Want to jump straight to the answer? The best employee scheduling software for most people is Homebase or Connecteam.
I’ve reviewed and tested the best employee scheduling solutions on the market today for small to medium-sized businesses. All will help you streamline your scheduling tasks, and each one excels in unique ways.
The 5 Best Employee Scheduling Software of 2023
- Homebase – Best for Businesses With Few Locations But Many Employees
- Connecteam – Best for Businesses With Deskless Workforces
- Deputy – Best for Centralizing Employee Communication
- Humanity – Best for Data-Driven Workforce Management
- When I Work – Best for Businesses With Simple Scheduling Needs
All of my top five picks solidly deliver where it matters most–saving time and scheduling employees with ease and efficiency.
Where each product differentiates itself is in how it tackles the biggest pain points for users. These include efficient communication between employers and employees, worker accountability, budget management, and customization.
Read on to find the best solution for your employee scheduling needs.
Homebase – Best for Businesses With Few Locations But Many Employees
- Excellent communication tools
- Fully-functional free version
- Real-time labor costing
- Location-based pricing plans
Homebase is intuitive, affordable, and does more than just scheduling–and those are just the first three reasons it made my shortlist.
Not only is Homebase among the easiest products to use, but it also rolls optional HR and payroll functions into its scheduling software. You can have full employee management in one tool–no integrations required. No other product on the list offers this combination.
But most impressive is how Homebase approaches pricing. They skip the “per employee” billing model embraced by the rest and instead charge by location. They also offer a fully-functional free version, setting them apart from competitors whose free versions are much less robust.
Where Homebase Excels
Homebase ticks all the boxes for businesses searching for a solution that tackles all facets of employee management–without breaking the bank.
- Unique pricing structure: Homebase speaks to businesses with few locations and many employees by skipping the typical “per employee” monthly fee and instead billing per location. They also offer a robust free version for single-location companies.
- Convenient for employees with multiple roles: Homebase recognizes that employees often work across multiple businesses. It lets employees log in just once and toggle between their various employer accounts to manage schedules.
- Excellent real-time labor costing: For businesses operating on slim margins, knowing real-time labor costs is invaluable. Homebase makes it easy to calculate labor costs on the fly, which lets you resolve staffing issues and save money.
Users we spoke to appreciated how Homebase puts scheduling software in the hands of any business owner regardless of budget. “The free version will get anybody going out of the gate,” noted one restaurant owner.
“Most people can get by on the free version, and it gives them unlimited time to decide whether they’re going to keep it or upgrade,” he continued.
And the free version isn’t some pared-down skeleton of Homebase, either. It includes everything a single-location business needs to hire, schedule, and manage its employees.
The free Basic plan includes time tracking, scheduling, availability, a mobile app, messaging, job posts, applicant tracking, and an employee roster.
In a nod to maximizing employee satisfaction, the free version also includes the ability to give team shout-outs, collect employee feedback, and even offer pay advances to your workers.
As it gets harder and harder to retain good employees, this functionality goes a long way at fostering positive employee morale and improving retention rates. And it won’t cost you a dime with Homebase.
Employers and employees both like Homebase for its ability to quickly and easily manage multiple employee schedules with a single login. When businesses utilize the same employees across multiple companies, streamlining employee access to all the separate schedules helps avoid scheduling conflicts and improves employee satisfaction.
As one catering business owner told us, “Our restaurant and catering company are different LLCs, different managers, everything. But they all use the same employees, so this makes it very easy for workers to log in once and have all the information they need.”
Among the top five, the only other product that offers this functionality is Deputy.
Homebase also provides managers with real-time data to manage labor costs. This is especially important to businesses that operate on razor-thin margins.
The owner of a coffee shop told us he found immediate value in this feature, especially during challenging times. “As COVID was getting started, the ability to know this information and adjust to influence our situation was incredibly helpful,” he explained.
The restaurateur concurred, noting that “If you sync Homebase with your register, your data is literally up to the minute. I think that’s the best tool for a manager anywhere.”
Homebase is also a great option for any small business that wants to keep all employee management functions within a single tool. Unlike any other product on the top five list, Homebase offers popular HR tasks, like new hire onboarding, compliance, and employee documentation, in their higher-tier package.
You can also add on the optional Homebase Payroll module and have a complete employee management solution without the need for any integrations.
Finally, many businesses with shift workers find it helpful to incorporate questionnaires into their daily clock-in/clock-out processes. Whether it is a COVID-related questionnaire before clocking in or a task list for field workers to complete before clocking out, this functionality ensures everyone is on the same page. Homebase offers this feature in its paid plans, though sadly not in its free Basic plan.
|Fully functional free version||Inconsistent customer service|
|Easy for employees working across business lines||Usability challenges|
|Streamlined real-time labor costing||Integration issues|
Where Homebase Could Improve
Homebase has greatly simplified employee scheduling for small businesses. It’s even eliminated the budget hurdle by offering a free version that you can use forever.
However, there are a few things that Homebase could improve on.
- Lackluster customer service: While the tool itself is easy to use, there are still times when you need to speak to someone to resolve an issue. When this need arose for them, not all users we spoke to felt like Homebase put much emphasis on customer service.
- Integration doesn’t always work well: Although it boasts a robust integration list, getting your Homebase data into your HR software isn’t always easy. Missing hours and incorrect wages are just some of the complaints we heard about.
- Unexpected usability challenges: Homebase has some surprising gaps when it comes to specific functions. Users consistently commented on a lack of options when it comes to scheduling or messaging employees about schedule changes.
The heart and soul of any software isn’t the code that exists behind the scenes, although that is important. The thing that makes the best software tools stand out from the competition is how users feel about contacting customer support.
Unfortunately for Homebase, at least one person we talked to felt like customer service was a weak link in an otherwise great package. “I’m not in love with Homebase customer service. I appreciate the tool works really effectively, but when I had some problems a while ago, I felt a little bit unheard,” they said.
Integrations were another point of contention. Homebase offers more than 30 integrations, including the most popular point-of-sale tools like Square and Shopify; online payroll services including Paychex, ADP, Gusto, and QuickBooks; business tools like Restaurant365 and Shopventory; and job boards including Indeed and Glassdoor.
