When I Work will attract small to midsize businesses (SMBs) with its flexible desktop, mobile web experience, and intuitive controls. As far as employee scheduling and shift planning software goes, it is hard to beat When I Work’s pricing. The software is free to use for up to 75 employees, and includes schedule building, availability and time off management, shift trading, and time and attendance management plus dedicated Android and iOS applications. Only some weaknesses in reporting and direct integrations with popular third-party apps keep it behind our Editors’ Choice winners in this space, Deputy and Humanity.
If you’re willing to brave its API, however, When I Work is certainly capable of custom app integrations, especially to back office human resources (HR) management software as well as point of sale (POS) and payroll applications. It may lack some advanced features, such as forecasting, but it’s got a solid core feature set and a highly attractive user interface that’s not only pretty but easy to learn and versatile.
Companies with 75 or fewer employees can get signed up for free on When I Work’s website, which gives them simple scheduling and team communication for a single location. Larger companies with more than 75 users can call the vendor to get a more tailored solution. Simple scheduling includes Team Scheduling, Team Member availability, and Team Communications. Businesses can add attendance functionality for $2 per user. Most small to midsized businesses (SMBs) that operate out of a single location will find this tier can cover most of their shift scheduling requirements.
The Scheduling Basic tier costs $1.50 per user per month and is ideal for teams with multiple locations or job sites. It includes everything the free tier offers plus features like 10+ Day Scheduling, Schedule Multiple Teams, and Remote Job Sites. Attendance can be added for $1.30. A Scheduling Pro option costs $2.25 per user per month and is focused on advanced scheduling and communications for teams that need to streamline assigning and tracking work. It also adds Manage Team Tasks, Auto Scheduling, and Monitor Task Progress. Adding Attendance for this tier costs $1.60.
Finally, there’s a more comprehensive Enterprise solution for large companies that need API access, account management, global privacy settings, and SAML-based single sign-on (SSO) to integrate with identity management systems. This tier also has personalized onboarding, and optional attendance features. It lacks some potentially important features, however, such as forecasting, which is primarily what’s keeping it behind Editors’ Choice winner Deputy. However, multiple time-saving features and an abundance of training and support will make it worth the price for some organizations.
Pretty and Straightforward
Anyone who has ever had to plot out shifts for a retail store, restaurant, or factory knows it can take huge swaths of time, so doing the work in a pleasant environment is important. Platforms such as When I Work aim not only to provide an attractive interface, but also to minimize the work shift planning takes, including the time it takes to get set up. The platform offers multiple ways to add employees and a variety of options to create daily, weekly, and monthly schedules.
Log on at the System Administrator or Manager level and you’ll see the platform’s main Dashboard, which displays a handful of preconfigured widgets that show the day’s schedule, attendance notices, and other actions that require attention. You’ll also see current pay period, and how estimated labor costs compare to total hours worked. Icons for the service’s main functions run from left to right across the top, including a Bell icon for notifications.
Onboarding new employees is a quick job begun from the Tools icon on the main navigation bar. Start by choosing Employees > Add Employee and fill in a minimum of contact information. Then, click the green “Add Employee” button at the bottom to send the person an invitation to sign up. When the employee logs in for the first time, they will be instructed to fill in any missing information, including a photo, total hours they want to work in a week, and whether or not they want to receive scheduling and other alerts via email or through the platform’s mobile app.
Managers can also add new employees by clicking the green “Invite Employees” button on the main navigation bar, typing in a new worker’s email address or phone number, and clicking “Add” to send them an invitation to install the app and fill out their information. New accounts can also upload information for existing personnel from Microsoft Excel spreadsheets or pull employee data out of Square, a credit card processor and point-of-sale (POS) service.
Employee Control Over Schedules
To stay competitive, companies in some industries are giving employees more control over their schedules, and When I Work does a nice job of enabling this by giving employees the tools to initiate schedule changes. In the app, workers select Input Your Availability > Setup Availability, and use a calendar grid to indicate when they can work—dragging and dropping a green “Thumbs Up” icon across days and hours they’re available and a red “Thumbs Down” icon across times they’re not. Employees can even indicate when they usually sleep at night so the system will mute alerts during those hours, which is a thoughtful touch a lot of smartphone apps neglect to include.
System admins can configure When I Work settings so employees can grab open shifts for which they’re qualified to work, drop shifts, or swap shifts with other employees—all with or without a manager’s approval.
