You are here: Home / Blog / What is an Employee Scheduling System?

What is an Employee Scheduling System?
(Features + Benefits + Examples + Tips)

Zig Ziglar, the notable motivational speaker and author once said “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem.  We all have twenty-four hour days”.  Planning the work schedules of employees isn’t a piece of cake and if done poorly, you are wasting both your and your employees’ time.

Planning schedules can be very challenging and time-consuming if done manually, and at the same time, it can be very easy and done in a couple of minutes if done efficiently using an employee scheduling system.  Since we are living in a world where every single minute matters a lot, using a technical solution to make the frequent task of scheduling work times seems like a smart thing to do.

In this blog, we have got you completely covered on anything and everything about employee scheduling, from features and benefits of schedule making systems to some of the top scheduling applications.  We have also covered some important points that will help you choose the perfect employee scheduling app for your needs.

What is a Work Scheduling System?

Employee Scheduling Software is a technological solution that automates the entire process of creating and maintaining employee schedules.  The building, managing, and tracking schedules is very easy with such software and generates error-free data.

With a workforce management application, tracking of data like total working hours, vacation days, leaves, daily tasks, etc.  is done automatically and important statistics that will maximize productivity are provided.  You are able to easily manage all current tasks that your workforce is doing and get updates as soon as a task is finished.

In short, the workforce management app will create error-free work plans, increase productivity, and enables easy tracking of both employees and projects.  Now that I have your attention, please continue reading for in-depth information regarding work scheduling applications.

Important features of Work Scheduling Systems

Important Features of Work Scheduling System

1. Easy to use Application, with Availability across Various Platforms

The first important thing to consider when choosing a perfect planning software is the ease of the software.  If the software is easy to use and hassle-free, then all new staff members to quickly get a hang of the application, and efficiently get on board.  Another important factor to keep in mind that the app is available across all devices like Android, iPhone, etc.  and can be accessed from anywhere with internet access.

2. Ability to create Employee Profiles

The ability to store important personal information like name, contact information, emergency information, allergies, etc.  in secure employee profiles within the software is very crucial.  In addition, the profile should store information like availability, preferable working times, etc.  for creating highly accepted schedules

3. Easy Shift Management

The primary reason that you need a work management software is to schedule employees’ shift times.  So, this is quite an irreplaceable feature that the application needs to have.  It should be easy to create schedules that meet the requirement of the business enterprise and shouldn’t hinder employees’ lives at the same time.

4. Effortless Shift Modifications

All employers know that last-minute leaves are inevitable, and a frequent predicament, and in such cases, and thus you need a scheduling app can quickly rectify the issue with scheduling another worker so that day-to-day operations aren’t hindered.  In addition, if the application can simplify this process by allowing employees to request a leave, approval of leave, and re-scheduling another employee all from the mobile application, then it is a big bonus point.

5. Accurate tracking of working-hours

The workforce management software should help you manage and track the time and attendance of all staff members for accurate payroll processing.  If you are able to clock-in and clock-out easily either from a desktop application or your mobile application, then keeping a track of working hours will be easy.  In addition, if the mobile application sends notifications if a staff member forgot to clock-out based on location, then it is just another advantage.

6. Room for Assigning Jobs and Collaborating on Projects from the Application

For business companies in which the employees don’t have a fixed task to do every single day if the planning application allows the employers to assign duties to their employees from the application and monitor the progress, then a lot of time can be saved.  In addition, the application should allow different co-workers to collaborate on a project.  This way, a lot less effort is required in communications.

7. Performance tracking

All employers need to know how their staff is performing for better growth of the whole organization towards a common goal.  If your business is one in which tasks are handed through the workforce planning software, then you must be able to track the progress of all the tasks and also get updates when a job is finished.  All this in addition to customer reviews, where applicable can help employers precisely determine their staff’s progress.

8. Alerts and Notifications

The workforce management app should send timely notifications and reminders to its users regarding important events like staff meetings, schedule changes, holidays, etc.  as well as inform them about their weekly schedule at the beginning of each week for higher timeliness among staff members.