This is a robust list, to be sure, and among the most in my top five. Unfortunately, these integrations don’t come without issues in Homebase.
As one interviewee called out, “When I try to export my timesheets from Homebase to Gusto, some of the information falls out when it goes to Gusto. It never properly aligns, so some of my employees have to manually enter their hours.”
And the issue isn’t limited to incorrect hourly reporting. The same interviewee also had issues with wage rates. “The wage rate stuff doesn’t translate perfectly, and when I try to go back into Homebase to fix the issues, extrapolating the data I need to pull is cumbersome.”
One important thing any employee scheduling tool must do flawlessly is notify employees of schedules and changes. It’s important to offer this in multiple ways, like text or email, because employees can easily turn off in-app notifications.
Homebase falls short here. You won’t get text notifications in the free plan, and even if you do upgrade to a paid tier where they are included, they may not work as expected.
After upgrading to the highest level of Homebase service, one user noted that she still couldn’t use text messages to notify employees about canceled shifts. “It’s a sticking point, because I have to manually notify all the affected employees,” she told us.
One final weakness involves detail-level issues in scheduling. One user who schedules construction workers in the field complained about the lack of visibility of notes directly on the top-level schedule.
“I have as many as three different locations and 10 or 12 employees working every week and the notes section is where it tells you where you’re going and who your team is. The only way to find out this information is to go into this week’s schedule and click each individual employee and open up their shift record.”
Similarly, another supervisor lamented the lack of scheduling options: “I’d like to schedule by role, so I can get a balanced schedule and honor the hours we promised. But the only options available are scheduling by department or employee.”
Pricing is one of the standout features of Homebase. Offering a totally free, fully-functional version of scheduling software–that also includes basic hiring features–gives Homebase a solid win over its competitors.
While Connecteam, another top-five product, also offers a free version, it is far less robust than Homebase’s free package.
Another cool pricing feature, and one unique among the top five, is that Homebase charges per location rather than per employee. This makes it ideal for any company with few locations but many employees. You can grow your workforce and your scheduling software costs won’t budge.
Homebase offers three tiers of paid services if you outgrow the free Basic package or simply want more functionality from the start.
- Basic — One location & unlimited employees – gives you timesheets & time clocks, scheduling & availability, in-app messaging, hiring
- Essentials — Monthly for $19.95/month per location OR annually for $14/month per location. Essentials includes all Basic features, plus team communication, performance tracking, remote & field tools.
- Plus — Monthly for $49.95/month per location OR annually for $35/month per location. Includes everything in the Essentials package and also labor cost controls and budgets, time off limits & PTO tracking, permissions & policies.
- All in One — Monthly for $99.95/month per location OR annually for $60/month per location – everything in Plus and also new hire onboarding, employee docs, HR & compliance, HR pro advisors on call, API access for integrations.
Although Homebase doesn’t offer any free trials, you can dip your toe in the scheduling water with the Basic package and see if Homebase is right for you. No rush to decide, either. Use it for free as long as you like.
You can also save 30% if you opt for annual billing instead of paying by the month.
Bottom line: For businesses with a lot of employees but only a few locations, or anyone watching their bottom line, Homebase is a rock-solid and super-affordable choice.
Connecteam – Best for Businesses With Deskless Workforces
- Robust geofencing tools
- Responsive customer service
- Multilingual mobile app
- Great mobile communication tools
If your workers are tackling tasks in the field and not sitting behind desks reading emails on company computers, Connecteam is for you.
It made my top five list because it delivers what managers of remote workforces need to efficiently and effectively schedule and manage their teams. Then it goes a step further and offers numerous employee-centric features that help foster a positive company culture.
Connecteam’s focus on maximizing the employee experience is unique among the products on my list.
Where Connecteam Excels
Successfully managing workers and building company culture when your team never meets face-to-face can be a daunting task.
Here’s how Connecteam helps you tackle both challenges with ease.
- Robust geofencing: Managing your team in the field starts with knowing where they are when they’re on the clock. Connecteam offers some of the most robust geofencing technology in the industry.
- Great in-app communication features: Mobile apps are the heart and soul of any employee scheduling tool, and Connecteam built one that goes way beyond just distributing schedules to your team.
- Excellent customer service: The Connecteam customer service department doesn’t just quickly and efficiently answer your questions, they go above and beyond to help you optimize your Connecteam experience.
Connecteam makes it easy to feel confident that your team is working when and where they are scheduled. Employers can create unlimited geofence areas to ensure that employees are clocking in and out and working at only pre-approved worksite locations.
While all the products in the top five offer some version of geotracking, Connecteam’s functionality is the most robust of the bunch.
One owner of a bartending event business cited the geofencing as critical to managing his brand ambassadors. “Before Connecteam, they would clock in at 5:00 PM but be two miles away from the event site, which is an obvious issue.” Since implementing Connecteam, he noted those issues have been eliminated.
Geofencing also alerts you if workers leave the job site while on the clock. “If you clock in and then go to McDonald’s outside the radius of your job site, the app will show that,” noted one supervisor.
This sort of detailed visibility is key to effectively managing a fully remote workforce.
Users are also unanimous in their praise for the elevated communication abilities of Connecteam’s mobile app. The built-in functionality is among the most robust in the top five.
Yes, it lets you send out schedules, updates, and company-wide announcements. But it also makes it easy for employees to feel heard through surveys, a suggestion box, and live polls. Even if they never step foot in the office, they feel like part of the team.
There’s also a robust work chat feature that lets everyone share videos, GIFs, images, audio notes, and typed messages with each other, teams, and managers. There’s even an employee directory that makes getting in touch effortless.
Managers can recognize employee accomplishments, team members can nominate peers for awards, and important life milestones can be shared with everyone. All these features make it easy to foster a sense of community in your remote workforce.
And for businesses with multi-lingual workforces, Connecteam’s mobile app translation services eliminate language barriers. While all of my top five picks offer something similar, Connecteam was the only tool that garnered rave reviews.
