Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.
Managing the shifts of your workforce on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis can be challenging. There’s a fine line between being shorthanded and overstaffed—it’s all too easy to let your labor costs get out of control.
Staying organized is tough even with just a handful of employees, but this challenge amplifies exponentially at scale.
We’ve reached a point where managing shifts via spreadsheets or with pencil and paper has become outdated and downright inefficient.
Enter employee scheduling software. These tools make it easier for managers to create schedules while always keeping the big-picture in mind.
Whether your business has ten or 10,000 employees, there’s a solution out there to accommodate your scheduling needs.
Which employee scheduling software is the best? Find out my top picks and read my in-depth reviews of each one below.
The Top 6 Options For Employee Scheduling Software
- Homebase – Best employee scheduling software for small businesses
- ShiftNote – The simplest employee scheduling software
- Shiftboard – Best for labor cost management
- Deputy – Best for time and attendance management
- HotSchedules by Fourth – Best labor management system for restaurants and hospitality
- Sage HR (formerly CakeHR) – Best all-in-one HR solution
How to Choose the Best Employee Scheduling For You
As you’re shopping around and evaluating different employee scheduling tools, there are certain factors that must be taken into consideration. Keep the following elements in mind to help narrow your search:
Number of Employees and Locations
A small coffee shop with six employees at a single location won’t have the same needs as a restaurant chain with 500 workers across a dozen sites.
Some software is built to scale, while others are intended for smaller businesses and single sites.
Think about the future of your business as you’re evaluating options as well. While you might only have 50 employees today, how many will you have in six months? 12 months? If you’re scaling rapidly, make sure the software you choose can accommodate your growth.
Time Tracking Functionality
Scheduling and time tracking go hand-in-hand for some businesses. Employees need to clock in, clock out, and record their time.
For other companies, time-tracking is less important. Employees are either present for their shift, or not. A simple attendance feature will be all you need.
If time tracking is a key part of how your employees show their work and get paid, I highly recommend getting employee scheduling software with that functionality built in.
First of all, you don’t have to get a separate time tracking software that may have trouble integrating with your schedule. This simplifies everything.
It’s even better if your employee scheduling software ties directly into your payroll service, as this will eliminate the process of entering times manually. With time tracking, scheduling, and payroll all working together, there are going to be fewer mistakes that annoy employees and frustrate managers.
The best employee scheduling software is usually offered as a web-based solution. You want to make it easy for your staff to access their schedules from anywhere. This isn’t possible with desktop software.
I also recommend looking for an employee scheduling solution that comes standard with a free mobile app. Then your staff can essentially carry a schedule with real-time updates on them 24/7.
These apps are great for things like team communication features and push notifications with schedule changes or shift reminders.
Mobile and browser-based access to the schedule is a must if you have employees working remotely or in the field.
And even if everyone is in a single office or restaurant, chances are employees will appreciate the ability to check the schedule or send a message no matter where they are.
There are plenty of general-purpose employee scheduling tools on the market today. But if you fall into certain categories, look for an industry-specific tool.
Restaurants and hospitality industries are two that come to mind. Lots of software is geared towards these types of businesses because the scheduling needs are more involved in these cases.
If you have the opportunity to use a software that’s designed specifically for your particular industry, I tend to lean in that direction as you’re making a final decision.
Additional Features and Extras
As I said before, lots of employee scheduling software does much more than just allow managers to post weekly schedules.
The best tools will also have shift swapping, employee self-service tools, HR features, labor cost management, leave management, attendance tracking, team messaging, overtime control, time clocks, etc.
Some extras are definitely more important to consider than others, depending on your business type and needs. So keep a close on these various options as you’re shopping around.
The Different Types of Employee Scheduling Software
Before we dive into the specific software reviews, I want to quickly highlight the different categories of employee scheduling software. Here’s a deeper explanation of the options you’ll be presented with:
Standalone Employee Scheduling Software
This is pretty self-explanatory. There are tools out there that are made for employee scheduling and nothing else.
Generally speaking, these are the easiest to use since there are no extra features or bells and whistles to confuse you. However, the software will be limited compared to other solutions in this category.
