Working erratic hours, lack of sleep, adverse health outcomes, and significantly higher turnover are all consequences of unstable work schedules.

Unstable scheduling often results in employees scrambling to meet their own personal needs and care for their families. In order to improve employee engagement and retention, think about any scheduling challenges that may be having deleterious effects on your organization.

Outcomes of irregular scheduling

Data from the General Social Survey (GSS), demonstrates the negative impact irregular scheduling has on employees in their work environment:

  • Irregular shift work frequently requires workers to put in long work week hours.
  • Workers, especially those with on-call schedules, are frequently unable to plan for or meet personal demands with regularity. Work-family conflicts plague 26 percent of workers on irregular or on-call shifts and 19 percent of those on rotating or split shifts, compared with less than 11 percent for workers on regular workweek schedules.
  • Mandatory overtime, which often comes with irregular schedules, contributes to both work-life conflict and work-related stress.

Dimensions of scheduling stability

Stable scheduling is an important aspect of job quality. In a study reported in Crain’s Chicago Business, it was found that stable scheduling increases productivity and sales, benefiting both the workers and the businesses that employ them.

Employees whose schedules fluctuate often experience a lack of flexibility in different aspects of their lives. It becomes extremely difficult for employees to have work-life balance as they no longer have time to plan for doctor’s appointments, organize childcare arrangements, or make time for other life necessities.

But what makes a schedule stable? Below are a few determinants:

  • Consistency: Increasing consistency of schedules from week to week
  • Predictability: Employees can start to anticipate when they will work
  • Adequacy: Giving more hours to the employees that want them
  • Input: Receiving employee input into when they want to work and when they do not

Benefits of stabilizing work schedules

In the Stable Scheduling Study, researchers worked with Gap, Inc., to understand the impact of focusing efforts on improving scheduling. Gap implemented two important changes:

  • Eliminating “on-calls.” On-calls are when employees are scheduled to work shifts that can be cancelled anytime up until two hours before they are scheduled to start.
  • Requiring that employees schedules are to be posted two weeks in advance.

The results found in this Harvard Business Review article showed a 5 percent increase in labor productivity which is double the annual average. Additionally, these changes led to a 7 percent increase in sales. This study estimated that Gap earned $2.9 million from improved scheduling, signaling a high return on investment. 

Additionally, stable scheduling yields better time management and communication among employees, improves planning capabilities and enhances resource management.

How Worklife Partnership can support your employees

Flexibility and stability in scheduling gives employees the time, space, and ability to navigate the unexpected. WorkLife can be a resource to employees needing the time and space to solve problems and create more stability in their work environment. Our Resource Navigators can support employees with things like:

  • Finding affordable childcare 
  • Self-care
  • Work-life balance
  • Time-management
  • And so much more!

84 percent of surveyed employees said the resources their Navigator provided were helpful.

If you’d like to learn more about how WorkLife can support you in helping your employees, don’t hesitate to contact us.