An office manager noted that before Connecteam, it was “so, so difficult to talk and schedule things and resolve issues” across the language barrier. But now her Spanish-speaking employees are “just flying with the app. Communication is so much better.”
Making it easy to foster robust communication naturally leads to more satisfied employees. One catering manager we spoke to confirmed this, noting “This functionality goes a long way towards keeping workers happy.”
One other highlight for Connecteam is its customer service. Users feel Connecteam really goes above and beyond in this area. As one user told us, “Customer service is bar none amazing!”
For another user, the satisfaction comes from Connecteam’s willingness to listen and roll out new features as requested. He explained how this worked when he found inputting worker availability for his team of college students wasn’t up to par.
“When we first onboarded with Connecteam, employees had to go into each individual day to note availability,” he told us. “We typically schedule based on school quarters. So students had to literally put in every single day of the quarter. They couldn’t say every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I’m available from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM. We asked customer service about this, and they rolled out a new feature that resolved it really quickly.”
Connecteam also gets consistently high marks in how customizable it is for specific business needs. “The cool part is when you’re on the phone with their support or sales team, you tell them what you’re trying to do and they have people with your industry background who can consult with you and help you dial it in for your specific needs,” said one interviewee who runs an event company.
You can also go beyond scheduling with Connecteam’s integrated onboarding and employee training features. Whether it’s setting up new employees in your system, routine training, or offering professional skill development, Connecteam makes it easy to roll everything out to your remote workforce.
One of our interviewees was really excited about this feature. “Oh gosh, there’s so many things I can do,” they said. “It turned out to be much more than just a scheduler. I think it’s perfect.”
|Robust geofencing options||Limited integrations|
|Great communications features||Onboarding takes time|
|Highly responsive customer service||Surprising glitches in functionality|
Where Connecteam can improve
While Connecteam puts a huge emphasis on keeping the lines of communication open, there are a few shortcomings we want to call out.
- Limited Integrations: Among the top five, Connecteam puts the least emphasis on interconnectivity with other employee management tools. This means you’re going to have to do a bit of manual juggling to use your Connecteam data elsewhere.
- Onboarding can be time-consuming: Connecteam might be easy to use, but they don’t make it easy to get up and running. The people we talked to noted unexpectedly long setup times and the need for customer service assistance.
- Unexpected glitches: Connecteam sometimes doesn’t function quite as expected, resulting in unplanned outcomes and user frustration. This may be why Connecteam is so willing to add functionality as users ask for it, but it’s still an issue.
When it comes to integrating your scheduling and timekeeping data with other employee management tools like payroll and HR, Connecteam stumbles a bit. In fact, integrations don’t seem to be a top priority at all.
Unlike many of the other tools I’ve included in my list, Connecteam doesn’t even mention integrations as a selling point on their website. I did some digging and discovered there are only six known tools it integrates with: Dropbox, Google Drive, Google Calendar, YouTube, QuickBooks Payroll, and NextBee.
This lack of integration was a big issue for one user we interviewed, who is leaving Connecteam in favor of a tool that better integrates with her other industry-specific software.
“I love Connecteam, absolutely love it,” they said. “But we have great difficulty managing the billing side of things. We are switching to another product to avoid the hassles.”
The users we interviewed also noted that the initial setup could sometimes be complicated. “It requires a lot of setup,” noted the event company owner. Although he did give a huge nod to Connecteam customer support, stating “the support staff will walk you through it.”
While Connecteam rolls out new functionality regularly, it doesn’t always go as planned. Unexpected errors and glitches that should be foreseen occasionally end up falling through the cracks. Some users told us they felt like unofficial product testers working out the bugs after new features launch.
One user in particular talked about how a new feature that allowed employees to input their own availability actually created additional problems because it let those same employees make changes after schedules were issued. This led to shifts being not covered without his realizing it until it was too late.
While he found a workaround, he thought this should be something Connecteam should have seen coming and addressed before rolling out the new feature.
Connecteam takes a hybrid approach to pricing, offering a fixed price for up to 50 users. After that, they charge per employee.
They also offer a basic scheduling package that is free for life. Unlike Homebase’s free package, though, Connecteam limits the option to those first 50 users.
You can choose to pay monthly or annually. You get two months free if you choose the latter.
- Free — Up to 50 users. Includes one time clock, one schedule, up to 5 custom jobs (projects, customers, locations), updates and announcements.
- Basic — Monthly for $47/month or yearly at $39/month. Extra users beyond 50 are charged at $0.60/user/month if you pay monthly, or $0.50/user/month if you pay yearly.
Includes: one-time clock, one schedule, unlimited custom jobs, employees can claim open shifts, in-shift status tracking, up to one dedicated in-shift task per shift, search schedule, media/file attachments, team chat.
- Advanced — Monthly for $95/month or yearly for $79/month. Extra users beyond 50 are charged at $1.80/user/month if you pay monthly, or $1.50/user/month if you pay yearly. Includes: up to three time clocks, up to 3 schedules, scheduling filters, export schedule to Excel, advanced scheduling filters, live poll posts
- Expert — Monthly for $191/month OR annually for $159/month. Additional users beyond 50 charged at $3.60/user/month if paid monthly or $3.00/user/month if paid yearly.
Includes: up to six time clocks, up to six schedules, add data layers, schedule limitations (limit number of hours per user per day or week), time limitations on user ability to claim or reject shifts, pre-scheduled posts, up to 2 attachments for each update, up to two publishers
For bigger companies, there’s also an Enterprise plan that includes unlimited time clocks, unlimited schedules, unlimited attachments for each update, and an unlimited number of publishers. Pricing is available upon consultation only.
Not sure if Connecteam is right for you? You can give any pricing plan a try with a 14-day free trial.
Bottom line: For businesses with workers in the field every day, Connecteam is an ideal solution.
Deputy – Best for Centralizing Employee Communication
- News Feed to share information
- Integrated task management
- Employee journal for each worker
- Real-time labor costing
Deputy is another of my top five picks that places employee communication front and center. Where it differs from Connecteam, though, is that it places the emphasis on the manager side of the equation.
