Launched in 27 Gap stores in the San Francisco and Chicago areas, the Stable Schedules Study, which is spearheaded by the Center for WorkLife Law, together with co-principal investigators from the University of Chicago and University of North Carolina, has been assessing the impact of stable work schedules for low-wage, hourly workers on store profitability, productivity, and employee health and well-being.
The Stable Schedules Study was designed to investigate the impact of more consistent, steadier work schedules upon the employees and the business outcomes of the retail industry. The scheduling practices of the retail industry have received attention for being characterized as “just in time scheduling practices,” which respond to rapidly changing business demands, often at the cost of stability or consistency of employee schedules. Existing research suggests that this instability could have an impact on the lives of an employee who would need more advanced notice to arrange childcare, hold down a second job, or to commit to future doctors or social service appointments. The Stable Schedules Study team looks to take existing research a step further to explore what happens when you actually change a business’ scheduling practices.
“When you shift employee schedules towards more stability, does business suffer, are you able to hit the same business outcomes, or are you actually able to achieve better outcomes?”
These are some of the questions Lori Ospina, Project Director for the Stable Schedules Study, hopes their research will answer. The Stable Schedules Study team and the Gap have worked closely together to change scheduling practices in the participating stores. Midway through their collaboration, Gap shifted to eliminate the practice of on-call scheduling and began posting work schedules two weeks in advance company-wide. Within experimental stores, General Managers adopted a handful of additional stabilizing practices such as guaranteeing a cohort of employees a set number of hours each week and stabilizing shifts’ start and end times. The Stable Schedules Study is looking to identify what practices work well, which ones don’t, and what impact do the practices have on business outcomes and employee well-being. “We work to keep the research very impartial and unbiased and are primarily focused on just trying to understand the impact of stable schedules on outcomes.”
The grant from W.K. Kellogg Foundation enables the project to continue with the data analysis phase of the Stable Schedules Study. Over the study lifecycle, the research team has collected firm records on a variety of key business measures such as foot traffic, sales, and employee census records. They have conducted hundreds of qualitative interviews with store managers. “We’re moving into our phase three, which is data analysis to assist the Study in actually publishing and disseminating our findings to the public policy community, the business community, the academic community, labor groups, and the general public. This grant from W.K. Kellogg Foundation supports that.”
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work, and life. http://www.wkkf.org/