9. Accommodate time-off requests

With scheduling software, staff-members can easily request time-off and vacation days through the app, and managers can remotely approve this holiday.  Once it is approved, the software automatically doesn’t give shifts to that particular employee.

10. Monthly Reports

Most paid as well as free employee scheduling software generates monthly reports that include what percent of tasks were completed each individual, teams, as well as the organization as a whole, percent of people who took last-minute leave, the average number of tasks completed by each person, etc.  which are vital to make operations more efficient and increase productivity and profitability.

11. Customer support

All applications have a possibility of encountering technical difficulties at some point or another.  In such cases, if quick customer support is available to rectify the issue, daily operations won’t be hindered and things can get back to normal quickly.

Having discussed some of the common features that most work schedule applications offer, let’s look at the benefits of such software to businesses.

Benefits of Scheduling Apps

Benefits of Scheduling Apps

1. Hassle-free Scheduling

The first and most important advantage of shifting to an online scheduling software is undoubtedly the time saved of managers and other administrative staff in creating schedules.  Schedules created with the application are error-free, accurate, and meet all requirements of supply and demand.

2. Allows employees to remotely access schedules

Another advantage of a free employee scheduling app is that all staff members can see their shift-times remotely from their mobile apps and this is particularly useful for people who are returning to work after a vacation.  Due to this, the attendance is higher and all shifts are clearly communicated to everyone.

3. Decreases conflicts in shifts

Since all schedules are generated by a computer program all time-off requests are accommodated.  Due to this, the employees do not face any conflicts in shifts and personal schedules.  As a result, the core management spends very little time looking into shift-conflicts.

4. Helps you stay in accordance with all labor laws

When you are planning shifts with pen and paper, you are bound to overlook details like total working hours in a week, and thus a lot of employees are overworking and you have to pay overtime to them.  This is unpleasant news for both employees and business owners, as one is not able to have enough personal time and the other ends up paying more labor costs.  To remove such issues, the employee scheduling software does all calculations and plans shifts in a way that minimizes such penalties for you.

5. Increase employee satisfaction

As a result of free employee scheduling software, all employee requests like availability, favorable working times, etc.  are taken into consideration while planning schedules.  Thus, there is higher satisfaction among employees and the managers have to resolve fewer conflicts regarding the same.

6. Decreases time lags and increases productivity

Traditionally, the management will spend hours to make schedules, and then post it on the notice board, where employees have to drop in and check their shifts when they have the time to do so.  In addition to this, if the manager wants to assign a task to any particular employee, he/she needs to find that particular employee and then assign them duties.  All of this can be done in a couple of seconds with a scheduling app, and employees can get started on their assigned tasks immediately, thus increasing overall productivity.

7. Easy performance evaluations

With a shift management application, managers are able to see the performance data like attendance, tardiness, timely completion of what percentage of tasks, etc.  of each employee and thus can easily evaluate the performance at any time.

8. Better communication between all staff members

With scheduling apps, all employees can communicate with each other and their team members.  Due to this, all one-to-one communication needed for higher productivity is done in a clear and concise manner.  In addition to this, staff members can easily request leaves and claim open shifts from the application.

Top Employee Scheduling Software

1. When I Work

When I work is undoubtedly one of the best free employee scheduling software, allowing you to build schedules in a couple of minutes, sharing and tracking it effortlessly.  Its client portfolio includes Harvard Unversity, CVS Pharmacy, Dunkin Donuts, 1-800-Got-Junk, etc.  With this application, scheduling is faster, timer-tracking is easier, and hiring is better.  When I Work has a free version for easy-going needs and three different paid versions, depending on the size and needs of the organization.  Some of the prominent features of this app are:

  • Onboarding new employees is easy, with back-office tasks like time-off request approvals, shift confirmation, shift trading, etc.  done in a couple of minutes.
  • Higher productivity due to mobile clock in, and the ability to view personal and team tasks from the app.
  • One on one messaging between team members as well as group chats helps ensure everyone is on one page
  • Auto-scheduling reduces the time required to plan shifts from hours to minutes or even seconds for a smaller workforce
  • Managers get shift confirmations from staff-members and are notified about shift swaps and drops
  • Get a push notification when a new schedule is published
  • Get alerts for overtimes and other labor costs