Deputy is designed to make it easy for managers to inform, manage, recognize, and reward employees with just a few clicks. It’s this type of relationship-focused communication that makes Deputy stand out.
Where Deputy Excels
Deputy’s focus on streamlining management communication is evident in a number of ways.
- Specialized communication channels: Deputy offers a News Feed feature that lets management quickly and effectively distribute important information to the entire workforce with just a few clicks.
- Integrated task management: Never worry about tasks falling through the cracks or having to build a separate task notification list for employee responsibilities. Deputy incorporates tasks with the scheduling function.
- Detailed employee journals: All notes and documentation related to each employee are saved in a single place. If HR or a supervisor needs to recall that info for promotions or terminations, it is easily accessible.
Across the board, the users we spoke to couldn’t say enough about how easy Deputy makes it to stay connected with their workers. In particular, the Deputy News Feed is hugely popular.
News Feed lets managers share important information and documentation–and even videos–across teams. It also offers a confirmation feature that tells a manager when an employee has viewed the data.
“Our biggest win is the interaction with the employees. I can send a memo out to our whole company, all four locations, over 80 employees in a couple clicks,” noted the general manager of a chain of hardware stores.
The manager of a remote home health care team especially liked how the automated birthday and anniversary announcements helped employees feel recognized by management.
“Once I set somebody’s birthday in, it automatically says ‘Happy Birthday’ at 8:15 on that morning. Same with work anniversaries. It will automatically pop up ‘Carlos just had a one-year anniversary.’ That’s nice and makes employees feel valued,” he told us.
Another area where Deputy excels is in integrating task management. While all the tools on the list offer this functionality, Deputy makes it very easy by letting an admin tie a task list to a recurring schedule.
The scheduling supervisor of a property management company explained how he uses this feature. “Before they can punch out on Deputy, a task message will pop up, like ‘please take the trash to the curb.’ They have to hit okay before they can punch out.” He believes these automated reminders go a long way toward ensuring that tasks are remembered and completed.
One other way Deputy helps streamline communication for managers is with its Employee Journal, which saves all information related to an employee in a single location. If a question or issue arises, there is a single resource that provides all documentation related to each employee.
One HR manager called out this feature as critical to his job. “When a supervisor wants to suspend or terminate an employee, I need documentation to support any decision. It’s all in the journal. So that’s magic.”
Another great Deputy feature is the integrated text messaging for notifications. “I’d say the most useful one is texting the schedule,” the hardware store manager told us. “Really important because sometimes people don’t have in-app notifications turned on.”
While other products on my list offer this option, it is often limited to higher-tier packages. Deputy builds it into the basic package.
Like Homebase, Deputy can give you real-time labor cost data. But Deputy goes a step further and gives you demand projections based on historical performance. This actual data helps businesses more accurately dial in labor cost management based on their own operations.
|Easy communication||Limited user customizations|
|Integrated task management||Reduced mobile app functionality for supervisors|
|Detailed employee journals||No ability to print out employee documentation|
Where Deputy can improve
Deputy is a very robust tool, but it just might be a victim of its own functionality. Build a tool that does a lot, and sometimes users expect more.
Here are a few of the things we heard from Deputy customers about shortcomings they see in the software.
- Limited user customizations: When managers want to pick and choose access and permissions for individual employees, they run into roadblocks. Deputy only allows assigning of these functions at group levels.
- Reduced mobile app functionality for managers: Although the employer-side mobile app is great at keeping workers connected and informed, it isn’t as robust as using a web browser. This leaves some managers frustrated.
- Can’t print out employee documents: Paperless is the way to go these days, so you can’t blame Deputy for skimping here. But if you push training through the Deputy scheduling app, you won’t be able to print out training confirmation notices.
The inability to get down to a granular level for employee permissions might not be a universal need. But if you do need it, you might be frustrated with Deputy.
“I think there should be more customization at the employee level. I wish Deputy had dialed it down to each employee for adding or subtracting things like supervisor access permissions, rather than limiting me to group settings only,” the hardware store manager told us.
Likewise, if you’re a manager who wants to perform all your scheduling tasks on the app, you’ll be in for a disappointment. There are some things you can only do in the browser version of Deputy.
One user cited the inability to add employee availability as an example. “Sometimes employees come up to me with their availability and it would be nice if I could add that information in my phone, but I cannot,” he said. “I have to tell them to go into their own app and do it.”
If you’re not at your computer or prefer to use your mobile app instead of a browser, this could be more than a bit bothersome.
Finally, some users couldn’t print out paper copies of documents they needed in Deputy.
As the HR manager overseeing home health care workers explained, “Only having the electronic confirmations available in the Employee Journal defeats the purpose of training,” he told us. “I need paper copies of the confirmation to comply with industry regulations.”
Of course, this is a discreet complaint tied to a specific type of industry. If you don’t have this type of compliance requirement, this issue might not matter. But if you do, Deputy may not be the best option.
Pricing is one area where Deputy really dials it in. They’ve built a pricing structure that lets users pay for only the functionality they need.
They offer two lower-priced options that cover just the basics in each category.
- Scheduling only — $2.50 per user per month. Includes unlimited shifts, employee scheduling, auto-scheduling, POS integration, PTO & leave management, News Feed, tasking. SMS & email notifications.
- Time & Attendance only — $2.50 per user per month. Includes unlimited timesheets, payroll integration, POS integration, PTO & leave management, News Feed, tasking, SMS & email notifications.
If you want combined functionality, you can choose from three options:
- Starter — FREE. Includes 100 shifts per month, approval of 100 timesheets per month, PTO & leave management, News Feed, SMS & email notifications.
- Premium — monthly for $4.50 per user per month OR annually for $4 per user per month. Includes everything in the Scheduling Only and Time & Attendance Only packages, plus – includes unlimited shifts and timesheets, auto-scheduling, payroll integration, POS integration, PTO & leave management, news feed, tasking, reporting, shift engagement, single sign-on, open API, dashboard, meal & rest break planning, demand planning, SMS & email notifications, availability management, shift swap, schedule templates, performance & journaling, time clock, custom timesheet fields
- Enterprise: custom pricing. Includes all premium features plus advanced demand planning, advanced reporting & analysis, custom built enterprise agreements, custom implementation, custom roles & permissions, custom organization structure, dedicated enterprise support, location & department level procedures, training matrix.
