Expanding your app-titude: When I Work makes shift scheduling less of a chore

By Greg LaFollette, CPA/CITP, CGMA

The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that nearly 60% of U.S. employees are hourly workers. That's a lot of hours to schedule for almost 80 million people. Yes, I understand that many of those 80 million work a standard 8 a.m.-to-5 p.m., 40-hour week, but many others have variable shifts. Think about restaurants and retail. Anyone who has ever had to create and schedule shifts knows it consumes a huge amount of time.

Enter technology. Myriad scheduling systems are on the market. As you might expect, some are fantastic, most are adequate, and a few are abysmal. As a trusted adviser, you should be at least generally aware of the features and capabilities of these products. As you might expect, older products are desktop-based, and the newer ones are nearly all cloud-based (software as a service). To illustrate some of the capabilities in the genre, I chose to look at the When I Work offering.


When I Work is a web-based, employee-scheduling application designed to track time and attendance, create and maintain employee schedules and related calendars, and assist in properly staffing shifts. It also enables budgeting and general payroll management. For example, as an employee nears his or her budgeted hours for the period, the scheduler can be automatically notified. Finally, When I Work provides an approval process for employee-submitted time sheets, several methods to add employees, and a variety of options to create reusable schedules in daily, weekly, or monthly formats.

The mobile-friendly platform includes both native apps and browser-based apps to help with schedule management and time tracking. Nice features include sending mobile alerts to employees when their schedule changes and providing employees with a tool to request shift changes or time off. Those requests are routed directly to the appropriate manager for online approval. Another helpful feature is built-in communication channels such as automatic group email, texting, and social media (Facebook and Twitter). Managers can notify their employees of company news or an updated schedule using any of those methods.

On the integration front, the product works with many payroll providers, including ADP, Gusto, and QuickBooks Payroll, making it suitable for businesses of varied sizes. It can also integrate with point-of-sale systems and human resource programs through an application program interface.

The administrator or manager screen displays various widgets that show high-level items such as the day's schedule, attendance notices, and the pay period. The widgets also help track key performance indicators such as labor costs and total hours worked.

Because the schedule is available 24/7, employees can view it anytime from a computer, tablet, or smartphone. If an employee calls in sick, the manager can find a replacement by selecting the employees to offer the specific shift and notifying them through text or email. Employees can request time off or swap shifts with another employee, and even sync their work schedules with Google Calendar, iCal, or Outlook.

A time-recording module allows employees to clock in and out using their computers, tablets, or smartphones. This feature interacts with the scheduling feature to alert managers if an employee hasn't clocked in when scheduled.

  • Website: wheniwork.com
  • Pricing: Free for limited, basic use; variable pricing based on features enabled, locations, number of employees, etc. Subscriptions cost from $1 to $2 per month per employee.
  • Operating systems: iOS, Android; also available through web browser.

Greg LaFollette (greg.lafolette@hq.cpa.com) is a strategic adviser with CPA.com, the commercial subsidiary of the American Institute of CPAs.

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