As small businesses grow, their old scheduling methods like spreadsheets and pieces of paper often can’t keep up. That’s when managers turn to online employee scheduling apps to streamline their business operations, improve communication, and boost productivity.
But you don’t want to tie your business to an app that doesn’t suit your needs. That’s why it’s so vital to consider your size, industry, and common scheduling challenges before you make your choice. Otherwise, managing your scheduling app may cancel out the time you’re trying to save.
We’ve researched and compared the top ten online employee scheduling apps of 2023 to help you find the right one.** Read this article to discover:
- A checklist of the most essential scheduling app features
- An overview of the top ten scheduling apps in 2023
- An in-depth look at each solution’s top features, pros and cons, and pricing
- Key factors to consider when choosing a scheduling app
Key features to look for in online employee scheduling apps
The features small businesses need in employee scheduling tools vary from industry to industry. However, there are some essential tools every app should have:
- Scheduling and roster management — You need the ability to create schedules and then edit, reuse, and track them effortlessly.
- Time tracking and attendance — These features accurately record the hours team members work. Many tracking tools can also verify staff location with GPS technology.
- Reporting and analytics — Versatile apps can use your scheduling and time tracking data to help you forecast staffing needs and stay within your budget.
- Team communication — Communication tools assist with a wide range of scheduling tasks, from arranging cover to checking in with absent employees and delivering important updates.
- Mobile apps — Mobile apps help you and your team. As an admin, you can manage employee schedules when you’re away from your desk. And your team members can use the app to view their schedule, clock into shifts, and more.
Top 10 online employee scheduling apps in 2023
|Platform||Price per month||Support||Noteworthy features|
|Homebase||Free plan for one location
Plans range from $24.95 to $99.95 per month
|✓ — phone, chat, and email||• 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
|Connecteam||Free plan for up to ten users
Plans range from $35 to $119 per month (for the first 30 users, then additional fees apply)
There’s also a custom-priced Enterprise plan
|✓ — phone and email||• Highly granular settings
• Task management
• Custom forms and checklists
|Clockify||Free plan for time tracking features
Plans range from $3.99 to $14.99 per user per month
|✓ — phone, chat, and email||• Calendar management
• Time tracker with a range of web integrations
• Idle detection and timed reminders
|Shiftboard||Prices aren’t readily available||✓ — phone, chat, and email||• Auto-scheduling
• On-call scheduling
• Industry-specific scheduling
|Quickbooks Time||Plans range from $20 per month plus $8 per employee to $40 per month plus $10 per employee||✓ — phone, chat, and email||• Location tracker for remote employees
• Mileage tracker
• Project feed
|Deputy||Plans range from $3.50 to $4.90 per user per month
There’s also a custom-priced Enterprise plan
|✓ — phone, chat, and email||• Auto-scheduling tools
• Schedule templates
• Self-scheduling tools
|Sling||Free plan with unlimited employees and locations
Plans range from $2 to $4 per employee per month
|✓ — chat and email||• Employee directory
• Team newsfeed
• Self-scheduling (with options for first come, first served or admin approval policies)
|Skedulo||Prices aren’t readily available||✓ — phone, chat, email, and post||• Travel recommendations
• Sidebar for roster
• Support for appointment booking
|7Shifts||Free plan for up to 30 employees at one location
Plans range from $34.99 to $150 per month
|✓ — phone and email||• Forecasting and budgeting tools
• Tip pooling
• Range of POS integrations
|OpenSimSim||Free plan for up to 10 employees at one location
Plans range from $15.99 to $39.99 per month
There’s also a custom-priced Enterprise plan
|✓ — phone and email||• Robust free communication tools
• Shift countdowns
• Lock shifts
Caption: Homebase lets you auto-schedule employees according to their availability and roles in seconds.
Homebase’s most popular feature is our versatile schedule management tool. You can choose between auto-populating your timetable, using unlimited templates, or letting staff self-schedule by claiming open shifts.
But a close second is the robust team communication feature. It lets you publish schedules to the Homebase mobile app and notify staff instantly. From there, employees can view their hours, request covers or trades, and read notes about their shifts. And when emergencies come up, you can quickly message custom groups, individuals, or the whole team to organize last-minute schedule changes.
