Small business owners may have to deal with a lot of responsibilities. And you don’t always have a full team of every role to back you up.

Scheduling can be time-consuming and challenging. Changes in employee’s availability and shift demand, as well as unexpected time-off requests and no-call, no-shows can be overwhelming to handle.

In this post, we’ll suggest the 7 best free work schedule maker apps that make admin work less overwhelming for you. Keep reading and see which options suit your needs.

1. Google Docs

Google Docs is a more advanced version of an offline word processor such as Microsoft Word. It’s available on the web and on multiple platforms, so you and your staff can access the files on any device.

Many business owners set up work schedules on Google Docs files and share links with employees so that they can click and view their schedules. Because the files are stored on the cloud, staff can view the schedules anytime and anywhere they want.

The difficulty of using Google Docs to create employee schedules is that you have to do the initial setup, formatting, and making changes manually. It’s simply a cloud-based word processor, and it’s not made specifically for employee scheduling. Not everyone is tech-savvy, flexible, and organized enough to deal with manual scheduling.

Distribution requires a lot of work, too. You have to find a way to tell everyone about their new schedules—whether via phones, emails, or messages.

How can you confirm that everyone’s received the schedule and read them? Telling them to send you a message? What if there are multiple changes to the schedule in a week?

We wouldn’t recommend you using an offline word processor since schedule distribution and confirmation can be a mess.

Pros:

  • Supported on most popular web browsers
  • App is available on Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, BlackBerry, Chrome OS
  • All staff can access work schedules via a link
  • Files are stored on the cloud

Cons:

  • Initial setup, formatting, and adjustments have to be done manually
  • Proper formatting can be challenging

2. Google Sheets

Google Sheets have rows and columns available, so the formatting is easier compared to Google Docs. You can also enter formulas and calculations to retrieve data such as total working hours or how much you need to pay someone this week.

Similar to Google Docs, Google Sheets are available on multiple platforms and web browsers. So you can just send a link to your staff after creating the work schedule, and it’ll be accessible in one click.

Again, this cloud-based spreadsheet software isn’t designed specifically to be a schedule maker app, so you’ll still have to create schedules from scratch and tweak things manually a lot. Notifying employees about new schedules and schedule changes also require more steps.

And again, we wouldn’t recommend using an offline spreadsheet program.

Pros:

  • Easier formatting
  • Can use formulas and calculations to retrieve data
  • Available on multiple platforms and web browsers
  • All staff can access work schedules via a link
  • Files are stored on the cloud

Cons:

  • Initial setup, formatting, and adjustments have to be done manually
  • Schedule distribution can be a hassle

3. Google Calendar

The interface of Google Calendar is convenient for creating work schedules because you can view schedules by hours, days, weeks, months, and years.

You can add time slots and appointments, and view them as shifts. You can drag also and drop time slots around to make adjustments.

Since Google Calendar is a cloud-based calendar software, it’s easy to share your calendar (the work schedule) with your staff.

Employees can leave comments and you can go back later to make changes. If you want to grant employees permission for editing the schedule themselves, you should make sure your staff are trustworthy enough.

Because Google Calendar is more for individual scheduling, it can look like a mess if you try to schedule many staff at once. Other complicated scheduling strategies such as creating rotational shifts or open shifts, or trading shifts are also harder to adopt.

This tool only works when you don’t have too many employees. Once you have too many employees and each shift requires many of them, it’d be confusing for you and your staff.

The distribution problem still remains, just like previous options.

Pros:

  • Can view schedules by hours, days, weeks, months, years
  • Add, drag, and drop time slots easily
  • Cloud-based, easy to share

Cons:

  • Can be a mess if you schedule many staff at once
  • Not made for complicated scheduling strategies

4. Setmore

Setmore is a free scheduling app for making appointments with clients. It has a simple interface and a calendar view, which is quite similar to cloud-based calendar software.

You can view the appointment as shifts, then drag and drop them into time slots. Setmore notifies staff and clients, so you don’t have to worry about the distribution process anymore. However, the free version sends 100 email reminders per month, so you might want to keep track of changes and the number of staff.

Because Setmore is designed specifically for making appointments, it isn’t optimized for shift scheduling. It can be clunky to schedule multiple employees in one shift. Besides, you have to pay for more complicated features such as scheduling recurring shifts. If you pay, you can select an employee scheduling app instead, which is better designed for scheduling employees.

Pros:

  • Simple interface with calendar view
  • Drag and drop easily
  • Send email reminders, helpful for distribution

Cons:

  • Hard to schedule multiple employees in one shift
  • Free version only sends 100 email reminders
  • More complicated features aren’t free

5. Calendly

Calendly is another schedule maker app that can be used for scheduling open shifts.

You can set the availability, connect Calendly with your cloud-based calendar, send a link to employees, and let them pick their preferred shifts.

Once there are scheduling conflicts, Calendly send automatic reminders to your employees, so they can easily reschedule.

However, Calendly is made for scheduling meetings, so it can be a bit complicated to schedule multiple employees.

Pros:

  • Good for scheduling open shifts
  • Can set availability and let staff choose their preferred shifts
  • Can connect with cloud-based calendar
  • Send automatic reminders when there are scheduling conflicts

Cons:

  • Hard to schedule multiple employees

6. Shifty Jr

Shifty Jr is a free staff scheduling app with a simple interface. It’s specifically made for scheduling shifts, so it’s pretty straightforward and easy to use. You can assign shifts and tasks for employees by dragging and dropping.

Schedules are sent via emails, so it can be a hassle if you want to make sure everyone’s received their shift details. You can’t manage other aspects of shift work such as time-off requests or schedule employees based on certain restrictions (such as location, skills, etc.).

Pros:

  • Simple and easy-to-use interface
  • Made for shift scheduling
  • Drag and drop to assign shifts
  • Schedules are sent via emails

Cons:

  • Hard to confirm if everyone’s received their schedule
  • Can’t manage time-off requests
  • Can’t set restrictions for scheduling employees

7. Camelo

Camelo is a cloud-based schedule maker app with a friendly interface. It’s available on iOS and Android devices. You can assign shifts and tasks for employees on the go. Staff can select open shifts or swap shifts with each other.

New schedules and changes are notified on everyone’s phone immediately. You can request a confirmation to make sure employees have received and read the updates.

Employees can send time-off requests via the app, and you can decide to deny or approve right on your phone. Your team can chat via the app about scheduling conflicts and concerns.

The free plan offers all of the features needed to schedule staff in one location. If you want to schedule for multiple locations or plan ahead more than 2 weeks, you need to pay for a Pro plan.

Pros:

  • Cloud-based, available on iOS and Android
  • Assign shifts and tasks on the go
  • Phone notifications about new schedules and updates
  • Manage time-off requests on the phone
  • Communicate scheduling issues on the app

Cons:

  • The free plan is for 1 location and for scheduling ahead under 14 days.

Start creating efficient work schedules

While many great free apps out there are enough to meet your scheduling needs, not every one of them is optimal for your business. Try them out and see which schedule maker app really works for you and your staff. Once you find “the one”, you’ll be free from the scheduling troubles.

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