2. HomeBase

HomeBase is scheduling and time tracking application intended to make work easier for small business owners.  Its services are ideal for restaurants, food and beverage industry, retail stores, health and beauty services, etc.  HomeBase application is available for free on iPhone and Android, it offers a free version for small businesses and had different paid plans for more complex needs.  Some of the features of this management application are:

  • The schedule is created in minutes and can be shared with co-workers easily
  •  Employees are notified in a couple of minutes regarding changes in the schedule
  • The personal devices of staff-members become their time clock
  • Built-in messenger for enhanced communication in staff members
  • Get notified when someone clocks in to avoid any issues with false time stamps
  • You can post to the top job boards in a couple of clicks and manage all applicants in one window
  • Easily sync with third-party payroll apps to easily manage all finances

3. ShiftNote

ShiftNote is an employee schedule management tool and a manager log-book that is ideal for any industry with its workforce working in shifts.  Holiday Inn Express, DoubleTree by Hilton, Tommy Bahama, Kelseys, Petcare, Tim Hortons, all trust this software to manage all schedules as well as centralize all communications between the staff members.  The application has a 30-day free trial and then 2 pricing plans that offer different features for different needs.  ShiftNote has the following features that business companies love:

  • 75% faster scheduling that is effectively communicated with the staff members
  • Employees can swap and drop shifts from anywhere with management approval
  • Communication from the app with text messages and emails ensures everyone is up-to-date on all information
  • Scheduling templates cut the schedule creating time significantly
  • Live Customer Support to help with any technical difficulties
  • One-on-one training and tutorials to make sure everyone is easily onboard

4. ShiftBoard

ShiftBoard is a shift scheduling program, that is perfect for industries with dynamic schedules like healthcare workers, product manufacturing, warehouse and distribution, police and EMS, etc.  and for industries like oil and gas, petrochemical, process manufacturing, etc.  with high compliance for safety standards, fatigue policies, labor laws, and unions.  The application offers a basic plan for up to 20 users per month, a professional and an enterprise plan that covers all types of needs.  Its clients include JW Marriot, Yale, AAA, UPMC, HCA, Disney, and many more due to the following features:

  • 51% reduction in scheduling errors and overtime, where the schedules are built and modified on a day-to-day basis
  • ShiftBoard can configure a solution for your organizational needs
  • Send group messages easily to some employees or the whole organization
  • Get shift conformations in a couple of minutes, and shift reminders to reduce no-show
  • Ability to upload files in the software
  • Email and SMS alerts to increase efficiency
  • One of the few applications that offer 360-degree feedback

5. HotSchedules

HotSchedules is a workforce management application that creates schedules and is ideal for restaurants and hospitality industries due to its built-in inventory management feature in addition to creating schedules for employees.  The features and UI are perfect for restaurants, industries that need real-time metrics, and have a mobile-centric workforce.  Some of its features are:

  • Ideal for industries in which the workforce uses phones to manage their work-life
  • You can select add-ons for third-party integrations for a tailored solution to your business
  • Employee tracking, labor forecasting help you schedule the right number of people
  •  Get the real-time update and automate the process of getting inventories
  • Hotel and restaurant-specific solutions like buffets, recipe, and menu engineering lets you stay on top of all required inventories

Tips to Choose the Perfect Work Scheduling Software

Important Tips to Choose Work Scheduling Software

Choosing the right scheduling software isn’t a piece of cake.  There are a lot of options out there and a bad choice can affect your and your employees’ lives.  Thus it is crucial to think and re-think before choosing an employee scheduling software.  The following tips can guide you through the process:

1. Figure out your needs

The most important thing while choosing any technology to simplify your life is to make a mental note of what issues you want the app to solve.  Some organizations like retail stores need the application to schedule and time-track the employees and sometimes the application should have additional features of payroll processing, inventory management, etc.  So it is primary to evaluate what functionalities you need in the application.

