In many industries, particularly retail, automated workforce management tools have been used for decades to assign workers to shifts/tasks, to log their hours, and to pay them correctly.
But the truth is that simply taking care of business might not be enough.
Employees are more than data points on a computer – they are people with lives and families outside of work, and they need to be managed with care.
The growing trend of “clopening”
If employees find themselves overworked over the course of a given day or week, it can cause difficulties around the workplace as well as issues with people’s work-life balance. And unfortunately, stress and burnout can seem inevitable in today’s climate.
One major contributor to stress and burnout is the growing trend of “clopening” – the practice of scheduling shift workers to work closing shifts and then opening ones on consecutive days. They leave at night, then come back the next morning and there’s little time in between to rest.
The New York Times has discussed this issue extensively, noting that clopening often forces employees to miss critical time with their families or, sometimes futilely, rejigger their lives around their jobs. Susan Lambert, an expert on work-life issues and a professor of organizational theory at the University of Chicago, told the newspaper that many employees struggle with this problem.
“It’s very difficult for people to work these schedules, especially if they have other responsibilities,” Lambert said. “This particular form of scheduling – not enough rest time between shifts – is particularly harmful.”
The following are four things you need to know about the clopening trend and its effects:
1. Shift work causes family strife
Having to deal with stressful work schedules affects not only employees, but their families as well.
The Times gave several examples of the turbulence caused by scheduling practices, including a Starbucks barista and a single mom with a 4-year-old, who rarely gets a chance to see him at night. Sadly, this type of problem is all too common across the country.
2. Legislative action may be coming
The trend of clopening may be going away soon.
A number of workers and labor advocates are protesting unfair scheduling practices, and they’re clamoring for regulatory changes that will help them carve out better hours in the future.
3. Legacy WFM solutions have struggled
While mathematically sound, when it comes to putting the employee in the right place at the right time, many of the solutions that companies currently use for workforce management are unable to account for people’s need for work-life balance.
These legacy solutions are often unable to give people fair, manageable schedules that they can fit into their personal lives.
4. Win-Win technology
Legacy workforce management technology is mainly built to optimize workforce deployment by balancing adequate coverage and labor costs. However, these systems hardly take into account the employee perspective.
Fortunately, technology is on our side. And thanks to the cloud, innovation is constantly being delivered to the front-lines – companies and employees.
When evaluating scheduling processes and workforce management technology, look for solutions that can do three basic things:
- Empower employees by enabling them to set their availability, or lack thereof, and update that as life changes.
- Set rules alerting or even prohibiting managers from scheduling employees certain shifts without rest.
- Enforce scheduling practices – such as schedules should be posted no less than seven (7), 10 or 14 days in advance – by providing visibility at the district or regional level into the stores. This alerts senior managers to ensure compliance when scheduling practices don’t adhere to policy.
Programming a mandatory rest period
In The New York Times article, Ceridian CEO David Ossip references Dayforce HCM, which makes it possible to program a mandated rest period into schedules. The software would then warn managers when any shifts violated that rest period.
It is recommended that retailers “set up fairness results that call for regular working hours — not one day work at night, the next day work in the morning.” said Ossip. “You have to be home for eight, 10 or 12 hours.”
Whether through a legal mandate or fair corporate policy, archaic workforce management processes will change, and technology should be able to support this change.