Panel Paper: The Stable Scheduling Study: Cross-Sector Implications for Improving Scheduling Practices in Low-Wage Jobs

Saturday, November 10, 2018
8209 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Susan Lambert, University of Chicago and Joan C Williams, University of California

The Stable Scheduling Study (SSS) is a randomized experiment of a workplace intervention designed to improve work schedules in hourly retail jobs, conducted in partnership with a national apparel retailer (Gap, Inc.). Employer scheduling practices are an important source of employment instability that can create stress and work-life interferences that undermine worker health and well-being. National survey data indicate that unstable, unpredictable work hours over which employees have little control are widespread in the US labor market, with prevalence particularly high not only in the retail industry but also in food services, hospitality, and home health care. San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Emeryville (CA), and the states of Oregon and New York have all passed new laws that are intended to improve scheduling practices in hourly jobs in retail and in some locations, food services; at least 13 additional municipalities have pending scheduling legislation. The results of the SSS hold implications for both public policy and employer practice and for improving job quality in multiple sectors.

The SSS intervention is unique in its focus on improving multiple dimensions of work schedules–schedule consistency, predictability, adequacy, and input–and in tracing possible effects on both business outcomes and employee health. Stores in the San Francisco and Chicago metropolitan areas (n=28) were randomly assigned to treatment (a multi-component intervention) and control conditions; the experiment ran from November 2015 to August 2016. Data come from both firm systems and employee surveys. Data from payroll and scheduling systems are used to measure the consistency, predictability, and adequacy of associates’ work hours, employee surveys capture schedule input and employee health and well-being, and employee demographic information comes from the firm’s personnel system. Qualitative interviews with managers open the black box of implementation.

Results to-date indicate that the intervention significantly improved schedule consistency, predictability, and input, although effect sizes are modest and the intervention did not improve the adequacy (number) of work hours for most associates. Comparisons between control and treatment stores (complemented with difference-in-difference approaches) indicate that the intervention improved both store sales and worker productivity. The paper will include results from ongoing analyses of possible intervention effects on health and wellbeing (e.g., general health, psychosomatic symptoms, perceived stress, sleep) and work-to-life outcomes (work-to-life conflict, interference with family routines and exercise).

Together, the findings on business and employee outcomes offer useful information to both employers seeking to improve scheduling practices in hourly jobs and to policy makers and advocates interested in scheduling legislation that is feasible for employers and meaningful to employees. The discussion will highlight the challenges, strategies, and merits of conducting research to advance both employer practice and public policy toward a culture of health in low-wage jobs.