Pros and cons
Homebase’s major advantage is value. We have a comprehensive free plan that includes all the essential scheduling features like automation, communication, and time tracking. If you need more functionality, you can upgrade to one of our affordable paid plans. And we only charge by location (rather than by employee), so you don’t have to worry about costs rising as you hire more staff.
Our platform is also designed for small businesses with hourly workers. Homebase lets you assign different roles, rates, and availability to individual employees. Then, the software auto-calculates wages and subtracts breaks so you can easily track labor expenses and stay compliant.
One of Homebase’s drawbacks is we have fewer project management tools than some other scheduling apps. However, you can perform many of the same actions with our scheduling and roster features. For instance, you could assign all the employees working on the same project to the same department.
Homebase has a free plan with all the essential features you need for one small business location. And unlike many competitors, an unlimited number of employees can access and use our app, no matter what paid plan you’re on.
Otherwise, we have three monthly paid plans you can choose from:
- 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 & compliance, labor cost management, and business insights tools.
Caption: Connecteam’s granular settings make it easy to personalize the platform according to your business needs.
The Connecteam app’s most interesting feature is its granular settings. You can select and filter employees and tasks based on several different categories. For example, when you’re allocating a shift, there are eight settings, including job title, tasks, and location.
Pros and cons
Connecteam’s main strength is how its wide range of settings makes the platform highly customizable. You can decide whether to keep your schedule management simple or add details like color coordination and tasks for your employees to do.
One of Connecteam’s challenges is its lack of integrations. As of February 2023, Connecteam only partners with seven other apps. That means you’re more likely to outgrow the platform as your business needs change and you want to integrate new software.
Connecteam also charges an extra rate if you have more than 30 employees. So, it’s not the best choice for growing businesses.
Connecteam has a free plan for up to ten users. Otherwise, there are three paid plans with a limit of 30 users:
- Basic for $35 monthly and $0.60 per extra employee for basic scheduling and time tracking tools for one location.
- Advanced for $59 monthly and $1.80 per extra employee for extra tools like auto clock outs and geofencing for up to three locations.
- Expert for $119 monthly and $3.60 per extra employee to add an extra layer of settings to schedules and limit employee working hours and shifts per week.
There are also custom paid plans available for businesses with more than six locations.
Caption: Clockify’s calendar view gives you a clear picture of your business and staff’s weekly activities.
Clockify’s best feature is its intuitive calendar management. You can break days into color-coordinated blocks and track how long it takes people to complete individual tasks. That makes it easier to calculate how much time you’ve spent on a client’s project and invoice them correctly.
Pros and cons
Many Clockify users praise the app’s ease of use. It has a simple interface that’s intuitive for admins and employees to navigate. Plus, the time tracker integrates with over 80 other apps, so you can better understand what your staff are working on.
However, many of Clockify’s top features are best suited for desk-based work, so the app may be unsuitable for shift workers.
And since Clockify is mainly a time tracking app, it doesn’t prioritize scheduling. You can only manage availability and delegate shifts on the $7.99 monthly account. And that’s per user, so it can be costly for larger teams.
Clockify has a free plan for its essential time tracking features. Then, it has four paid plans that are priced per user:
- Basic for $3.99 monthly
- Standard for $5.49 monthly
- Pro for $7.99 monthly
- Enterprise for $11.99 monthly
Caption: Shiftboard helps businesses in the manufacturing and healthcare industries solve their unique scheduling challenges.
Like Homebase, Shiftboard has highly configurable auto-scheduling tools. You can generate schedules for staff based on roles, availability, and previous shift patterns. The software also lets you advertise open shifts for team members to claim.
Bonus: you can schedule employees to be on call. That’s essential for businesses in the health and social care industries.
Pros and cons
Shiftboard is designed for the manufacturing and healthcare industries. You can create timetables based on your production line and automatically block shifts that violate union contracts.
But Shiftboard’s limited customer base is also a disadvantage. If you’re not in the manufacturing or healthcare industries, you may end up paying for features you don’t need.
Shiftboard prices aren’t readily available.
5. Quickbooks Time (formerly Tsheets)
Caption:Manage your remote team with Quickbook Time’s ‘who’s working’ feature.
