are built through copying, pasting, and performing basic calculations. However, it is not designed for the complexity of many modern pharmacy environments.

Creating a staff schedule for the pharmacy requires administrators to:

  • Keep track of all details for each person on the schedule, including their unique skills, needs, requirements, availability, competency, and skill levels.
  • Manage and track all vacation and leave schedules, including historical holidays and rotations for each shift.
  • Create a fair schedule for employees, taking all above details into account.
  • Communicate the current schedule and any daily schedule changes to all staff.

If your staff scheduling is complex to manage, it may be time to discover the hidden costs associated with spreadsheet scheduling.

Here are nine signs to consider whether your spreadsheet has reached the breaking point:

  1. Your staff headcount (regular and per diem combined) exceeds 20 employees. The more staff you must schedule, the more complex your schedule becomes.
  2. Your staff needs to be cross-trained in multiple job areas so they can be assigned to those various areas as required. Trying to build cross training and rotations through specific job assignments into the schedule can be challenging.
  3. You need to schedule employees across multiple locations or sites. Many schedule administrators can handle their scheduling needs when they are on-site and aware of scheduling issues they can spot in their own environment. However, scheduling is more difficult when it occurs across multiple locations.
  4. You manage a varied weekend rotation schedule. It can be extremely challenging to keep track of the different time intervals of staff rotations during weekend shifts using a spreadsheet, especially if you are required to include links to various job assignments. 
  5. More than 25% of your schedules require staff with particular competencies. Specific jobs sometimes require staff with particular skills or competencies. Trying to keep track of these job/staff combinations while filling open shifts with the right staff can be overwhelming.
  6. You experience more than 10 changes per week to your schedule. The more dynamic your schedule is, the greater the strain on your spreadsheet scheduling system.
  7. You get more than 10 PTO and sick leave requests per month. Leave requests are a reality in every staffing environment. The more requests you have, the harder it can be to keep a stable schedule.
  8. You need to link your staff to other variables in your schedule (such as physicians). Some environments have job competency requirements as well as staffing dependencies where certain employees must be available when others are working.
  9. Your manager spends more than 20% of his or her time managing the schedule. If your scheduling manager is spending more than 20% of their time handling the schedule, is this the best use of their time?

Many smaller pharmacy departments within hospitals continue to use a spreadsheet over generic scheduling systems mainly because these systems have not been able to automate the complexities of their pharmacy environment. The safer bet has been to stick with a low-cost spreadsheet software rather than to adopt a generic scheduling system that doesn’t meet the specific needs of the pharmacy.


Using an electronic scheduling management system can address complex scheduling issues and reduce the hidden costs of utilizing spreadsheet management. You can download our Hidden Costs Calculator to determine the true annual cost of creating and managing your department’s schedule.

Click the button below to see how the StaffReady automated schedule management solution can handle the unique complexities of your organization.

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