If you run or manage a business that employs hourly workers, you no doubt are using something for scheduling and coordination. For many, the answer is either pen and paper or an Excel spreadsheet. That said, there are some great ways you can leverage free apps and schedule maker services to step up your scheduling game and graduate from pen & paper or Excel. While they all have their pros and cons, there are 3 free ways to schedule employees that you may find helpful.
1. Shared Google Calendar
You can use Google Calendar to schedule and coordinate the work schedule for your employees. Just setup a new calendar and start adding events as your shifts. Make sure you include your employee’s email address as the attendee of the event. After you get your schedule set, invite your employees to subscribe to the calendar.
This method works best with only a handful of employees as it can be a bit tedious to navigate Google Calendar if you have several people to schedule. The benefit with this option is that your employees can see the most current schedule when they check the calendar. Unfortunately, this option doesn’t have reliable communication functionality if you make schedule changes regularly, but hey — it’s free.
2. What’s App With Group Chat
This one is interesting and is more of a schedule communication tool than an actual scheduling tool. WhatsApp is a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS. So before we get into using What’s App, first pick your favorite free employee scheduling tool — pen & paper, Excel, When I Work, Google Calendar, etc. The biggest challenge with this method is that all your employees need a smartphone running What’s App. However, once they are all using it you can quickly and easily message them work schedule related information in the form of links or photos.
If you use Excel, you might put the Excel file on Dropbox and then send the link to your staff using What’s App. If you use pen & paper, you might take a picture of the schedule and send the pic using What’s App. Now I know this may sound a little ad-hoc, but when you’re looking for free scheduling and communication tools, you need to get creative. The upside with this approach is instant communication, the downside is communicating schedule changes and requiring everyone have a smartphone. Simple (or dumb) phones just won’t work.
3. Free Online Employee Scheduling Tools
Yeah. There are actually free versions of online employee scheduling tools (including yours truly), —plus free excel templates for employee scheduling. Many include all their features and are only limited to a certain number of employees. Google “free employee scheduling software” and you’ll be 90% of the way there. If you’re a developer savvy individual, there are some free open source scheduling tools that you could install and configure.
These would be self-hosted solutions that might be more than you want to tackle, but they’re out there. Do a search on GitHub or SourceForge for “Employee Scheduler” and you’ll find a couple. There are also some employee scheduling apps in the app stores that are free and don’t require a subscription. Just do a search in the Play Store or App Store for ’employee scheduling’ or ‘work schedule maker‘ and you’ll find a few.
So as you can see there are free options out there. Some require bending to make work — but if you have the extra time to finesse technology to work the way you want, they can be a very economical approach. Of course, if you’re looking for a turnkey employee scheduling tool, then you will likely have to pony up a few dollars a month. But if you choose the right one, you’ll likely end up saving so much time that it will pay for itself in the first week.