Quickbooks Time’s (formerly Tsheets’) top feature is its ‘who’s working’ tool, which lets you pinpoint all your staff members’ locations on a map. You can see which employees are closest to an address and dispatch them quickly. That’s especially helpful for businesses with mobile team members, like taxi companies and home repair services.
Pros and cons
One advantage of Quickbooks Time is the support it offers remote teams. For example, the GPS location tracker lets you verify staff locations when they clock into off-site jobs and even monitor travel times.
The downside is that GPS tracking depletes smartphone batteries faster than usual. On long shifts, employees may have to recharge their phones or risk losing contact with you.
Another downside is Quickbooks Time has fewer features than most competitors. For instance, it doesn’t have auto-population scheduling tools like Homebase and Shiftboard.
Quickbooks Time has two paid plans:
- Time Premium for $20 per month plus $8 per user
- Time Elite for $40 per month plus $10 per user
Although Quickbooks Time doesn’t have a free plan, there’s a 30-day free trial available.
Caption: Deputy’s standout features are its scheduling tools like automations, templates, and open shifts.
Deputy’s best features are its range of scheduling tools. Similar to Homebase, you can auto-schedule based on employee availability and the lowest labor cost. Or, you can select from premade schedule templates or allow staff to self-schedule by posting open shifts.
Pros and cons
Deputy is good for dynamic scheduling as you can make quick tweaks to your timetable and let staff trade and cover shifts with minimal managerial involvement. That’s ideal for businesses like bars and restaurants where your staffing needs can fluctuate quickly due to factors like the weather, festivals, or other local events.
A disadvantage of Deputy is the complicated user interface (UI). Some users complain they dislike the complexity of the features, so this app may be most suitable for tech-savvy users.
Deputy doesn’t have a free plan, but it does offer a 31-day free trial. There are also three paid plans:
- Scheduling for $3.50 per user per month
- Time tracking at $3.50 per user per month
- Combination for $4.90 per user per month
You can also arrange a custom-priced plan for businesses with over 250 employees.
Caption: Sling makes it simple for colleagues to keep in touch with each other via the mobile app.
Sling’s top feature is its comprehensive employee directory. You can view and group team members based on many criteria, including position, location, and department. This could make it easier to manage multiple business locations, especially if they occasionally share staff and customers.
Pros and cons
One pro of Sling is the unlimited admins, employees, and locations included within its free account. That means you have tighter control over costs as you don’t have to pay extra as your team grows.
But the con of using Sling is the free account’s limited features. And because its paid plans are priced per employee, you may end up paying more for those features than you would with another similar app.
Sling has a free plan with basic scheduling tools and templates. Or, you can upgrade to one of the paid plans:
- Premium is $2 per user per month
- Business is $4 per user per month
Caption:Skedulo’s sidebar shows your employee roster, which makes it easier to delegate shifts based on staff roles and qualifications.
One interesting Skedulo feature is the travel recommendations. When scheduling, you can receive prompts to group mobile workers’ jobs based on proximity and reduce their travel time. You can even design your own rules to apply to schedules based on the specifics of your business operations.
Pros and cons
Skedulo is good for appointment booking for remote workers. The side-by-side roster and timetable make it easy to match qualified staff with customers. And the travel recommendations make sure each employee’s schedule works well for them.
But a major disadvantage of Skedulo is there’s no free plan, free trial, or monthly payment option. That means you have to make a year-long commitment without knowing whether or not the app suits you. However, Skedulo lets you decrease your number of users and costs during the year if you need to.
Skedulo’s prices aren’t readily available.
Caption: 7Shifts’ forecasting tools let you see how many employees you’ll need across different departments and restaurant zones.
7Shifts has interesting forecasting and budgeting tools. The app was designed with restaurants and cafes in mind, and lets managers schedule employees by department, business area, and location.
Pros and cons
7Shifts is a good choice for restaurants and catering businesses. It has a huge range of integrations with point-of-sale (POS) apps like Toast and Square. Plus, it auto-calculates tip pooling along with team wages to save you time.
However, 7Shifts has limited features in its lower-cost plans. So, you have to pay more than you would with other apps to access features like shift notes and reminders.
7Shifts has a free plan for one location with up to 30 employees. Otherwise, there are three paid plans:
- Entree for $34.99 monthly with a limit of 30 employees and 50 locations.