You can try Deputy for free for up to 31 days to test out all the features. After that, you can drop down to the Starter package for free or choose one of the paid options.
Bottom line: For companies that want to centralize manager-to-employee communications and keep all employee electronic data in one place, Deputy delivers.
Humanity – Best for Data-Driven Workforce Management
- Easy onboarding
- Demand-driven scheduling
- Flexible scheduling options
- Integrates with HCM software
Among my top five, Humanity stands out because of its laser focus on helping businesses leverage data to manage employee scheduling. To say it goes above and beyond in this area is an understatement.
From easily importing external KPIs to its demand-driven scheduling feature, Humanity puts data at the heart of every scheduling decision.
It also works seamlessly with the most popular Human Capital Management (HCM) tools, including Oracle, Workday, and BambooHR. This allows businesses to manage a single source of data for all things employee-related.
These features make Humanity a solid employer-focused tool that helps companies easily reach their scheduling goals.
Where Humanity Excels
Humanity is focused on data, and even a cursory glance at its website tells you that. No cute cartoons or lively animations like you’ll find on some of the other top five websites. Just a straightforward, no-nonsense approach to employee scheduling.
Here are a few of the key ways Humanity nails that approach.
- In-depth data management and utilization: Humanity leverages the power of data to help drive scheduling decisions. It captures and uses employee-specific information as well as vital business data to help inform your scheduling decisions.
- Simple onboarding: Despite its robust functionality, Humanity makes it easy to get new employees up to speed. No complicated training is required to get managers and workers up and running in minutes.
- Great scheduling flexibility: Humanity lets managers publish schedules with open shifts and then let employees opt-in to the shifts they prefer. For companies with pools of similarly-skilled workers, this is a uniquely helpful way to schedule.
The biggest differentiator for Humanity is how much emphasis it puts on the data behind the decisions. While other tools on my list let you base scheduling on historical or real-time data, Humanity goes beyond that information.
Humanity not only lets you import important point-of-sale metrics but also other important key performance indicators to help shape your scheduling decisions. You can create schedules that help you meet targets, whether they are directly tied to tangible data or other goals.
Humanity’s demand forecast employee scheduling tool is another data-driven win. You can use historical performance insights and actual past scheduling data to fine-tune future schedules. While other tools on my list, like Homebase, leverage historical data to assist with scheduling, Humanity’s functionality is more robust.
This data focus extends to employees, too. For any business with workers who wear multiple hats, Humanity makes it easy to track and consolidate worker data to ensure accurate payrolls.
“Everyone in my company has two different roles, tour guide and office administration,” one user told us. “There’s a lot of clocking in and clocking out, and different pay depending on the job you’re doing. Humanity tracks all of that and sends the right data to payroll. Everyone gets paid correctly.”
Humanity also makes onboarding new users, whether they are employees or managers, a straightforward process. A simple, clean user interface makes it easy for newly-hired employees to hit the ground running with little to no training required.
“I say you’re hard-pressed to find an easier system to use,” the manager of a non-profit told us. “I can get an employee activated and able to see their schedule before their first day of work.”
Another interviewee concurred, noting that he could onboard a new manager and have them writing a schedule in 30-60 minutes.
Finally, Humanity offers the ability to publish schedules with unassigned shifts. This type of open schedule allows employees to pick and choose the days and times they want to work.
One manager of an on-call catering company loves this flexibility. “I needed a way that I could put out a schedule that was empty and let people sign up,” he told us. “They click a button to accept a shift, and we finalize the schedule from there. It works really well.”
According to the users we interviewed, this flexible scheduling functionality is unique to Humanity. It’s a real win for the right type of business.
Among my top five, Humanity also offers an impressive list of integrations. Three HCM platforms and 20 payroll partners put Humanity ahead of its competitors in terms of tying together payroll and overall employee management.
|In-depth data management and utilization||Employee interface is not intuitive|
|Simple onboarding||Restrictive employee login options|
|Great scheduling flexibility||Limited communications tools|
Where Humanity Can Improve
All that glitters is not gold, and that holds true even for a scheduling tool as robust as Humanity.
Here are a few weaknesses I noticed during my review.
- Minimal employee communication: Humanity has put its focus squarely on the employer side of the equation. This is apparent when it comes to how little emphasis the tool places on simplifying communication among employees.
- Difficult in-app employee interface: Humanity’s employer focus is highly evident in their mobile app. Users called out a somewhat challenging experience for employees using the tool.
- Restrictive employee login: Humanity limits employee login to one account per email or phone number. This makes it cumbersome for employees trying to manage work for multiple employers.
Let’s face it: Humanity is just a better product for employers than employees. Everything about Humanity speaks to the employer side of the scheduling equation–and pretty much only that side.
Unlike all the other products on my list, the Humanity website doesn’t devote a single word to two-way communication. It talks exclusively about how easy it is for managers to push data to the workforce, saying nothing about how employees can respond or talk to each other and forgoing any appearance of building employee morale or encouraging camaraderie with their software.
The users we spoke to bore this out. All of them skip Humanity and rely on other tools to keep the lines of communication open among employees and to foster workplace culture.
Another example of this employer-centric focus is how difficult employees find using the mobile app. One employee we spoke to noted that the Humanity in-app calendar was hard to understand or use.
“I felt like I never got the same information or had the same ease of use that we had had through Google Calendar,” he told us. “It was something where I got used to it and learned the ins and outs, but it never felt as intuitive or user-friendly.”
No other product on this list came close to garnering the same type of negative comparison in terms of ease of use. So if you’re looking for a product that employees will take to like a duck to water, Humanity probably isn’t it.
Likewise, where other tools on my list like Homebase include the ability for employees to manage multiple employers within a single scheduling app, Humanity makes that cumbersome. There’s no single login using the same email or phone number, eliminating the ability for workers to easily toggle among employers.
