Unpredictable Work Schedules Hurt Your Employees and Your Business

March 24, 2021 | 460 views

Unpredictable Work Schedules Hurt Your Employees and Your Business
Unpredictable Work Schedules Hurt Your Employees and Your Business

You’ve probably heard about new “predictive scheduling” laws enacted in some states and cities. These laws are designed to give employees ample notice of work schedules so that they can plan accordingly. The law often requires that employers post schedules 14 days in advance or maintain some consistency in hours. However, most of the regulations impact large companies with 100’s of employees and dozens of locations.

For most of you, scheduling two weeks in advance is not required by law; however, scheduling practices have come under greater scrutiny because disruptive and unpredictable work schedules hurt your employees and, in turn, your business.

What’s the Problem?

Unpredictable schedules can negatively affect your employees’ personal lives, financial security, and health. Practices that include short notice on-call shifts, inconsistent days off make it nearly impossible to plan family time or medical appointments. In a recent study, nearly 95% of grocery, food service, and retail workers experienced scheduling issues that impacted family time, necessary appointments, and academic progress for student-workers.

When hours are inconsistent from week to week, an employee’s income varies also. For those trying to make ends meet with a low-paying job, it is difficult to pay their way. Basics like rent and transportation demand a fixed amount. To compensate for shortfalls due to inconsistent hours, over 40% of workers also experience food insecurity.

Employees who worry about financial security, food availability, or planning personal needs become anxious and stressed. Yet, health care is another area that gets pushed to the bottom of priorities if work schedules aren’t somewhat consistent. Lack of sleep can create safety issues on and off the job, too. Plus, stressed employees often develop mental health issues.

As a manager, you might typically schedule around anticipated demand (and that makes good business sense, of course), but finding a balance in scheduling practices will improve employee morale and productivity. Stressed-out employees are simply not good for your business. It is wise to find ways that work for you and improve your employees.

What Can You Do About It?

For employers, changing hours to meet business needs is convenient and even necessary. But when employees are unable to plan their days and take care of their financial and physical needs, it will help if you can make a few schedule changes to improve your organization’s overall scheduling practices.

  1. Provide at least two weeks’ notice schedules and scheduling changes. If you make an effort and try to be consistent, employees will understand when changes occur and be willing to work with exceptions.
  2. Strive for consistent days off. This gives employees a sure day to plan social and personal needs. If 95% of your employees cannot plan their life outside of work, this simple change will go a long way to creating a more collaborative environment.
  3. Be clear about schedules during hiring. Knowing what to expect is part of keeping people happy. If you hire someone for weekends and then change to weekdays (without an agreement from the employee), you’re asking for a suddenly smaller workforce.
  4. Consider offering premium pay or a bonus for accepting a changed shift. This does not have to cost much. An employee who has had trouble buying food might be happy with a grocery gift card or an extra hour’s pay.
  5. Communicate changes effectively. Scheduling software with mobile communication options will keep everyone aware of unexpected changes and scheduling needs.
  6. Allow employees to turn down shifts that meet certain criteria, i.e., fewer than 12 hours between shifts or a request to work on a prescribed day off.

Scheduling is hard enough without regulations imposing more restrictions, but you also need to keep your employees running smoothly to keep your business healthy. Predictive scheduling laws may not be required for you (yet), but good management means balancing business scheduling needs with employee needs to get the most out of both.

Author Profile Jon Forknell is the Vice President and General Manager of Atlas Business Solutions, Inc., a software marketing company specializing in employee scheduling software, including ScheduleBase employee scheduling software, and other business software solutions. In the past, Jon has been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year. For many years, Atlas Business Solutions has been named one of Software Magazine’s Top 500 Software Companies.

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