- The Works for $76.99 monthly with a limit of 30 employees and 50 locations.
- Gourmet for $150 monthly with unlimited employees and locations. This is better suited for corporations than growing small businesses.
Caption: OpenSimSim is a cost-effective employee scheduling app with a robust free plan.
OpenSimSim has an interesting feature where employees can see a countdown to their next shift on their mobile device. This makes sure your team knows when they’re working next and doesn’t accidentally miss any shifts.
There’s also a feature to lock important days so employees can’t trade or cover shifts. That gives you more control over scheduling at busy times of the year or during important events.
Pros and cons
Compared to many competitors, OpenSimSim has affordable paid plans. The most expensive plan includes all the essential features and some advanced ones, but it’s still more competitively priced than some other popular scheduling apps at $39.99/month per location.
A disadvantage of OpenSimSim is its limited range of integrations. As of February 2023, it only has eleven available. And because OpenSimSim doesn’t have its own payroll or hiring features, you may be forced to choose between a payroll app that doesn’t suit your business or manually exporting data between platforms.
OpenSimSim has a free plan for up to ten employees at one business location. Then, there are two paid plans:
- Starter for $15.99 per location per month
- Premium for $39.99 per location per month
There’s also a custom-priced Enterprise plan that includes unlimited business locations.
How to buy employee scheduling apps
Now you have all the essential information about some of the top employee scheduling apps, you need a system to find the right one for you. Here’s our step-by-step guide:
- Identify your needs. Understand what your business requires based on factors like industry type, business size, and staff priorities and preferences. For instance, your business may be similar to another retail store, but if you have more student staff coming and going, you’ll need a more sophisticated scheduling tool to keep track.
- Evaluate your options. You can often watch demos, use free trials, or even sign up for free accounts before you commit to an app. That might mean an hour of playing with the software settings or doing a full test run for a week.
- Get feedback from your team. As you won’t be the only one using your scheduling software of choice, ask your employees for their opinions, too. They may find certain products to be more or less intuitive. Some may dislike the sound of features like location tracking because they feel it invades their privacy or will have an effect on their phone battery.
- Train staff. Even if you choose the perfect solution for your business, don’t introduce your team to it out of the blue and expect them to hit the ground running. You need to show them where to download it and introduce the features to them one by one for successful adoption.
- Reflect and upgrade when necessary. If your business is growing, make sure your scheduling app can keep up. That means checking whether the platform still meets your needs and upgrading or switching plans as your scheduling and team management requirements become more complex.
Common pitfalls to avoid when buying an online employee scheduling app
It can be easy to make these mistakes when purchasing a scheduling app. Here’s what to watch out for:
- Integrations. Your scheduling app should connect with all your existing software and preferably any future apps you’d like to use. Otherwise, you won’t save time because you’ll constantly be switching between windows and exporting data.
- Ease of use. Some apps are more demanding than others to learn. Choose an option that was designed for small businesses as it likely won’t expect users to have much prior experience with technology.
- Scalability. If you think your business will grow, even if only by a few employees, don’t choose a scheduling app that charges per user. The extra costs will cut into your budget for expansion, and there are many options that charge per location.
- Support. As a busy business manager or owner, you won’t have time to set everything up by yourself. Your app of choice should provide tutorials and robust customer support to help you and your team through the onboarding and adoption process.
Why Homebase is the best all-around employee scheduling app
When choosing an online employee scheduling app for your small business, there’s a lot to consider. You have to think about your budget, industry needs, and future plans for growth. So, making the right decision can be tricky.
If you work in an industry that has unique challenges, you may be interested in an app like Shiftboard or Quickbooks Time (formerly Tsheets). These solutions solve problems that typically come up in the construction, manufacturing, and healthcare industries.
But if you’re looking for an online employee scheduling app that ticks all the boxes for small businesses, go with Homebase. We have a versatile range of scheduling and time tracking features on our free plan. And if you plan to expand or need tighter control and flexibility over staff management, we have affordable plans that are priced per location, so your costs will stay low.
**The information above is based on our research on online employee scheduling apps. All user feedback referenced in the text has been sourced from independent software review platforms, such as G2 and Capterra, in February 2023.