Online Workforce Scheduling: The Ins and Outs

A manager checking schedules on a mobile app, plus the text: Online work schedules.

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In this post, we explain the ins and outs of online workforce scheduling and how it can solve the most common workforce management issues.

Workforce scheduling is a headache for anyone that has sat down with a pencil and paper trying to determine which employees work when and how many employees are needed per shift. And that’s not even taking into account having to schedule people to be on call at a certain time.

Even with an Excel spreadsheet template, the task can still be daunting.

Forgot that Joe Schmoo has a family wedding to attend over the weekend and will be unable to work that Monday shift? Now an available team member must be found to cover that shift, phone calls made, and potential overtime taken into account.

Valuable money and time are spent on workforce scheduling, and shift complications only raise the cost and level of frustration.

Enter online work schedules: the solution to your scheduling headaches.

What is an online work schedule?

Desktop computer showing an online calendar and to-do list in a browser window.

An online work schedule is a schedule that is published and accessed online, such as through an internet browser or mobile device. It replaces traditional pen and paper schedules and work schedules printed from spreadsheets.

What is online workforce scheduling?

Online workforce scheduling is the process of building work schedules and tracking employee schedule requests using web-based software.

Creating online work schedules confers numerous advantages to both employers and employees, such as reducing how long it takes to make the schedule, reducing no-calls/no-shows, and increasing employee satisfaction.

Let’s look at some of these benefits below.

Online workforce scheduling is cost-efficient

Two laptops connected by the world wide web (pictured as a globe).

Online staff scheduling is the most cost-efficient way to determine when employees work. This time-saving solution will allow you to free up time to train new employees, pay more attention to customers, or get your Friday nights back.

While there may be a slight learning curve when switching from pen and paper to scheduling to using the internet, the advantages greatly outweigh the drawbacks.

Online schedules are a game-changer for both employees and managers

One of the biggest and most apparent benefits of online scheduling is that it’s, well, online.

Managers can access and change scheduling information from any computer or smartphone connected to the internet.

Similarly, employees can view their schedules, make availability requests, or swap shifts from any device with internet accessibility. Now, no employee can claim they didn’t have the time to stop by the store to see what the schedule was for the week. Schedules are available anywhere with access to the world wide web.

Convenience and on-the-go access

An urbanite in a jeans jacket reviewing their schedule on a mobile phone, with skyscrapers in the background.

Times have changed, too. Employees now expect modern conveniences.

When we first wrote this blog post back in 2013, slow internet connections and lack of internet access were still an issue for some employees and some businesses, but internet access is pretty much ubiquitous these days.

In fact, employees are so accustomed to being able to access anything online that if you don’t provide online scheduling, they may consider it a huge inconvenience. At the same time, labor laws in the United States and elsewhere have become more strict, favoring employees over employers.

If you have solid internet, online employee scheduling software increases productivity in many ways and will drastically free up your time by automating compliance.

Availability and time off requests

Desktop computer showing an online calendar and to-do list in a browser window.
With online scheduling, you’ll never lose track of employee requests again, which is good, because employees really, really don’t like it when managers expect them to come into work on days they were promised off.

Managers can more easily manage employee availability, breaks, and vacation time.

By taking entering an employee’s availability and requests online, managers no longer have to worry about scheduling Joe Schmoo when he is unable to work: the software simply won’t allow it.

Company policies can also be added. Compliance rules will be taken into consideration if entered into the scheduler, along with working hours, labor costs, and labor rules.

Additionally, overtime can be tracked more easily, thereby reducing overtime costs.

Fair distribution of hours

Two warehouse workers reviewing work on a tablet.

Online workforce scheduling not only benefits you, the manager. It can benefit employees as well. 

Hours are distributed more evenly among employees and Sally Sue isn’t the only one receiving ideal shifts—those are spread out as well. Suddenly, employees are happier and more excited to come to work every day. Maybe even excited enough to pick up that extra, not quite as ideal shift.

And Sally Sue will never again be able to forget she was scheduled to work. The scheduler can send her an automated reminder about when she is expected to be at work that day.

Streamlined communication

In fact, with online workforce scheduling, all communications between managers and employees are simplified.

Instead of calling each employee on a list to see if they can pick up a shift, managers can simply look online to see who is available during that time and send out a message asking if any of those people would like to work.

Emails or text messages can be sent out automatically with every schedule change, eliminating the need to print new schedules and/or alert everyone to the changes through word of mouth.

A web address entered into a browser's navigation bar.
The world wide web offers major advantages over pen and paper scheduling.

For example, what if Sally Sue dropped her phone in the kitchen sink that day and can’t answer the call telling her she is now scheduled to come into work one hour early tomorrow? No problem! She can check her email on any computer to be notified about the changes, and then view the updated schedule online.

And what if Sally Sue is always giving away shifts to Joe Schmoo? Well, you can track that, too!

Workforce analytics and reports

Online schedules come with reports that allow managers to evaluate their employees on tardiness, employee attendance, and worked shifts, among other things.

But no matter who shows up for the shift, whether Sally Sue or Joe Schmoo, there are still certain tasks that must be completed.

When employees sign in, managers can choose to have a list of tasks ready for them to start once the work day has begun. And no more worrying about whether or not an employee can tweak schedules or view confidential information—a secure log-in is created for the manager to ensure security.

Online workforce scheduling in restaurants and retail

Managers in the restaurant industry spend a huge amount of their time building rotating employee schedules. Scheduling team members requires managers to juggle availability sheets, requests, log books, and memorize overtime regulations and labor laws.

Let’s take a quick look at how online staff scheduling addresses some of these headaches:

  • With an online scheduling tool, everything is all in one easy-to-use place and can be accessed with a simple click. (This is your dashboard – what you see when you first log in. Your dashboard should give you at-a-glance information important to you.)
  • Managers have the ability to create and publish schedules online in a matter of minutes.
  • Employees can view their upcoming schedules, as well as input their availability and requests, from any internet-enabled device. Employees always have their schedules at the tips of their fingers.
  • Aside from scheduling, managers can also track and edit attendance. With online scheduling software, managers can view and edit attendance from that comfy sofa in their living room just as easily as while walking the sales floor.
  • Managers can have the ability to track time off, vacation, sick leave, PTO, and easily view comprehensive reports. Hours that staff members work are recorded and ready for review at any time.
  • Overall, online scheduling can eliminate overtime, reduces costly payroll mistakes, and stops employee buddy punching. Also, the employees love being able to view their time cards online, so they know what to expect come payday.

As you can see there’s a lot you can do with the internet – and this is only a small list of what’s possible!

Still unsure about online workforce scheduling software? Well, admittedly there are some programs that have software limitations, but don’t let that stop you. The trick is simply to compare products to determine which most fits your needs, much like buying a new car.

For example, TimeForge gets fantastic ratings for customer support and ease-of-use, even when compared to such big-name companies as HotSchedules, UKG/Kronos, and Logile.

Are online work schedules worth it?

Online scheduling software may seem like a big investment, but it’s well worth it in the amount of time and money saved – not to mention keeping your workforce sane.

If you need a few tips, don’t hesitate to reach out to us: we have experts on staff who would be glad to help you come up with a plan to move from pen and paper to online scheduling.

We have over 15 years of experience in the restaurant, retail, and hospitality industries, so we can certainly point you in the right direction and help you find a scheduling software that meets your specific needs.

You can also try our own workforce scheduling software for free! There’s no commitment and no credit card required.                    

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