How to Create an Availability Schedule

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A schedule of availability is a useful business tool that enables companies to see when their employees are available to work. It is often used in businesses that create shift schedules for regular intervals where not all employees work the same shifts every week. By using an availability schedule, your business can reduce the number of shift changes and missed shifts due to employee unavailability.

Use an Availability Spreadsheet

Creating an availability spreadsheet is a simple way to see your staff’s availability at a glance. This is particularly useful for small teams with less-complex schedules. Availability spreadsheets can be created using Google Sheets or Google Docs. This way, you can share the link for the spreadsheet with your employees, and they can all fill in the dates when they are available. You can also use Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel to create your availability spreadsheet.

Write the dates your availability schedule covers at the top of the spreadsheet so it’s clear to employees what period it is referencing: for example, “Availability Spreadsheet, May 1 to 15.” Next, include instructions for how the staff should use this spreadsheet. Would you like them to place an X where they can’t work, or would you like them to specify the times when they are available instead?

The first column in your spreadsheet should be for each employee’s name. Then, include a column for each day your availability spreadsheet covers. Write both the day and the date in the column header. Creating a weekly schedule template in Excel or Google Sheets can save your business time each scheduling period.

Consider Availability Tools

If you have a large team, create complex shift schedules or want to optimize your scheduling process, you may need to use scheduling or availability tools. These are designed to help your business easily see when employees are available and to schedule them according to your needs.

Homebase is a scheduling tool where employees can update their availability and trade shifts themselves. The completed schedule can be sent to employees via text, email or app so that your business can ensure your employees are up to date. Workers can also use the app to clock in and track their time. Homebase is free for up to one location.

Zoho People is an HR management tool that has many features, including scheduling and availability. Employees can use the tool to update their availability, request periods of leave and keep track of worked hours. It comes with different pricing tiers based on the functionality your business requires.

Best Practices for Scheduling

To ensure you create a schedule that works for your employees and your business needs, it’s important to follow best practices for scheduling. Be sure to ask employees for their availability ahead of time so that they have a chance to update their requirements. If certain employees have the same availability each week, keep that in your records or as part of your availability schedule template so that they don’t need to mark off the same days each time.

Provide the schedule to employees with ample notice. This enables employees to work out any conflicts well ahead of when they start working. Try to post the schedule on the same day each scheduling period so employees know when they can expect to see their shifts.

Institute a policy for shift changes. When conflicts arise, employees should be responsible for finding another employee who can cover the shift. Be sure to let employees know that if they trade their shifts, they need to find another employee who is equally qualified for the position. For example, a junior associate can’t trade shifts with an assistant manager, as they don’t have the same training or expertise.