#11 Employee-Friendly Schedules

Some employees do not have predictable schedules, which prevents them from planning their personal lives. After we moved to Oregon, my wife enjoyed working retail at a women’s clothing store for several years. Unfortunately, the store refused to schedule employees

more than a week out. Her shift varied from one day to the next. Some days she would open the store; others she would close; still others she would work a mid-day shift. Because of this unpredictability, we were unable to schedule social time with friends more than a week out, and she was unable to take leadership roles in any of her civic organizations. I tried suggesting to the store manager that they could create a basic schedule for 4-5 weeks out, and pay people a little extra if they needed to call them in at unscheduled times. My suggestion was politely ignored. The lack of control over her schedule finally caused her to quit.

Another company, which operates around the clock, intentionally schedules its people for a different shift every two weeks – days, then evenings, then nights. They told me that this ensures that people are treated equally. On the plus side, this does provide schedule predictability. But my experience with circadian rhythms, based on travel to Europe and Australia, is that changing shifts every two weeks really messes up a person’s body clock, causing lack of productivity and increased errors. I had flown overnight from Massachusetts to Germany and was riding to our client site the next morning (German time – my body still thought it was the middle of the night in the US!). One of the German consultants pulled a Euro bill out of his wallet and asked in perfect English, “Gary, what do they call this in the US?” “Money,” I replied, somewhat confused. My mind was not able to grasp any nuances. The consultant laughed. Turns out they were looking for a specific word, like “bill”.

How much easier would it be for companies to retain and attract top talent if they included their employees’ social and physical well-being as they planned their schedules?



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