In the 2019 superhero film Avengers: Endgame, Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) said, “No amount of money ever bought a second of time.” Stark, an industrialist himself, knows that time is the most important resource in any business. You can earn back lost revenue but never wasted time.
That is precisely why scheduling your work operations, particularly your employee schedules, is one of the most critical aspects of running an organization. While you can certainly do this with an old-fashioned timesheet, a specialized solution that can keep track, manage, and enforce schedule policies is the most efficient way to do it.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the top 3 employee scheduling platforms in our database: When I Work, Deputy, and Homebase. We’ll provide you with an overview of their features, compare their differences, and outline their weaknesses (if any). We aim to help you make an informed decision on which employee scheduling solution can work for your business.
Workers who average 72 hours of work per week typically waste about 21.8 hours, according to a study by Inc. Naturally, this is far over the standard 40-hour week—the study highlights that most of these hours are wasted and that there is no reason to spend so much time when you can certainly do more things with less. And there are a lot of things that can waste productivity, especially when your employees work extended hours.
An employee scheduling software may help you trim the fat from your bloated man-hours. Likewise, it can help you identify which employees are not using their time wisely and coach them into utilizing these hours for good, similar to what time tracking software can do. Among other things, it can also help you make a seamless schedule for your team, so each shift flows into one another without overlaps or conflicts.
And there is also a good reason to use software. 92% of employees report that the right technology—whether hardware or software—can make them more productive. The problem, then, is finding the right one for your business, as not all software are created equal.
This is why this article aims to compare the three highest-rated employee scheduling software on our list. We hope that when you see each of their features and how they stack up against each other, you can find the solution that can significantly improve your employees’ productivity.
When I Work is a simple application that can run on practically any device, such as a PC or a mobile. It has native mobile apps for iOS and Android, and as a cloud-based solution, it can work wherever you have an internet connection. As both a time-tracking and scheduling software, When I Work gives you and your employees control over when they work, how much work they do, and what schedule they want to take (if your policies allow it).
The platform’s GeoCheckin feature is also one of the unique selling points of the software. It allows you to monitor employee attendance and check where they check-in. It uses GPS tracking and live map views so you can see if they’re clocking in from your approved job sites. This is ideal if you have remote employees or you’re assigning them fieldwork. Thanks to its native mobile app, employees can log in from their phones anywhere, anytime.
The vendor offers a comprehensive free trial to get you up to speed with the features. You can sign up for When I Work free trial here.
The software also isn’t simply a time tracking solution. As a scheduler, a manager can create and organize schedules and shuffle shifts as the work demands. On the other hand, the employee has a measure of control to indicate their preferred schedules and take vacant slots for both work and off days, depending on attendance policy. Plus, employees can file timesheets, and managers can approve them for payroll—without ever having to leave the app.
When I Work’s basic features are free for companies with less than 75 employees. You get time tracking, scheduling, messaging, and hiring for free, no contract required.
Deputy is a versatile employee scheduling software that can accommodate different types of industries, such as retail establishments, government agencies, schools, non-profits, and more. As a time tracking and scheduling software, Deputy can support businesses with specific scheduling requirements. This promotes accountability and productivity by monitoring availability and time per employee.
The software prides itself on changing schedules easily while minimizing conflict. Deputy does this using a multi-department scheduling system that can track task, time, and schedules per employee or department. Managers can simply make a schedule and assign them to available workers or automate recurring schedules to remove tedious administrative tasks. Afterward, schedules can be published and sent to all team members using push notifications, SMS, and email.
An appealing test drive of all software features is available to you when you sign up for Deputy free trial here.
One of Deputy’s most noticeable features is its Newsfeed, which acts like a social media timeline of schedule changes and assignments. (or even what’s happening in your company). Like most HR and business intelligence tools, Deputy can generate accurate reports and integrate with third-party payroll applications. Best of all, it uses a simple timesheet to track schedules and time worked, so you don’t get lost in a myriad of esoteric functions as you would in any other app.
Homebase is a human resources platform that employs time tracking and payroll in one software. With this application, you can allocate staff to all available schedules and shifts and track their billable hours accurately. The idea is to streamline scheduling and ensure that all employees who have put in work are paid down to the minute, with the ability to calculate overtime and spot conflicts.
Over 100,000 local businesses in the U.S. alone use Homebase, which includes food services, gyms, spas, healthcare, and retail establishments. As a cloud-based, OS-agnostic software, Homebase also comes with a mobile app so your employees can clock in anywhere they are, especially if your business requires the occasional visit to a remote job site.
If you want to investigate the features closely you can easily do so when you sign up for Homebase free trial here.
One of the most interesting features of Homebase is its cost-to-value ratio. Unlike other scheduling software that charge per user, Homebase instead charges per location. You can add as many users as you like for a single location. Alongside this, Homebase integrates with common POS solutions and payroll solutions and features a drag-and-drop, intuitive interface.
