Master your employees schedules with an Android app

Jack Wallen examines a possible solution for the challenging task of managing schedules for on the go employees... while you're on the go as well.

When I Work

If you manage a number of employees and can't seem to keep track of their calendars when you're out of the office, what do you do? Fumble around with phone calls and emails to keep track? Use a web-based calendar on your smartphone and hope all of the features work? No. Instead, you turn to an Android app like When I Work to help you keep track of scheduling.

Here are some of the things you can accomplish with When I Work:

  • Create, update, cancel, and publish employee shifts
  • Fill open shifts with SMS alerts
  • Send employees SMS messages about schedules
  • Monitor and moderate time off requests
  • View employee information

Both employees and managers can make use of this tool to keep on top of schedules. It's easy to use and, if you have five or less employees to manager, it's free. Managers with more than five employees should take a look at the pricing of the service. Since this is a service, you'll have to sign up for an account. There's a 30-day free trial, so you can kick the tires and see if it's what you're looking for.

The Android app is free and does a great job of interacting with the service. A lot of the work is done, up front, on the web-based When I Work Dashboard (such as creating employees, setting employee wages, creating/assigning positions to employees, viewing requests, establishing work sites). From the Android app, owners/managers can do many of those same things (however, the initial setup is much easier from the website). Schedules can be managed, requests can be created, messages can be sent, and much more.

As the owner/manager, you send invites from the Dashboard to employees (Figure A). These invites allow your employees to set a password so they can log into the service from the the Android app.

Figure A

Figure A
The When I Work web-based Dashboard.

You can either create/invite a new employee -- or if you've already created the employee, you can invite them simply by adding a phone number to their details (if you add the phone number when you first create the employee, the invite will automatically be sent out). The invite will be delivered via SMS message to the phone number associated with the employee.

Installation of the app

The only caveat to the invite process is that the app isn't installed. First, each employee will have to manually install the app from the Google Play Store. Here's how:

  1. Open the Google Play Store on the device
  2. Search for When I Work
  3. Locate and tap the entry by thisClicks, Inc
  4. Tap Install
  5. Read the permissions listing
  6. If the permissions listing is acceptable, tap Accept

Once the install is complete, you can launch the app from either the home screen or the app drawer. Upon first launch, you'll have to log in with the email address set up by the owner/manager for your account and the password that you set up once you followed through with the invite message.

After successfully logging in, you'll be greeted by either the employee or manager version of the app. Swipe the screen to the right, and you'll know exactly which one you have (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B
When I Work running on both Verizon-branded HTC M8 (owner) and Samsung Galaxy S4 (employee).

From the sidebar, you gain access to everything you need to manage schedules remotely. As a manager/owner, tap on the Employees button to add/edit employees. The most important screen you'll use, however, is Schedule. From the sidebar, tap Schedule, and you'll have access to the schedules of all your employees (if you're an owner/manager). If you're an employee, you only have access to your own schedule. Only owners/managers can add/edit to your schedule. Employees can, however, take open shifts. An open shift is created by the owner/manager. As an owner/manager, to create an open shift, follow these steps:

  1. From the app sidebar and tap Schedule
  2. Tap the OPEN SHIFTS tab
  3. Tap the plus sign [+]
  4. Fill out the necessary information (making sure the select Open Shift from the WHO drop-down menu)
  5. When complete, tap the checkmark in the upper right corner (Figure C)

Figure C

Figure C
Creating an open shift that any employee can take.

As an employee, you can sign up for open shifts like so:

  1. From the app sidebar, tap Schedule
  2. Tap the OPEN SHIFTS tab
  3. Tap the open shift you want
  4. Tap the Take Shift button (Figure D)

Once you've taken a shift, it will appear in your calendar.

Figure D

Figure D
Taking an open shift as an employee.

If you're looking for one of the easiest means to remotely manage a work calendar for employees who are on the go, you can't go wrong with When I Work. Not only is the interface one of the best I've used (for scheduling apps), the service is top-notch and offers all the features you'd need to keep remote scheduling under control.

What do you think? Is such a service a worthy replacement for your current system? If not, what does your company use to manage on-the-go scheduling? Share your opinions and experience in the discussion thread below.