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How to Make an Irregular Schedule Appealing to Employees

Irregular scheduling made easy

Workers who have irregular schedules may work varying day and night shifts. They may have an unpredictable number of hours they work each week; their shifts may change based upon company temporary needs. Some may even have to contend with being on call. Still, others are employees who are primarily involved in project work and may work from home at least a part of the time. Their schedules are often irregular by choice.

The bottom line is this: lots of employees have irregular work schedules for a variety of reasons. This can lead to dissatisfaction, burnout, and, for the employer, high rates of absenteeism and turnover. Neither of these is good for a company’s bottom line.

How Many Workers are Impacted by Irregular Work Schedules?

A study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute resulted in the following statistics:

  • More than five million people are employed part-time in one or more jobs, and these have irregular hours. Jockeying more than one part-time job is difficult, can impact family life, and can also contribute to economic instability.
  • While 10% of the workforce has irregular hours, another 7% work split or rotating shifts.
  • The lowest-paid workers are the ones that tend to have the most irregular work hours.

What Causes Dissatisfaction with Irregular Schedules?

Before we can talk about what an employer can do to make an irregular work schedule more appealing, he needs to understand why employees do not like them. Here are the most common complaints:

  • Lack of sleep, especially for those on rotating shifts and on-call. It is tough for the body to adjust to continually changing awake and sleep times.
  • Disrupted family life – plans may have to be changed or canceled, sometimes without notice.
  • Difficulty pursuing higher education unless it is online.
  • If the number of hours is unpredictable, there is also unpredictability in paychecks. 

As an employer, there may not be much you can do about these complaints. They are just part of dealing with irregular work schedules. 

What you can do, though, is take steps to make their work time as pleasant as possible and show these employees how much you appreciate, putting things in place that demonstrate that appreciation.

Here are some things you should consider:

1. Create a “Shift-Friendly” Environment

Exactly what does this mean? Well, it can translate into several actionable initiatives:

  • Offer free snacks as workers arrive and as they leave and during their breaks. Otherwise, they have to use vending machines (especially during night shifts). Every once in a while, order pizza or doughnuts, and have them in the break room.
  • Brighten up the workplace with better lighting that mimics sunlight as much as possible.
  • Make sure that temperature is controlled for the most comfort.
  • Consider choices of music (with supplied headphones). Music can serve to keep workers alert and productive (and in a better mood).

Depending upon the actual workplace environment, you can probably come up with even more of these initiatives.

2. Provide Additional Compensation

While more money will not mitigate the frustrating things about irregular hours, it can serve as a huge motivator.

Consider the contract writing industry as an example. There are a host of online writing agencies that serve clients all over the globe – different time zones and different urgencies. In looking at several of them – Classy Essay, Studyker, Writescout, and Subjecto, for example – we find that when their writers must disrupt their normal hours of work in order to meet clients’ needs, they are compensated more for that disruption, often in the form of bonuses. The same goes for freelance writers from places such as Upwork. More is charged for the disruption of staying up all night to meet an urgent deadline or a task that may involve a huge amount of research. 

What can you do to add compensation when your workers’ lives are disrupted by emergency and/or temporary production needs that go beyond scheduled work? Overtime pay is one thing. Bonuses are more icing on the cake, though, and they do serve to motivate.

3. Acknowledge and Reward

When you ask workers to disrupt their normal employee work schedules and thus their personal lives in order to meet your production demands, you must find ways to acknowledge their sacrifices. And that acknowledgment must come with rewards. 

Verbal and written praises are always nice but they do not provide external rewards that show that appreciation in concrete ways. Here are a few things you might consider:

  • An additional day off with pay every once in a while.
  • Tickets to concerts or sporting events (give them options).
  • A membership to a 24-hour gym for those interested in fitness.
  • Gift certificates to restaurants, grocery stores, or large retailers.

Carl Jackson, HR Director for the Top Essay Writing service, puts it this way: “Our employee work schedules are crazy. And we often ask them to go ‘above and beyond’ to meet client needs. When we disrupt their normal lives, we need to reward those sacrifices. Providing reward options is a hugely successful activity and has really lowered turnover rate.”

4. Provide as Much Advance Notice as Possible

Aside from the rather permanent situations of irregular work hours (e.g., regularly rotating shifts), you need to anticipate other interruptions in a worker’s normal schedule as much as possible. If you know, for example, that a huge order is coming, and that shifting work schedule requirements will change, let your employees know in advance that this is coming. This allows them to plan their personal lives in advance, so there are no surprises.

Many companies use web-based time clock software that includes a scheduling tool to announce these changes, and employees can access these schedules in advance and make those all-important plans. 

As an employer who must impose irregular time schedules on your employees, you understand the challenges and frustrations this can create in your workforce. You cannot change these circumstances. But you can take steps to make the inconveniences and frustrations more “palatable.” Look at these four initiatives and see how you might be able to implement them.

Author: Nicole Garrison

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