The top 3 employee scheduling solutions in this article have all the basics of an employee scheduling system. All have time tracking, employee scheduling, and HR resources that grant granular schedule control to managers.
When I Work is an all-around solution that can work in any industry as long as that industry employs people and pays them by the hour. It’s also designed on the outset to be mobile and flexible with its GeoCheckin feature, native mobile app, cloud capability, and easy, straightforward setup and performance.
Deputy sits somewhere between When I Work and Homebase, although it’s still a bit more targeted at certain industries. It offers tried-and-true employee scheduling but also features things like a Newsfeed that you wouldn’t expect from an employee scheduling software.
Homebase, meanwhile, best serves small businesses with a single location, like a mom-and-pop store or a boutique cafe. Its reasonable price point based on location is one of its strongest suits. Otherwise, it offers standard scheduling capabilities as you would expect from a top solution.
Let’s dive deeper into each solution’s capabilities.
Schedule management is the bread and butter of any employee scheduling software. The main selling point of any such software is to make scheduling tasks easy for both managers and employees. Another key feature is that scheduling should resolve conflict if it exists. Mobile login is also great, which not all applications in the category have (but these three possess, thankfully).
When I Work has one of the best all-around scheduling capabilities in this niche. It’s so easy to make a schedule that it will take you less than 30 seconds to create and fill up available shifts and schedules. It does this by using a guided setup (or even a schedule template) where you simply do a step-by-step procedure to make a schedule and assign an employee to it. Its interface also allows you to see staff availability and who is currently working.
Meanwhile, Deputy has an AI-powered automated scheduling platform that’s built from scratch to optimize your employee schedules. Like When I Work, Deputy can gather employee availability and collect attendance data attached to each employee. It also supports drag-and-drop shift swapping using easy, color-coded task and schedule tags. All in all, Deputy takes advantage of a powerful engine under the hood to automate your scheduling efforts.
Finally, Homebase uses a schedule management UI similar to a Gantt chart, like those used by many project management platforms. It’s meant to schedule staff for single-site establishments in the food services industry, although it can also accommodate employees in other industries. It utilizes alerts—to enforce compliance in overtimes and breaks—and a labor cost calculator to see how much you’re really paying for your staff in real-time.
This round goes to When I Work. The ease with which to make and assign a schedule is one of the best in the business. It’s not just that, however: its guided setup also makes everything effortless.
This can be defined as a feature of an employee scheduling software that allows employees a measure of control over their schedule. This includes change schedule requests, leaves and absences, and overtimes. This is somewhat an inverse of the preceding section in that instead of looking at the ease of use from the perspective of a manager, it’s for an employee.
When I Work has all team and employee self-service tools ready out of the box. As an employee, you can request leaves and vacations right on the When I Work app, either on desktop or mobile. It also has an in-app messaging tool plus a proprietary TeamTxt™ service that allows for group and one-on-one SMS messaging. The platform’s Open Shifts lets employees take, swap, and bid for vacant shifts. You can even automate enrollment in an open shift.
Deputy allows shift swapping, either for managers or employees if you enable this option. An employee can simply look for available shifts and request a swap with another employee, after which it will be approved if the other agrees. In addition, if they can’t work for a scheduled shift, they can “drop” the shift for another employee to fill. Managers can turn an option to manually approve shift swaps or let the employees decide for themselves.
Homebase allows shift requests but it doesn’t have the same level of employee self-service as When I Work. It does offer in-app messaging and the ability to let employees mark themselves as available. In addition, managers can mark a schedule as open, which employees can claim via their smartphone app.
When I Work‘s employee self-service feature set is light years ahead of its two competitors. It has a full-featured employee self-service capability, such as giving employees a degree of control over their schedules, thus fostering a more collaborative environment.
Of course, employee scheduling is only part of the equation. Making sense of the data that you collect from attendance and your staff can allow you to make more optimal schedules. Business intelligence, in terms of employee scheduling, includes simple metrics like the number of man-hours worked.
When I Work has a rather simple report generation feature. As a manager, you can take a glimpse of hours worked for each employee either by day or by week. Other than that, this is as far as the software goes.
Deputy has a better report generation capability. What it does better than When I Work is that it uses machine learning to model your future costs as well as how to optimize your scheduling and enforce attendance to make up for a negative budget. You can even look at staff performance and employee activity history.
Homebase has a barebones analytics module similar to When I Work, though slightly better. It offers a full Reports tab that gives you an overview of scheduled hours versus actual hours, estimated costs, shift comparison, and running wages as percent of total sales. You also get feedback from your employees and tracking of employee shift starts from this tab.
Deputy is the obvious choice in this department. This application’s real-time report powered by machine learning edges the other two in this area, particularly in how it can project your future costs depending on your scheduling trends. This means that it doesn’t only let you see what has transpired and what’s going on, but a glimpse into what can happen.
Integrations can extend the software’s functionalities more than what comes out of the box. More integrations also mean that the app commands the top (or near the top) market share. This is arguably one of the easiest ways to tell which software is the best for that niche. For employee scheduling, one of the most important is its integration with a payroll system, so managers don’t need to switch to another system, which can cause confusion.
