Another Factor in Worker Burnout – Unpredictable Shifts

A few weeks ago, we wrote about worker burnout as it affects hourly workers and teachers. Today, we want to consider another burnout cause impacting hourly workers, unpredictable and irregular shifts.

Many hourly workers are required to work on-demand. They may report to work only to find out they are being sent home as unneeded. They may have to sit around hoping to get called on to work. As a result, they cannot count on the income they will receive or how to meet the needs of themselves and their families. SHRM notes that on-call scheduling negatively impacts low-wage earners who may need to plan ahead for their financial, child care and transportation needs, as well as for second-job or school conflicts.

In other cases, employees are expected to act as “clopeners”, responsible for closing the facility at the end of the night shift and then reporting prior to the start of work the next day. reports on a worker in a retail store who reports he often ”wraps up work at 11:30 p.m. and has to be back to stock shelves at 6 a.m. His shifts vary so much he can’t get a second job, but he doesn’t always get enough hours to make ends meet.” The worker states “You pay rent, you pay your car and then you have no money for food.” In response, the company stated their scheduling practices “balance the needs of our guests, the unique demands of retail and our team members’ needs.” It is worth noting they put their employees last in their statement as well as their actions. It is also not a surprise this organization has a history of union avoidance activities with their employees.

The resulting physical and mental burnout for these employees is significant. A University of California study of nearly 28,000 retail and food-service workers at 80 large companies found that two-thirds of those workers have schedules that change at the last minute.

As a result of these inappropriate scheduling behaviors, several cities and states are now passing predictable shift laws. Their goal is to make work scheduling more equitable, particularly for low-wage workers who need this employment.

The website reports these laws “generally require larger employers in retail, fast food, hospitality and other service industries to give hourly workers some amount of advance notice of shifts and shift changes — typically seven to 14 days.” Some of the laws guarantee workers the opportunity to receive additional hours and guarantee new employees the minimum hours they were promised when they were hired.

HRdrive report as of July 2019, the state of Oregon and 6 cities, Seattle, New York City, San Francisco, Emeryville, CA, Chicago, and Philadelphia have enacted predictable scheduling legislation and other are considering implementation. They cover an estimated 740,000 workers and 1,000 employers. In addition, San Francisco, New Hampshire and Vermont have passed laws that give more than 1 million workers the right to request scheduling accommodations

The Wall Street Journal reports “Research suggests that businesses might ultimately benefit from a new approach to scheduling, even if the transition period is rocky.” A study released earlier this year examining stable scheduling practices at Gap Inc. stores found that labor productivity increased 5% and sales rose 7% when managers did things such as keep the days and times of workers’ shifts consistent from week to week.”

On the other hand, 4 states, Iowa, Tennessee, Arkansas and Georgia, ban predictive scheduling laws. Clearly these states are demonstrating little regard for workers. Not surprisingly, these are also “right-to-work” states.

There is an obvious need to balance the needs of employers for adequate staffing and those of employees to meet their economic and family needs. Since many of the impacted workers are low-wage low-skilled individuals, it would appear the employers have the upper hand. Fortunately, some states and cities have enacted laws to protect these workers. We also encourage involved employers to take steps to recognize the needs of workers, including the use of automated scheduling to bring more certainty for the employees.

About CALMC Blog

Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to involving employers and employees to preserve jobs, resolve workplace issues, and promote labor-management cooperation. Visit our website at
This entry was posted in CALMC, Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee, Customer Service, Employee Involvement and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.