Unless you’re just looking for a digital way to improve your scheduling process, you’ll likely want to consider an all-in-one solution with additional functionality.
Human resources software has been growing in popularity over the years. These solutions usually have features for HR reporting, benefits tracking, applicant tracking, employee onboarding, training, and more.
Employee scheduling has become a core component of many popular HR solutions. However, it’s worth noting that not every HR software has employee scheduling capabilities.
For those of you looking for a one-stop-shop for all scheduling and human resources needs, HR software with built-in scheduling tools might be the answer for you.
Time Tracking Software
As I said before, time-tracking and employee scheduling software go hand-in-hand.
Physical punch cards are outdated. Modern time tracking has gone digital. There are tools out there that track hourly workers and also have employee scheduling capabilities.
It all depends on how the software is branded. In some cases, you’ll see a solution advertised as time tracking software (that includes scheduling features). Other times you’ll see employee scheduling software (that includes time tracking features). But it’s nice to get both from a single tool.
Leave Management Software
Leave management is sometimes in a category of its own. There are actually a handful of great tools out there that focus on leave management and nothing else.
This type of software is designed to manage vacation requests, PTO, and more.
In general, a standalone leave management software won’t be as feature-rich as other tools available on the market today. I’d recommend a broader employee scheduling software that comes with absence management features.
#1 – Homebase — Best Employee Scheduling Software For Small Businesses
Homebase is an employee scheduling tool designed with small businesses in mind. It’s versatile enough to accommodate scheduling needs across a wide range of industries, including retail, health and beauty, service businesses, and restaurants.
More than 100,000 businesses rely on Homebase.
With Homebase, you’ll benefit from top features and functionality like:
- Simple scheduling templates that can be edited on the fly
- Easy schedule sharing with your entire team
- Ability to forecast your labor costs
- Employees can access real-time schedule updates from the mobile app
- Track employee availability, time-off requests, and approvals
- Automatically remind your staff about upcoming shifts
- Manage shift trading from anywhere
- Calculate overtime and get alerts about scheduling conflicts
You can also improve your labor forecasts by integrating your sales data from POS systems like Square, Clover, Shopify, Upserve, Revel, Lightspeed, and more.
In addition to these robust scheduling features, Homebase is an all-in-one solution for time clocks, hiring, onboarding, team communication, HR, and compliance.
Best of all? The employee scheduling solution from Homebase is 100% free for unlimited employees. To get the most out of the software, you can upgrade to a paid plan, starting at $14 per month per location. Learn more and sign up now.
#2 – ShiftNote — The Simplest Employee Scheduling Software
ShiftNote is one of the most straightforward employee scheduling tools on the market today. It’s trusted by 75,000+ users across a wide range of different industries.
I like ShiftNote because they have industry-specific solutions for categories like restaurants, hotels, retail, manufacturing, healthcare, education, and breweries.
Here are some of the top reasons why ShiftNote ranks so high on my list:
- Free mobile app, free team messaging, and free customer support
- Employees can update their availability and swap shifts
- Scheduling templates so managers don’t have to build from scratch
- Free setups and one-on-one training
- Multi location dashboard
- Time off request management
- Sales and labor forecasting tools
- Daily log reports
Overall, ShiftNote drastically improves the speed of your scheduling process while optimizing the efficiency of your schedules. It’s a reliable way for your management team and staff to communicate from anywhere as well.
It’s worth noting that ShiftNote lacks some of the HR and time-tracking features offered by other tools on the market today. But if you’re just looking for a straightforward scheduling solution, this should definitely be a top consideration.
You can try ShiftNote for free with a 30-day trial.
#3 – Shiftboard Review — Best For Labor Cost Management
Shiftboard is another excellent workforce management solution designed for scheduling hourly employees. It’s a feature-rich software with lots of different options to solve common business challenges associated with scheduling.
This includes things like labor cost management, employee retention, fatigue management, compliance, and more.
Shiftboard actually has two different scheduling tools—SchedulePro and ScheduleFlex. The Pro version is designed for high compliance industries like corrections, oil and gas, and petrochemical. The Flex version is built for organizations with changing scheduling needs, like healthcare, staffing, call centers, warehouse and distribution, public safety, and manufacturing.
