The 10 Best Free Scheduling Software Tools
Before committing to a contract, experiment with the top 10 best free scheduling software tools to schedule your employees.
Anyone who has ever scheduled employeesor even worked as one, for that matteris aware that the process can prove to be an ongoing source of frustration, resulting in chronic scheduling problems like improper coverage, dissatisfied customers, unexpected absences, low morale, and high employee turnover.
For new businesses, amendable solutions can sometimes come with a monetary cost beyond the allotted budget. Under such circumstances, looking for free options to help ease the struggle that is often associated with employee scheduling is a viable solution but, it is vital that key factors are considered, first.
The Ol' Pen and Paper Route
We won't spend too much time enumerating the pitfalls of the old-fashioned pen-and-paper method, even though many managers have become quite adept at operating within this paradigm. So, we'll just highlight the basics for now.
One of the most significant drawbacks to the written schedule method is that it's notoriously difficult to effectively produce in mass distribution.
Posting schedules (on break room bulletin boards or even e-mail) carries the assumption that all staff members will see it, while generating mass quantities and physically handing these copies to each individual is obviously an ineffective use of valuable time.
Then, there are revisions to schedules that must invariably be made due to illness, meetings, trainings, etc. Some adjustments, particularly personal reasons like family emergencies, can throw an organization into disorder.
When these issues arise, days and sometimes weeks worth of scheduling must be revised, with the counterproductive process ensuing all over again and distributing employees with the newly updated schedule, compounding confusion of all concerned.
Features to Look for in Free Scheduling Software
With the technological strides that have been made in recent years, there is now software for virtually everything, including employee schedule creation and distribution. Now, the challenge becomes narrowing down which options better assist in managing efficiency while administering appropriate working hours per shift.
So, what can employee scheduling software do for an organization?
- Whenever a manager creates a schedule on the platform, the information is automatically saved. This means that previous schedules can be used as templates, with any changes or company-specifics entered afterward, saving the company mass amounts of time and money.
- Employee scheduling software instantaneously distributes the final schedule via e-mail and/or push-notifications, after being finalized by management. Phone notifications are notably practical in this day and age, considering 92% of Americans between the ages of 18 29 own smartphones.
- Adjustments from managers can be made quickly either on a desktop or conveniently from a tablet or smartphone, with immediate updates sent to employees thereafter.
- Since adopting employee scheduling software cuts back on the amount of paper an organization would typically use, thus reducing paper waste and cost.
Top 10 Free Employee Scheduling Software Tools
There are numerous upsides to consider when it comes to free employee scheduling tools, all of which offer unique benefits. Here are the top 10 to consider when it comes to both pros and cons-
1. Microsoft Word
Word has been successfully templatized by some managers to use for scheduling, but the software was not designed to simplify schedule creation. While it's a definite improvement from a pen and paper, overall capabilities, mass distribution, and updates remain problematic. This solution works best for companies consisting of five or fewer employees.
2. Microsoft Excel
Designed as a database and accounting tool, it is similar to MS Word in form but not necessarily function, as Excel is much more flexible as an employee scheduling tool than Word. There are also Excel-proficient gurus in some workspaces who are knowledgeable enough with the software and use it to its full capabilities. Still, it is important to keep in mind that all members in charge of creating employee schedules should be proficient in the software used.
This modality solves some of the distribution problems that other solutions lack. A manager simply creates the schedule via Word or Excel and sends it to all team members on their roster. It's less labor-intensive, and communications reach a large number of people. But, that lingering problem of ensuring every employee did in fact see the schedule still remains.
Definitely an evolutionary step in the right direction, Dropbox for employee scheduling can facilitate schedule distribution. In some aspects, it's superior to e-mail because it can reach those who don't check their mail frequently. An eminently useful utility, Dropbox has become widely used in business and personal communications. However, the schedule must still be created via Word or Excel before sharing, acting as another step in the process through generation and distribution using multiple applications.
5. Google Docs
Google Docs has become of the most widely-used platforms. In the cloud, it's a "one-stop-shop" for many organizational needs. Employee schedules can be created and saved online with management granting access for all employees to view. Like Dropbox, employees can then be notified from within the platform that a new schedule is available, significantly simplifying distribution. Also, keep in mind that Docs' formatting can still present issues because it was originally intended for text-based projects only.
6. Google Sheets
Google Sheets is Google's cloud spreadsheet program that is very similar to Excel in function and formatting. Rows, columns, and cells can be used and resized, and color-coded blocks can be assigned to designate groups, employees, tasks, and priorities. Google Sheets also allows for fast and easy distribution. Its ease of distribution has made it a more popular choice than Google Docs amongst those looking for free scheduling solutions.
7. Microsoft Outlook
Outlook has been a standard in the business environment for many years, namely in part for its calendar feature. Outlook's calendar is equipped for scheduling details, including times and specified days. It also allows for advanced preparation for the coming weeks, months, and years (if need be). Shifts can be formatted accordingly as tasks or appointments on the calendar, and it may be organized with customizable labels. The significant downside here is that Outlook was designed primarily for individual use, so challenges may arise when attempting to create multiple schedules with more staff members.
8. Google Calendar
The cloud-based Google Calendar is one of the most successful organizational tools, offering online schedule creation and distribution and has a calendar specifically designed for scheduling. It shares many of the same features as Outlook and was specifically tailored to streamline the scheduling process. Using Google Calendar eliminates the need for using stand-alone word processing or spreadsheet programs. Like MS Outlook, unfortunately, it too was designed for individual use, but the calendar can be modified to schedule, multiple employees.
9. Group Chat Apps
In the world of scheduling software and apps, here is where the real innovation begins to take place. One of the biggest challenges management encounters is effectively distributing schedules to all team members. The innovative thinkers tackling these issues considered the fact that since so many people were already using group chat apps to communicate with friends and family, why not utilize these platforms in the workplace. Utilizing apps, like Google Hangouts and Slack, employees can be sent the current week's schedule, and should a conflict arise, message management directly through the app. Keep in mind, the schedule must first be created from another tool, like Word or excel.
10. Google Drive
This is another very useful free option from Google. It can be used in concert with Word, Excel, Google Docs, or Google Sheets once one of these programs have been used to draft a schedule. Distribution is relatively simple; folders can be created and shared, and users can be granted access to view these schedules. Employees may then access data via a web browser on a smartphone, tablet, or desktop. For all its utility and popularity, however, it still lacks those all-important schedule creation features managers ultimately need to utilize.
If You Decide to Buy
When considering free employee scheduling software, it's advisable that managers and purchasers research product sites, along with any available documentation regarding client reviews and case studies.
Free software does tend to have limitations, and the best way to ensure the success of the effort is to perform due diligence and invest in strong software.
Zip Schedules is a self-implemented system that is easy to learn and includes conveniences like streamlined onboarding, an intuitive interface, and a free mobile app. It allows managers to create and broadcast schedules to all team members within minutes, as well as instantly communicate through instant messaging platforms, allowing for simplified shift swaps and time-off requests.
With the Zip Schedules mobile app, employees can quickly find coworkers to cover shifts or request schedule changes from managers in minutes. Managers can approve those requests, modify shifts and apprise teams of significant global changes just as quickly.
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