When I Work integrates with QuickBooks and QuickBooks Online, ZenPayroll, Gusto, ADP Workforce Now, Square, Ultimate Software, Activehours, OnPay, and Paychex. In addition, When I Work also integrates with Zapier, allowing you to connect to other apps even if the software doesn’t integrate with them natively.
Meanwhile, Deputy integrates with payroll apps like Quickbooks, Square, Netsuite, Attache, Xero, MYOB, Gusto, ADP, SmartPayroll, Paychex, iPayrollNZ, Paylocity, MyPayeUK, CloudPayroll AU, and Paycor. It also integrates with other applications like point-of-sale software (Vend, Revel, Idealpos, Lightspeed, imPOS, Clover, ePOS Now), HR software (BambooHR, Proliant, Talenox, Preceda, HappyHR, SubscribeHR, Flare) and other apps like Zapier, Dropbox, Okta, LastPass, Airwatch and more.
Finally, Homebase connects with point-of-sale modules from the following applications: Toast, PayAnywhere, Clover, Poynt, Talech, Square, Upsurve, Lightspeed, and Revel Systems. It also integrates with payroll software such as Wells Fargo, Gusto, Heartland, Square Payroll, ADP, QuickBooks, Bank of America, Millennium, and SurePayroll. Other integrations are possible with analytics platforms like Bevspot and Ctuit and job board platforms like Indeed, Google, Facebook, Twitter, ZipRecruiter, Craiglist, Glassdoor, and Trovit.
Deputy, though just narrowly beating Homebase. While both have a vast library of integrations, Deputy offers a lot of extensibility due to its versatile nature. It doesn’t just connect with POS and payroll but in other areas as well.
Pricing can make or break any software. A reasonable price point is often the goal, where the app needs to be accessible for most enterprises while letting the developers have the financial incentive to develop and improve its feature set. Some platforms often charge a premium for a great feature set and excellent support, which, all things considered, should be a fair deal for both you and the vendor.
When I Work offers fair pricing because it’s free for companies that employ less than 75 people. This plan gives you all the basic features that are even more comprehensive than its competitors, with the option to enroll additional users for $2 per user. Its paid plans start at $1.50 per user per month and on to a “pro” plan priced at $2.25 per user per month, plus an Enterprise package for custom solutions. The platform also offers a free trial.
On the other hand, Deputy offers an affordable scheme under three plans. The first two (one with Scheduling features and the other is for Time Tracking) is $2.50 a month per user. The plan with all their features combined is Premium, priced at $4 a month per user. The vendor also offers a quote-based enterprise plan if you need custom solutions.
Homebase shakes up the pricing scheme, however. It’s free for one location with unlimited users, and you get scheduling and onboarding features at no cost. If you want to upgrade, you can try their Essentials and Plus options, priced at $16 and $40 per month, per location, respectively. Both are billed annually. They also have a quote-based Enterprise solution, which includes dedicated support and a customizable, open API.
When I Work is the clear winner with a practically unlimited free version, although Homebase’s free for one location and unlimited users is a close second. While you can certainly upgrade to a paid version, the cost per head is practically a steal. It also gives you the choice to tailor the solution with a quote-based plan if you like to have full control over everything.
Support is one of the three factors that can decide whether a digital platform succeeds or fails. It gives businesses a way to seek help and training for the platform they’ve purchased, effectively extending the software’s life cycle. Zendesk has found that customer satisfaction with vendors that offer internal support is 95%.
When I Work offers a robust support system—knowledge base, training (videos, webinars, how-tos, and so on), ticketing, live chat, and emails. What it does lack is phone support. In addition, they can only respond to tickets and live chat during their staff’s shifts, which is usually only from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (Central Time) on weekdays and 9:00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. on weekends.
Deputy, meanwhile, has a standard support system. You can email or call them. They also have live support and a limited knowledge base.
Homebase, meanwhile, has a support system similar to When I Work but with the added phone support. Their live chat, ticket, and phone help requests are limited to a 10-hour workday; no weekend support is available.
When I Work. It’s true that Homebase has added phone support, but they can only attend to your request within an 8-hour window every day. When I Work, on the other hand, can address your inquiries in 15-hour windows, potentially making their support staff able to address any issue much faster than the other two on this list.
The top 3 employee scheduling software cater to different industries. However, what these industries (in fact, all industries) share in common is that they need to make their employees’ schedules cohesive and efficient. In that respect, these solutions we’ve discussed above fulfill that—and more.
It’s clear, however, that When I Work is the best in this category. Its impressive feature set, best-in-class pricing system, and breadth of support channels allow it to edge not just Deputy and Homebase in a head-to-head comparison but other software in its niche. You can check the solution closely when you sign up for When I Work free trial here.
Employee scheduling, however, is only one facet of well-rounded human capital management. For a complete, end-to-end HR solution, take a gander at our exhaustive HR management software list.
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