Other noteworthy highlights of the Shiftboard software include:
- Real-time communication about schedule updates and newly available shifts
- Auto-fill shifts with call outs and no-shows
- Employees can confirm last-minute shift requests directly from the mobile app
- Employees can pick up extra shifts and trade shifts (with approval)
- Tailored fit schedules based on departments and locations
- Smart team groupings based on staff qualifications, certifications, and more
- Accurate labor forecasting based on demand
- Avoid over/understaffing
- Scheduling automation tools
60,000+ teams rely on Shiftboard for employee scheduling. They even have additional features for applicant tracking and time clocks with geofencing.
Request a free demo today to get started.
#4 – Deputy Review — Best For Time and Attendance Management
Deputy is one of the most popular employee scheduling tools on the market today. It’s trusted by 200,000+ brands across the globe, including big names like Nike, Amazon, HubSpot, and Peloton.
I like Deputy because it’s feature-rich, but also has simple and straightforward pricing.
You can bundle employee scheduling with time tracking software for just $4 per user per month. Alternatively, each of these functions can be purchased separately for $2.50 per user.
Here’s a quick look at some of the other top features and benefits that you’ll get from this software:
- Easy to fill open shifts based on staff availability, qualifications, and cost
- Instantly share schedules with your team
- Real-time labor costing data
- Auto-scheduling capabilities using AI
- Break planning and rest compliance
- Manage schedules from anywhere with the iOS and Android apps
- Request, approve, and track PTO
- Automate wage calculations
- Collect timesheets and export them to payroll with a single click
- View who’s currently on shift, taking or a break, or late in real-time
Any business that wants a simple way to manage employee scheduling and time tracking from a single solution will definitely benefit from Deputy.
Try it free for 31 days; no credit card required.
#5 – HotSchedules by Fourth — Best Labor Management System For Restaurants and Hospitality
HotSchedules (now part of Fourth) is a complete workforce management solution built specifically for businesses in the restaurant and hospitality industries.
In addition to employee scheduling, HotSchedules has tools for applicant tracking, onboarding, time and attendance management, manager logbooks, and more. They even have solutions for inventory management, HR, and payroll.
In terms of the employee scheduling features, here’s a closer look at the top benefits provided by HotSchedules:
- Simple drag-and-drop scheduling tool
- Ready-made scheduling templates
- Reduce scheduling errors, understaffing, and overages
- Limit unplanned overtime
- PTO management and employee availability
- Approve or deny shift requests from any device
- Quick access to your daily roster reports
- Compliance tools for meals, breaks, fair work weeks, and more
Depending on your needs, HotSchedules can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. You can take advantage of just the employee scheduling tools, or build a robust and custom solution with lots of features and add-ons for your business.
Whichever option you choose, HotSchedules is definitely my top pick for restaurants and hospitality businesses. Request your free demo to get started.
#6 – Sage HR — Best All-in-One HR Solution
Sage HR (formerly CakeHR) is a complete HR software. Within this all-in-one HR solution, you’ll find robust tools for shift scheduling.
Overall, Sage HR is a great choice for any business that wants to automate its human resources tasks, in addition to improving their scheduling process.
Other noteworthy standouts of the employee scheduling features include:
- Interactive shift planning with an easy-to-use interface
- Compatible for single sites and multiple locations
- Easy to split up schedules into groups and departments with multiple shift managers
- Employee-self service tools with the ability to add preferred times and unavailable times
- Drag-and-drop shift management
- Daily, weekly, and monthly reports
- Complete data exports
Aside from the scheduling tools, you’ll also benefit from features related to leave management, timesheets, recruitment, performance management, employee records, and other HR essentials.
Sage HR starts at $8.50 per month for core HR and shift scheduling. Additional modules cost extra. The software is easy to set up, and you can try it free for 14 days.
What’s the best employee scheduling software?
The answer really depends on what you’re looking for. But regardless of your needs, you can find the right option for your business based on my recommendations in this guide.
Just refer back to the methodology I described earlier to simplify the buying process. This will make it much easier to narrow down your options.