Swapping shifts is easy. Employees select “My Schedule,” click the shift they want to swap, and then choose Shift Details > Swap Shift. The screen then shows all of the co-workers with whom they could switch based on their qualifications and availability, and even lets the person unclick anyone from whom they don’t want to offer the swap. Employees can then add a message and hit “Send.” Swap offers show up as push notifications on the invitees’ phones. Employees are also able to split their shifts, offering part of a scheduled shift to another employee.
When I Work even has chat functionality, which lets users communicate in real time before sending along shift change requests. With the popularity of team-focused apps such as Slack and Microsoft Teams across businesses of all sizes, having similar scheduling-focused functionality within the app is very convenient for employees that need to quickly request to switch shifts.
Scheduling starts by adding new accounts. This is done by clicking Settings > Positions and inputting the names of every type of job in the company. These jobs can be color-coded for easier visual tracking on the schedule grid. The next step is to use Settings > Locations to enter the different locations, which can be separate physical locations or different work areas or departments inside a single establishment. An ideal use case for this is for businesses that use different schedulers for different departments. Once employee, job, and location information are set, the next step is building schedules.
When I Work’s Scheduler module can be configured to show a daily, weekly, and monthly calendar for a specific location. Note that the monthly option depends on the chosen level of service purchased. All the employees attached to a specific location appear at the left while days and times of day are visible at the top, this creates an easy to understand grid of open cells representing possible hours a person can work. Shifts are created by double-clicking on an open cell. This invokes a pop-up information box for that employee as well as which shifts during that timeframe the employee is qualified to fill when available. If employees work at multiple locations, then the system recognizes if they’re already assigned to a shift at a different location. Left-click any shifts shown and the shift is automatically loaded into the calendar, where it appears under a diagonal grey screen to indicate it hasn’t been published.
In the pop-up window, you can also create a custom shift, add a paid or unpaid break, and leave a note (e.g., “Please clean the restrooms before your shift is over”). Once a schedule is set, click “Publish & Notify” to publish the schedule and choose who will be notified. If the schedule contains open shifts, then employees identified as being eligible and available to work it will get an alert. Depending on how you set up the system, if more than one person is interested, you can choose who gets the shift based on seniority or on a first-come, first-served basis.
Once you’ve created a shift, you can save it as a Shift Template, a nice shortcut for companies that fill the same shifts on a regular basis. There are two ways to access saved shifts. One way is to select Settings > Shift Templates, which brings up all saved shifts that can be added to the schedule. The second way is by clicking the Wrench icon at the top right-hand corner of the Scheduler module, which brings up a drop-down menu in which one option is “Copy Previous Week.” This option will copy the previous week’s entire schedule. Users can now sort shifts by employee or by position, which is especially helpful for managers with large workforces in multiple geographies.
Many businesses pay close attention to how shifts correspond to sales. To help with that, When I Work keeps a running total of hours scheduled per day at the bottom of the Scheduler page. Click the Budget tab at the top of the page and “Projected Sales, Labor Cost and Labor %” (i.e., labor as a percentage of sales) appear at the bottom of the page instead. However, these are numbers that change in real time as people are added or removed from the schedule. Right now, users have to plug in projected sales numbers themselves, unlike what they need to do in competitor and Editors’ Choice winner, Humanity, which pulls that data in from other HR vendors with whom it integrates.
Support and Live Training
When I Work is a Minnesota-based company that offers chat and email support from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Central Time. For those that need it, the company will upload new customers’ existing schedules, schedule templates, and new employees to its platform at no charge. Customers can watch help videos, dip into articles in the Help Center, sign up for one of several live training sessions held online every week, or pay a small fee for one-on-one instruction.
When I Work’s scheduling tools are worth considering for managing hourly workers who prefer to use their phones to do almost anything related to their jobs, including looking up schedules, picking up shifts, requesting time off, and communicating with bosses or co-workers. With a free starting price for up to 75 employees and affordable options for adding attendance functionality, team task management, and remote job site management, When I Work can fit the needs of SMBs and businesses looking for a user-friendly and affordable solution.
Overall, since we last looked at it, When I Work’s pricing has moved closer to competitors, such as Deputy and ZoomShift. However, When I Work offers more built-in features for the price than ZoomShift does, and it works hard to please managers and employees in terms of convenience, ease of use, and smart communication and scheduling features.