Stable Workforce Scheduling Can Improve Worker Health and Performance

March 9, 2019
Stable Workforce Scheduling Can Improve Worker Health and Performance

The service sector faces tremendous fluctuations in demand for their services, as well as low profit margins.  As a result, staffing in the service industry may employ a Just-In-Time (JIT) staffing approach.  In other words, wait until the last moment to call in employees.

This JIT approach results in short notice of an upcoming shift, cancellation of work at the last moment, and variable hours.

Therefore, working in the service sector in many cases means low pay and few fringe benefits, but it may also mean unstable schedules because workers have little control of their work hours.

The consequence of JIT employee scheduling are unhappy workers with poor sleep quality.  Findings have shown that stabilizing employee schedules leads to increases in sales and worker productivity.

Video Spotlight: Philly workers share why they need a fair workweek

This post is based on The Hill article, For job quality, time is more than money, by Daniel Schneider and Kristen Harknett, February 1, 2019; the Work Life Law report,  Stable Scheduling Increases Productivity and Sales: The Stable Scheduling Study by Joan C. Williams, Susan J. Lambert, and Saravanan Kesavan, 2018; and the YouTube video, Philly workers share why they need a fair workweek, by One Pennsylvania, October 18, 2018. Image source: ©Jetta Productions/Blend Images LLC

Discussion Questions:

1. Why do retailers use JIT scheduling for their workers?

Guidance: The main reason given is that variations in demand for retail services require that the workforce matches this variation.  One of the easiest ways to match demand is to vary the working hours, and set the schedule at the last minute.  This allows the correct number of workers on hand to match demand, without having excess workers.

2. What can be done to reduce the need for JIT worker scheduling?

Guidance: One approach would be better forecasting.   This work allow for the schedule to be developed earlier to provide better advance notice to the workers.  Interestingly, over 30% of the variability in workers hours is not tied to store traffic.  It is driven by shipment information inaccuracies, changing sales promotions, and visits by corporate leaders.

3. Should retail organizations continue JIT worker scheduling?

Guidance: From a pure scheduling perspective, the JIT matching of workers’ schedules to demand for services will always provide the best theoretical match.  However, the findings indicate that a more stable schedule will result in happier workers who get better sleep.  It will also result in more sales, and improved worker efficiency.  Coupled with the improving economy where good workers have more job choices, it may be prudent to provide stable schedules to retail workers.


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