Uncertain Schedules Make For Uncertain Livelihoods
By Barbara Dyer
The drama unfolded in front of my house. A delivery van pulled up and the driver dropped off a package to my neighbor. As he was getting back into his van, another delivery driver arrived who was clearly distressed. Apparently, after getting assigned to work a full day and arranging child-care, the company contacted her mid-day and took her off the job since the day’s delivery load wasn’t as high as they anticipated. Without warning and with just few hours of pay — she was in tears as she vented her frustration to her fellow driver.
Just-in-time scheduling is an innovation in efficiency made possible by sophisticated software that matches the supply of people with the demand from customers. Seems like a great idea, until we look at the toll it takes on workers, and ultimately, companies.
In industries such as retail, hospitality and health care — disproportionately low-wage sectors — workers are often unable to predict their schedules and they have no guarantee of the number of hours they will work. How does one plan for child care or make doctors’ appointments or budget for rent and groceries? How does one manage a life when making a living is so uncertain?
The drama before my eyes brought home more than delivered goods — it was yet another illustration that the package-deal of hard work for good wages is disappearing. And it’s not only workers who suffer.
The stress of uncertainty translates into lower productivity and poor customer service which ultimately puts a firm’s performance at risk. This has implications across these sectors, but most particularly in health care where quality customer service can mean life or death.
Our latest piece for Forbes focuses on Cooperative Home Care Associates, (CHCA), a home care services provider in New York City, that has a simple solution to the problem: guaranteed workers’ hours. CHCA, a certified B Corporation, was founded on the belief that home health aides who are given good salaries and benefits, training, support, and opportunities to advance will provide higher-quality care.
Eligible home health aides are paid for a minimum of 30 hours a week, guaranteeing them a stable income even if they are scheduled to work less than this amount. To participate, employees must have worked at CHCA for three years, accept all case assignments, and work every other weekend. Since most CHCA aides actually work more than 35 hours per week, CHCA rarely needs to pay home health aides for hours not worked. But for the workers, knowing their baseline pay certainly brings them peace of mind.
What if we dedicated this powerful software to create schedules that respond to workers’ circumstances and customer demand? The technology can do that. It’s those who manage the technology who need to get with the program.