Instead, according to one interviewee, Humanity requires employees to set up a separate account, with a unique email, for each of their employers. “This creates an annoyance for employees,” he explained.
In line with its no-nonsense approach to employee scheduling, you won’t find any free versions of Humanity. Nor will you find the packages to be particularly friendly to small businesses with lower budgets.
In fact, there is a minimum spend of $80 – $100 per month for all their non-enterprise level packages. If you’re a small entity with few employees, Humanity won’t be your most cost-effective choice.
- Starter — Monthly at $3.50 per user per month (minimum of $100/month) OR annually at $3/month per user ($80/month minimum).
Includes: Admin dashboard on mobile & web, employee shift trading, availability & time off management, notifications.
- Classic — Monthly at $5 per user per month (minimum of $100/month) OR annually at $4 per user per month (minimum of $80/month).
Includes: All Starter features plus auto-fill scheduling, real-time labor costs & budgeting, compliance, reporting & analytics, skills & certifications, time clock, geolocation, custom leave types & policies, messaging, payroll exporting, demand-based scheduling, open API access, HCM integration.
- Enterprise: custom pricing and additional features.
Even though you won’t find a free version of Humanity to use forever, you can try it for free for 30 days. The free trial includes enterprise-level functionality, so you can check out all the features.
Bottom line: Humanity is a robust employee scheduling tool that’s perfect for data-driven employers…but might not be quite as perfect for their employees.
When I Work – Best for Businesses With Simple Scheduling Needs
- Simplified pricing
- Easy to use mobile app
- Schedule by qualifications
- Great scheduling templates
When I Work stands in stark contrast to Humanity’s serious approach. Nothing demonstrates that more clearly than When I Work’s slogan…Get Shi(f)t Done.
Long a pioneer in employee scheduling, When I Work puts the emphasis squarely on employers and employees working together for success. It also works hard to make scheduling as easy as possible for every user.
It’s got a fun website, a streamlined product offering, and the most simplified pricing of all the top five.
Where When I Work Excels
Rather than trying to be everything to everyone, When I Work is successful because it works hard at being great at two core things–scheduling and time tracking.
Here are a few of the ways it does that.
- Easy to use: When I Work makes it easy for managers to schedule workers and simple for employees to keep track of their responsibilities. There’s also an emphasis on ensuring open lines of communication.
- Great schedule templates: If your scheduling needs are straightforward, the built-in templates are easy to use. You just jump in and can create your schedules in minutes. You can also customize templates to suit your needs.
- Absolutely reliable: The beauty of When I Work lies in its simplicity. It does exactly what you expect every time. No hidden glitches, no surprises, no jumping through hoops to accomplish what you need.
Ease of use is obvious from the moment you visit the When I Work website. Fun, colorful, easy to navigate…the website is a preview of how easy it will be to use the tool in real life.
And everyone we interviewed noted how easy it is to create schedules fast and work with those schedules as needs evolve.
“It’s just easy to schedule people. It’s also easy to facilitate schedule changes and time-off requests,” noted one restaurant owner.
But it isn’t just brick-and-mortar business owners who love When I Work. Managing workers in the field across multiple locations is also simple, especially because the platform makes communication seamless.
The manager of a construction company explained that she uses the tool to manage all aspects of scheduling her remote teams. “It allows me to put information in the schedule that they need for the job site. Addresses, GPS locators, things like that,” she said. “Field workers can just tap a button on their phone and get directions.”
Another feature users really like is the built-in scheduling templates. Whether using them out of the box or customizing them for unique business needs, the templates are a big win.
“With the templates, it takes less than five minutes to do a schedule,” one interviewee told us.
When I Work’s reliability is a huge plus for many users.
“You’re getting a product that 100% works and is proven to work, even when they release new features,” noted one user who has used both Connecteam and When I Work.
Likewise, the ability to schedule based on certifications makes When I Work great for specific industries, where not every employee is qualified to do every job. While other tools in this list also offer this functionality, nobody raved about it more than the When I Work users we interviewed.
“When I Work tracks every employees’ specialties and certifications,” noted the construction company manager. “I can just click on an employee’s name and instantly see what they can and can’t do. It helps me not to schedule them for a job they aren’t qualified to perform.”
When I Work also offers great integrations, connecting seamlessly with many of the most popular payroll, point-of-sale, and business systems.
And perhaps because When I Work is one of the most established employee scheduling software tools, they aren’t afraid to steer potential customers to an even easier and free solution. They are the only service we found that actually offers free Excel spreadsheets that you can download for scheduling and time tracking.
If the spreadsheets work for your needs, When I Work wishes you well and is happy to help–no pushy upsells or pressure to use the whole platform. That is truly a unique and refreshing approach among the top five.
|Easy to use||Not ideal for every business type|
|Great templates||Confusing notifications|
|Reliable||Mobile app usability could be better|
Where When I Work Can Improve
Simple is great, but there’s always room for improvement.
Based on what users we spoke to told us, there are a few things When I Work could improve to create an even better user experience.
- Not a fit for every business type: Companies with a single brick-and-mortar location or those with few employees will find it wonderful. Other businesses, not so much.
- Confusing notification functionality: For a tool as easy to use as When I Work, setting user notifications is unnecessarily complicated for employees–and admins can’t control employee settings on their side, either.
- Subpar mobile app usability: A well-designed mobile app is essential for employee scheduling software, so it was surprising to hear managers complain about how awkward the When I Work mobile apps were to use.
First things first, When I Work is great for most businesses…but not every business.
At least one user we spoke to moved from When I Work to Connecteam when his operations grew beyond a single physical location.
“We do more than 1,800 events a year across our various catering businesses and there wasn’t a clear way to delineate them with When I Work,” he told us. “My experience was that when I just had a single restaurant, it worked well, But once we grew beyond that, it wasn’t the ideal solution.”
The construction industry manager concurred, at least when it comes to the built-in scheduling templates, which seem solely geared toward retail businesses. “We like When I Work, but would be very interested in construction-industry-specific software and templates.”
