If you haven’t found the best scheduling app for your small business, you know what a headache scheduling can be. The stress of unmanned shifts, the risk of inflated labor costs—not to mention scrambling over last-minute absences and shift swaps. Especially if you’re still relying on a manual system or Excel, it’s nearly impossible to avoid these pitfalls—even the best spreadsheets will contain errors about 90% of the time.
That’s where a robust employee scheduling app comes in. Choosing the best scheduling app solution for your team is one of the most important decisions you’ll make for your business. We’re here to help you decide which tool is right for your organization. Read on for our in-depth breakdown of what to look for in a good scheduling app. Plus, we’ve included a roundup of the best app options out there.
What is a scheduling app?
An employee scheduling app is a form of work scheduling software that uses a mobile device. Long gone are the days when only big companies could afford automated scheduling software for their workers. Today, thanks to cloud technology, small business owners can access affordable subscription-based scheduling apps — or even free ones.
With a mobile scheduling app, managers and business owners can easily manage their hourly employees’ schedules from anywhere. Meanwhile, team members can access the app to request time off, swap shifts, and more.
What should you look for in an employee scheduling app?
When it comes to choosing the best employee scheduling app, there are many options on the market catering to different business needs. But the best apps will make life easier for you and your team in certain key ways. As you do your research, here are four essential factors to bear in mind.
Look for an employee scheduling app with:
Intuitive design for managers
First and foremost, you want an app interface that helps you easily schedule your employees and make adjustments as your staffing needs change in a way that’s intuitive (drag-and-drop design is a must.) Your app should be complex enough to accommodate different departments, roles, and even locations. You should know at a glance whether all shifts are being covered.
The most headache-saving scheduling apps let managers create and reuse a shift template, copying from a previous time period or from a spreadsheet. Some apps take this even further with auto-scheduling. You just need to set parameters, and the software will build a schedule for you.
Ease of use for team members
On the flip side, your scheduling app needs to be equally accessible and intuitive for your employees. Team members should be able to go on the app and see their schedules, deal with any needed shift swapping, and put in time-off requests.
Top-notch scheduling apps offer a clock-in-and-out feature, so your team members don’t have to switch to a different time-clock program when they punch in and out. Some even support advanced time clock features, like facial recognition or verifying an employee’s location using GPS technology.
Another important feature to look for is a team communication tool with push notifications, which will help you with everything from arranging last-minute shift coverage, to touching base with absent employees, to delivering time-sensitive team updates.
HR integration features
When your scheduling app is integrated with your other HR processes—like processing payroll, approving and tracking time off, and monitoring absenteeism—it’s a gamechanger. Your timesheet approval process becomes more efficient and you can save hours of time on payroll. It’s also easier to ensure your employees get paid on time, plus makes sure that on-leave employees aren’t accidentally scheduled. Night shifts and overtime are also properly tracked and compensated, reducing the risk of employee burnout by overburdening any one staff member.
Data exporting and analytics features
Data exporting and reporting is one area where a truly superior scheduling app will stand out. The best apps can pull data from third-party programs, including point-of-sale (POS) systems, to create detailed sales histories and forecasts.
With an accurate overview of how scheduling impacts your labor costs and sales, you’re better equipped to stay within budget and make good staffing decisions. A versatile app can do things like tell you how many staff worked on Black Friday last year and what your sales numbers were. Then, watch as it calculates how big a team you should schedule this year to maximize profits.
The best employee scheduling app for small businesses
Your small business’s best all-in-one scheduling app? Homebase. Designed for hourly workers, the Homebase app lets you efficiently run your business. Make and share schedules, track hours, approve or deny shift swaps and time-off requests, and message your team wherever you are.
Homebase’s versatile schedule management tool is our most popular feature.
Auto-populate your timetable with our intuitive interface—easily drag and drop shifts, or duplicate schedules with a click. Or, you can let your team members manage their own schedules. Homebase’s app makes it easy to claim open shifts and do shift swaps themselves. With Homebase, it’s simple to group employees into departments and view the schedule according to a given role. This is particularly helpful for businesses like restaurants with both back-of-house and front-of-house staff.
Thanks to our robust, in-app team communication feature, communication is instant and streamlined.
It notifies your team the moment you publish a schedule and distributes any notes you add to shifts. In the event of a last-minute schedule change, now you can quickly message individuals, a selected group, or the whole team.
Tracking employee hours and automating payroll is simple and straightforward.
Homebase lets you assign different rates to individual roles, then auto-calculates wages and subtracts breaks so you can easily track your labor costs and stay compliant.
Homebase has you covered with useful integration features.
With several native integrations with common point-of-sale (POS) systems, you won’t waste time constantly switching between windows and exporting data to analyze customer traffic. Just add or remove employees in one system, and the change will sync with the other tool. This is a huge benefit if you hire seasonal staff or have high turnover.