2. List the applications that solve those needs

Once you know what features you need, then you can make a list of all applications that offer those features.  This a relatively easy task to do and you can read our detailed article on Best Employee Scheduling Software.  You can compare different applications and their features, find alternatives to any particular app using GetApp, type the application name in the search bar, and then all the features, alternatives, etc.  of that app are given in detail along with reviews.

3. Availability of the application

The next thing you need to check if the application is available across various platforms like iOS, Android, etc.  and has a desktop application or can be accessed through a website.  This will make it easy for employees to check their schedules from anywhere and quickly confirm their shifts.

4. Price and plans

The next thing you need to consider is the price of the software.  A lot of applications are for free, some are priced based on the number of users, and some are based on the features it offers.  If your organization has a relatively stable number of employees, then choosing the application based on features might be more cost-efficient and if the number of hired people varies greatly, then application priced on the number of users is a better option.

5. Test the free employee scheduling software to see if it fits your organization’s style

The last thing you need to check before introducing a workforce management application to your staff members is the actual application.  You need to download the application and try the free trial with your managers to see if the application actually will fit your work environment.  Once everyone thinks the application is a good match for your business, then it can be introduced to the rest of the staff and can be used daily.

We have covered every point that we felt will help you find the perfect application to manage your workforce.  If you have any more questions, please keep reading as we have included some FAQs below.


01. What is Work Scheduling?

Answer: A work schedule is a weekly plan that displays the number of days, and times of a day an employee is scheduled to work.  The work schedule can be fixed or flexible each week and can be for part-time workers or full-time workers.  Every industry in which workers work in shifts needs a work schedule or shift plan.

02. Is there an app for employee scheduling?

Answer: Yes, there are several applications to plan shifts of staff members.  These applications work for all types and all sizes of business companies.  With these applications, schedules can be created in minutes, shared with the entire workforce instantly, and shift swaps can be done in just a couple of clicks with or without manager approval.  The software also performs additional tasks of tracking time, inventory management, assigning tasks, etc.

03. Can you create employee schedules using Google Calendar?

Answer: Yes, you can create schedules using Google Calendar and can be shared with people as well.  To do so, you need to create a new Google Calendar and add shifts as events.  You need to add an employee’s email address as an attendee in that event and your staff can subscribe to that particular Google Calendar.  You can watch a detailed video of the Google calendar for employee scheduling.

However, you need to keep in mind that this is a viable option only if you have a workforce of 5-10 people.  In addition to that, it will take more than a couple of minutes to make a schedule and changes like shift swaps and drops will have to be implemented manually.

04. How can you make schedules using Microsoft Excel or any other spreadsheet program?

Answer: Employee scheduling template is a template with easy access and a simple calendar for a particular time period, with employee details like name, jobs, expertise, etc.  that can be used to create schedules.  We have already explained in detail how you can schedule your workforce using employee scheduling templates for Excel.  Once your schedule is created, you can share with your employees by printing and posting it on the bulletin board or sharing a pdf on the group chat.

05. Which is the best scheduling application?

Answer: There are a lot of schedule planning tools out there and every single one of them is unique in its own way.  But When I Work is the most trusted tool to plan shift times due to its unique features, fair pricing, wide availability, and simple software.  With this application, you can create and check working times from anywhere, monitor shift swaps, and get real-time updates and notifications.

06. Is there an application that can make schedules for staff members across multiple locations?

Answer: To create a work schedule for staff members spread across multiple locations, you can check out Humanity, which provides solutions for industries like education, healthcare, news corporations, etc.  It allows clock-in and clock-out from mobile apps, track all employees, and gives real-time business reports.


To wrap things up, we have covered every aspect of paid as well as free employee scheduling software that will increase productivity, efficiency, and employee satisfaction.  With scheduling software, employee scheduling is an easy and quick task, and attendance is increased among employees.

We hope that after discussing the features and benefits of free employee scheduling software, you will switch to an online scheduling tool and the examples along with the tips above will help you find the perfect scheduling too. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us and share your thoughts.


Sign up for weekly updates from Zoobe.