Some users also find the mobile notifications to be excessive and difficult to modify. If an employee doesn’t dig in and tweak their in-app notification settings, they will be inundated with messages. And their managers won’t be able to help.
“When I Work has really limited notification features, in terms of what I can change on my side,” one scheduling supervisor told us. She said employees are the only ones who can change these settings, and they usually don’t. This results in confused workers in the field, and a frustrated manager trying to field multiple calls.
Another surprising source of user frustration came from managers and supervisors trying to use the mobile app, as most of the apps on this list are generally strong on the employer side of things.
In particular, one operations manager called out the drop-down functionality for fields. “If you’ve ever tried to fill out a survey on your phone, then you understand what I mean,” he told us. “The cells aren’t user-friendly, they have drop-down options, and when you lose the drop-down, you have to start over.”
This results in his managers coming to him and asking him to do it on his computer, where it is naturally much easier.
One final quirk about When I Work is that you have to pay more to activate the ability to track employees by physical location as a function. Other products build geofencing and geotracking into their basic packages.
When I Work Pricing
Pricing for When I Work matches the product’s simplicity. You’re either a small business with less than 100 employees or an enterprise with more than 100. No guesswork here.
- Small Business (up to 100 employees) – Two options at this level, Scheduling Only or Scheduling plus Time & Attendance.
- Scheduling Only — $2 per user per month. Includes scheduling, availability, communications, auto scheduling, task management, OpenShift requests, and document storage.
- Scheduling plus Time & Attendance — $4 per user per month per user. Includes everything in the Scheduling package, plus mobile clock in with GPS, reporting, overtime alerts, custom timesheet exports, integrations with popular payroll programs, and labor reports.
- Enterprise (more than 100 employees): Custom pricing upon consultation only.
When I Work also offers a free 14-day trial, so you can check out all the small business functionality at no risk.
Bottom line: For any business with a single location and/or simple employee scheduling needs, When I Work is a solid contender.
Selection and Review Process for the Best Employee Scheduling Software
You might be wondering how I decided on my top five list. Here’s some insight on that process.
What It Took To Be Included
For any software to make the top list, it had to meet some baseline requirements.
- Have a mobile app: For managers and hourly or field workers to stay in touch, having a mobile app is essential. A mobile app allows instant schedule sharing, task allocation, GPS tracking, and a dedicated communication channel. Without a mobile app, an employee scheduling tool is just another Excel spreadsheet in a prettier package.
- Allow employees to self-service: At the heart of employee scheduling software is the ability for workers to manage as many of their own work responsibilities as possible. The software and mobile app must streamline their ability to request PTO, set their availability, and select or swap shifts.
- Include time tracking: Some businesses will start with only a scheduling tool. Others will want time and attendance out of the gate. Either way, the ability for employees to clock in and out, and for employers to easily approve time sheets and export them to payroll, must be part of the overall package, even if it is an optional add-on.
- Offer labor law compliance: Staying within the law is critical when it comes to managing your workers. Shifts, breaks, work hours, and advanced notice of schedules must all comply with state and federal laws. All tools in the list must either offer labor law compliance functionality or integrate with Human Capital Management tools that offer it.
The software also had to meet some additional criteria, like:
- Easy to use for small businesses: All of the products reviewed here will scale as your business grows. However, the focus of this list is on tools that excel for the small business owner.
- Highly rated: My research team combed through public review sites like Capterra and G2 to find out what actual users thought about the products. Only those tools that consistently received the highest marks were considered.
- Established online reputation: To make my list, the software had to be regularly mentioned by users, mainstream product review websites, and other internet sources. No flash-in-the-pan or one-off products.
I did not include any software that was:
- Industry-specific: There are many tools out there designed for specific industries, like restaurants or hospitality. I focused instead on tools that serve a broad range of businesses.
- Primarily a client scheduling tool: There are many options that combine client and employee scheduling, or that focus on the client side more than the employee side. I wasn’t interested in those. Instead, I focused exclusively on tools that are designed only for scheduling hourly or field workforces.
Our Research Process
Once the list of possible top software candidates was whittled down, my research team identified actual users of the software, confirmed their identities via LinkedIn, and conducted in-depth interviews with them over a two-week period. Each interview lasted between 20 to 30 minutes, and we compensated each person for their time. Users came from a variety of industries, seniority levels, business types, and business sizes.
The point of all this was to accurately test every scheduling tool’s claims of saving time and eliminating paperwork, and prove that each tool lived up to its marketing hype. If it didn’t, we wanted to call out any marketing claims that fell short.
To do that, it wasn’t enough to read reviews in public forums. We wanted to speak to the people in the trenches, the employers and employees tasked with using the software day-to-day.
What I Learned Choosing the Best Employee Scheduling Software
The people we spoke to and the reviews we scrutinized consistently mentioned four key areas they wanted to solve with employee scheduling software.
Connection And Communication Are Key
Informed employees are satisfied employees, and satisfied employees tend to stick around. Ensuring a reliable flow of information is one way to mitigate attrition and build a strong, satisfied team, even when they’re never under one roof.
But communication isn’t a one-way street. There are three communication channels in every business, and how well any tool managed all three was part of our analysis.
- Manager to Employee: How easily can managers and supervisors share important information with their teams?
- Employee to Manager: How quickly can workers get critical information to their boss?
- Employee to Employee: Is it easy for workers to engage with each other?
All the tools on our list included some sort of communication functionality in their mobile apps. Every tool was more than capable of blasting out schedules to workers.
Where each tool differs, though, is in how much emphasis each puts on communication that goes beyond the usual one-way employer to employee channel. Some tools were better than others when it came to building employee morale and fostering a team culture through communication.
Most of the tools on my list consistently received high marks from both employers and employees when it came to the in-app communication functionality.
“Employees have control over their own schedule, and that makes them really happy,” one Homebase user told us. The Deputy users we spoke to raved about the News Feed’s ability to share information and bolster employee morale.
A When I Work user told us his staff loves being able to communicate directly with each other to solve common scheduling issues, like switching shifts.
