Today’s Solutions: November 30, 2022

Retail stores are notorious for unpredictable work schedules. Employees are often called in last-minute or sent home well before the end of their scheduled shift. They’ll work late one day and then open the store the next day, a practice known as “clopening.” This intense variation in work time can often lead to retail employees not making ends meet. 

What if retail employers scheduled consistent, predictable, and opening shifts that guaranteed employees a fair wage and enough time to live around?

A new large-scale, years-long study looked at the scheduling of Gap clothing stores and found that while making fair schedules stores could also increase sales. 

Working smarter, not harder

Sophisticated algorithms designed by operations management researchers are used to schedule workers to match the ebb and flow of customer traffic. These efficient systems are used by many retailers, but they don’t take employees’ well-being into account. These unpredictable work schedules have adverse effects like diminished sleep quality, compromised mental health and happiness, and contribute to unstable childcare, as well as negative health consequences for employees’ children. And these conditions are actually felt worse by employees of color.

It doesn’t need to be this way, though. 

The new study from the University of Oregon showed “evidence that retailers may not need to choose between profits and employee wellbeing by demonstrating that responsible scheduling practices can serve both goals,” the authors say. Stores that adopted responsible scheduling practices saw a 5.1 percent increase in productivity and a 3.3 percent increase in sales while overall labor actually went down. 

Fair scheduling test

With the cooperation of Gap, the researchers designed a test to see the effects of fair scheduling. In Chicago and San Francisco, nine Gap stores made no changes to their scheduling practices while 19 stores adopted responsible scheduling practices. These were fixed start and end times for shifts, regular week to week shifts, having regularly scheduled part-time workers, using set-aside funds to pay for understaffed shifts, and using a third-party app for employees to choose shifts they did or didn’t want. 

These practices in the 19 changed stores saw increased sales and productivity. Workers were happier to work with predictable hours and were actually more punctual. 

Laws reflecting responsible scheduling practices are already in place in some states like Oregon, and the research is cited in a bill now before the US Congress.   

Source Study: Around the OStudy finds worker-friendly scheduling boosts bottom line | Around the O (uoregon.edu)

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