Are Their Work Schedules Ruining Your Employees’ Lives?

By Rieva Lesonsky

A just-released survey from SCORE, the country’s top source of free business mentoring and education, shows that the “tight labor market” is the second biggest challenge small businesses face this year. Most small businesses surveyed report they can’t fill their open positions for employees.

In light of all that, it’s worth examining how employees feel about working for small businesses. In the past few months we’ve looked at what types of benefits employees at small businesses want (as opposed to what small businesses are offering them) and the salaries they’re receiving. In both cases there seems to be a disconnect between what small business employees really want and what they’re actually getting. We also explored how employees feel about their employers tracking their movements.

Now, let’s take a look at a survey of American workers Intuit and TSheets by QuickBooks commissioned from Qualtrics to learn about the state of employee scheduling in the U.S., including how work schedules impact their job satisfaction, personal life, and health.”

There were a lot of positive signs for small business employers in the survey. Overall, 76% of the workers surveyed say they’re either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their work schedules.

These satisfied workers are in it for the long haul too—31% have worked for their current employers for over eight years, and 22% say they’d be happy staying at their job for more than 10 years. Only 7% are currently looking for a new job.

But, a lot of small business workers aren’t all that happy with their work schedules. In general, 56% of those surveyed have their schedules set buy their employers or managers, 32% can choose their own schedules, and 12% say their schedules are determined by their clients or customers.

Of the employees whose schedules are determined by their bosses, 41% say, if it were up to them, they’d choose a different work schedule and 18% complain they’re always stuck with working “bad shifts.”

What exactly is a “normal” work schedule? It’s defined as one that employees:

  • Are scheduled to work about 36-40 hours a week
  • Have 5-8 hour shifts
  • Have two consecutive days off

Work scheduling has become more important in the last few years, since several state and local governments passed workforce-related legislation concerning paid time off and sick leave policies. Some of this legislation requires employers in certain industries to give their workers advance notice of their schedules and can be fined if they change those schedules within specific allotted timeframes.

More women than men are unhappy with their schedules

Since scheduling obviously has more affects for those paid by the hour, it also impacts more women than men. Of those surveyed, 34% of men and 25% of women were salaried; leaving 75% of female workers at the mercy of their hourly schedules. What’s worse, 13% of the workers are concerned about “wage theft,” meaning that while they’re paid an hourly wage, they are not (as in never) paid for the hours they work outside of their official schedules.

Lunch time

I didn’t know this, but the standard lunch break for U.S. workers is 30 minutes. (I always thought it was an hour.) However, the survey shows 38% of employees say they “always” or “often” work through their lunch break. A study from business hygiene company Tork, reports 13% of workers think their coworkers would negatively judge them if they take a regular lunch break. (This also shocks me.)  But those who regularly break for lunch, feel more valued by their employers and are more satisfied with their jobs.

What do hourly workers want

The most important factor for these workers was having a schedule that works with their personal life and other professional responsibilities. The employees surveyed say they’re looking for schedules that are consistent, offer work-life balance, and don’t negatively impact their health.

Consistency is the second-most important factor for small business employees—59% of the survey respondents say they work roughly the same schedule every week, which means over 40% of hourly workers are left wondering from week to week what hours they’re going to work.

Not having enough personal time is another issue that came up in the survey—22% of the employees say they spend less than an hour a day (during weekdays) on their hobbies or other leisure activities.

Lost time and sleep

In general, the employees surveyed say they want a work schedule that “prioritizes health and sleep.” But, nearly 20% think their schedules negatively impact their health.

But, more than lack of sleep, having less time to spend with their spouses and children is the biggest contributor to feeling a work schedule hurts their overall health and well-being.

If you employ hourly workers, taking a look at how you schedule your staff’s time. Creating consistent work schedules will help you attract—and keep employees.


Disclosure: SCORE and TSheets are clients of my company.

Work stock photo by NicoElNino/Shutterstock