But not every tool makes two-way communication a priority. Humanity takes a very employer-centric approach. While it does include some basic messaging functionality, it doesn’t approach the level of its competition.
Notably, none of the Humanity users we spoke to even used the in-app communication features other than to send out schedules to workers.
It’s 9:00…Do You Know Where Your Employees Are?
Knowing who’s doing what, when, and where is critical to effective business management. And nowhere is that more true than when you’re working with a team that isn’t behind a desk all day long.
We studied each tool to see how well it executed on the following criteria related to employee accountability.
- Clock in/clock out: How well does the tool monitor and control clock in/out times?
- Read receipts: Is there proof that an employee saw important information?
- Geofencing/geotracking: Are workers where they’re supposed to be during working hours?
All the tools on my list are dialed in when it comes to giving employees an easy way to clock in and out. Every mobile app provides this functionality. Some of the tools, like Homebase, let your employees clock in at POS terminals or computer kiosks, too.
The manager of a coffee shop loves how he gets real-time notifications about deviations from the schedule. “If someone is late, I can have a conversation very quickly because Homebase tells me right away.”
Read receipts are another important feature and one where all the top five excel. Virtually every employer-side user we spoke to mentioned how helpful this is. As one Humanity user noted about employees claiming they didn’t know they had to work, “This app actually tells me that you just logged in and looked at your schedule.”
Geofencing, the ability to restrict clock-in and clock-out by location-specific parameters, is also built into every tool on the top five. It is a critical component of employee management.
“It’s a huge accountability feature for us,” noted a bartending event service manager who uses Connecteam. “We have brand ambassadors, and sometimes they try to clock in a few miles from the actual event. Connecteam stops this from happening.” Other users we spoke to also value the ability to minimize this type of issue for their workforces, too.
So if all the tools are great at employee accountability, how do they differ? Price.
Some tools, like Homebase, Connecteam, and When I Work, include all this functionality in their free options or their packages with a low “per employee” price point. Humanity and Deputy charge more for the same functionality.
The Bottom Line Is The Bottom Line
For businesses with thin margins, every penny counts. We studied each product to determine how well it helped businesses stay on top of their budgets.
- Labor costs: How well does the tool help managers capture real-time labor costs or plan for the future with solid data?
- Overtime management: Does the software offer ways to keep overtime under control?
Managing labor costs is a huge pain point for every user we spoke to. Having information readily available to make sound decisions is important.
Humanity is at the top of the list when it comes to leveraging data to make scheduling decisions. Its demand forecast employee scheduling uses a variety of data, including business drivers and past insights, to help you accurately predict future needs.
Other tools also handle labor costs admirably. One restaurant manager praised Homebase for its ability to deliver real-time cost information that allows him to modify staff numbers on the fly.
A Deputy user who manages a fleet of vacation homes also noted how helpful the tool is at providing real-time labor data. “I can see how much it costs per house based on the number of staff we have there each day.”
Some of the other tools on the list, like When I Work, don’t put much emphasis on the analysis side of things. Or if they do, as in the case of Homebase, that functionality is only available in their more expensive packages.
It’s a similar story when it comes to managing overtime. All the tools can do things like limit early clock-ins and alert you when employees are reaching overtime limits. As one Deputy user noted, “Supervisors can easily reassign shifts to make sure nobody incurs overtime.”
However, some tools, including Connecteam and Homebase, only incorporate these features into their most expensive plans.
Will It Work For YOUR Business?
Businesses are unique and their scheduling needs are, too. Employee scheduling software is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and every tool we included isn’t perfect for every business situation.
When it came to evaluating each tool’s approach to customization, we looked at several key factors:
- Number of locations: How well does a tool manage scheduling for a single brick-and-mortar business, multiple locations, or an entirely remote workforce?
- Flexibility: Can the tool handle schedules that regularly change or other unique requests from users?
- Price: How affordable is the software today and as you scale?
Some products have more functionality than others for scheduling employees at multiple locations or job sites. If you fall into this category, Connecteam is a great option.
“We have multiple companies that share employees, and Connecteam makes it easy to put shifts out there and let employees claim shifts across the board,” one user noted.
On the other hand, everyone we spoke to agreed that When I Work is best suited for a single-establishment business. Issues with assigning multiple employees to multiple locations were a consistent problem we heard about with that platform.
In terms of flexible scheduling, Humanity gets high marks. As one staff supervisor told us, for businesses with ever-changing scheduling needs, “you’d be hard-pressed to find an easier to use and more capable system.”
Connecteam, meanwhile, has users raving about how responsive the company is to customization requests. When one manager needed more robust functionality to schedule beyond what the tool offered, Connecteam rolled out the customization fast.
Not all tools enjoy the same rave reviews. Deputy comes up a little short according to at least one of the users we spoke with. She wanted to see more options for assigning permissions, a shortcoming Deputy did not address when she brought it up.
And finally, a word about price. It’s not usually a factor we consider when evaluating software since most comparative tools are similarly priced.
Not quite so with employee scheduling software, and this matters for businesses operating on razor-thin margins.
Most, but not all, of the software we included offers at least some unique feature in their pricing arrangement that makes them attractive to certain types of businesses. The only one that doesn’t is Humanity. It is among the most expensive, has the fewest customizable pricing options, and requires a minimum monthly spend of $80 to $100.
Other tools on this list offer free versions, like Homebase, Connecteam, and Deputy. This makes them reasonable options to get started at no cost, and keep using the free versions forever.
In the paid packages, Deputy and When I Work both let you pay for scheduling or time and attendance only. And Connecteam offers fixed pricing for up to 50 users. Homebase prices per location rather than per user, making it an outlier on the top five.
Given all this pricing variation, it is quite possible to find a tool that allows you to customize pricing to your specific needs.
The Top Employee Scheduling Software in Summary
Homebase is the best employee scheduling software. But I also recommend Connecteam, Deputy, Humanity, and Where I Work.
Overall, employee scheduling software is the modern way to fix scheduling errors, improve team communication, and maximize labor cost management. It’s time to ditch pencil and paper schedules or Excel spreadsheets and use software to simplify your scheduling responsibilities.