Importantly, Homebase offers your small business incredible value.
We have a comprehensive free plan that gives you all the essential scheduling features like automation, communication, and time tracking. If you need more advanced functionality for your business, you can upgrade to one of our affordable paid plans. Since we only charge by location rather than by employee, you don’t have to worry about costs escalating as you grow your team.
Homebase’s free plan has all the essential features you need for one small business location. And unlike many competitors, an unlimited number of employees can access and use the app, no matter which of our three paid plans you’re on:
- Essentials: $24.95 per month per location. Everything included in the Free plan, plus advanced scheduling and time tracking, team communication, remote team, and payroll integration tools.
- Plus: $59.95 per month per location. Everything in Essentials, plus hiring, retention and performance tracking, time-off management, departments and permissions tools.
- All-in-one: $99.95 per month per location. Everything in Plus, as well as new hire onboarding, HR and compliance, labor cost management, and business insights tools.
7 best scheduling apps to consider in 2024
Of course, your small business has unique needs and industry challenges. It’s important to choose a scheduling app that caters to them. Be sure to consider the nature of your team, your budget, and your plans for growth.
Here are our picks for the seven best employee scheduling apps on the market in 2024.
|• One click auto-scheduling
• Unlimited schedule templates
• Robust free communication tools
• Self-scheduling features (the ability to post open shifts and allow for shift swaps)
• Integrations with time tracking and payroll features
|Best all-in-one solution that prioritizes employees, but not a comprehensive HR management tool.
|Free plan for one location; paid plans range from $24.95 to $99.95 per month.
|• An all-in-one employee scheduling, timesheets, tasking, and communication platform
• A focus on analyzing staffing data
|Good for small to midsize businesses who prioritize efficiency, but who lack skills/ time to analyze scheduling trends themselves.
|Paid plans range from $3.50 to $4.90 per user per month.
|• Granular hierarchy options to structure employees into groups/departments
• Visualize and organize your employee management with sections, positions, shifts, and shift types
|Ideal for businesses with multiple departments or locations.
|Paid plans start at $2.49 per user per month for one location and basic scheduling features; Plus plan starts at $94.80 per month.
|• Employee directory
• Team newsfeed
• Self-scheduling (with options for first come, first served or admin approval policies)
|Suitable for basic day-to-day employee management.
|Free plan with unlimited employees and locations; paid plans range from $2 to $4 per employee per month.
|• Good capability for a smaller workforce
• Group announcements, push notifications, and Intuit QuickBooks integration
|Works for managers who want a minimalist, reliable scheduling app with a minimal learning curve.
|Plans start at $2 per user per month for basic scheduling features and unlimited locations; the Premium plan is $4 per user per month.
|• Strong all-in-one employee scheduling app
Highly granular settings
• Task management
• Custom forms and checklists
|A top all-in-one solution, but costs rise as your team grows.
|Free plan for up to ten users; paid plans range from $35 to $119 per month (for the first 30 users, then additional fees apply).
|• Calendar management
• Time tracker with a range of web integrations
• Idle detection and timed reminders
|Range of features available in free plan, but requires you to export to payroll software and fix errors manually.
|Free plan for time tracking features; paid plans range from $3.99 to $14.99 per user per month.
The best employee scheduling app
Looking for an employee scheduling app that ticks all the boxes for your small business? Look no further than Homebase. Our free plan offers you a range of scheduling and time tracking features to optimize your schedule and keep your team in sync. Planning on growing your team, or want more control and flexibility over staff management? We have affordable plans that are priced per location, ensuring that your costs stay low.
Run a better team with smarter scheduling. Try Homebase Scheduling for free.
Best scheduling apps FAQs
Why should I use an employee scheduling app?
You should use an employee scheduling app to streamline the scheduling process for your small business, saving valuable time and avoiding common scheduling headaches. An employee scheduling app prevents you from double-scheduling an employee, ensures that you’ve scheduled the right number of people, prevents you from missing a time-off request, warns you when a given employee might go into overtime, distributes the schedule to your employees instantly, and immediately informs them of changes or updates.
Can I use an employee scheduling app if my employees are hourly/shift workers?
You can absolutely use an employee scheduling app if your employees are hourly or shift workers. Apps like Homebase have been designed for small businesses with hourly workers, letting you assign different roles, rates, and availability to individual employees as you design your schedule, making it easy to automate payroll, track labor expenses, and stay compliant.
Should I use a free scheduling app or a paid version?
Not all free scheduling apps are created equal, and if you require extensive project management tools for your business, you may want to consider upgrading to a paid monthly plan. However, platforms like Homebase have a robust offering in the free version, which is often enough for most small businesses. And if you grow your business down the road, an unlimited number of employees can access the Homebase app, no matter what paid plan you choose (unlike many competitors).