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  • Frank Pereira and Marco Juarez

The Power of the Right Schedule

Over the years, many of the employees I meet have said, “I work to live, not live to work.” I think that is true of most people. We work to earn money to feed our families, buy a house, and live a good life. For most people, this simple statement means that living life is more important than making money.

Too often, however, I see companies use pay as a way to modify behavior. A common example is paying a “shift differential” to encourage people to work an undesired schedule. This sort of pay is a type of pay raise. Pragmatically, pay raises do very little to modify behavior long term as they are short-term motivators. Most raises are forgotten by the next paycheck. Meanwhile, the negative effects of an undesirable shift remain and often sour even the best employee’s attitude. The better long-term motivator is just to have a schedule that offers some “life” benefits for taking an undesired shift.

Let’s look at weekend work for a practical example. Most people would rather not work the weekend, but let’s assume the job required someone to be there Saturday and Sunday. We could compensate someone with extra weekend premium pay to work Saturday and Sunday. A lot of people might volunteer to do that. But what if they had to do it every week or regularly every month? The extra weekend premium pays effectively become a pay raise. And like all raises, quickly forgotten. Instead of premium pay, what if people got a four day weekend the following week? A regular four day weekend could have a dramatic impact on work/life balance and is more likely to be a long-term motivator.

The great thing is that “lifestyle” improving schedules aren’t just to compensate employees for working undesired shifts or days. You can implement schedules that compensate for higher skills, high unpredictability, high workloads, and adverse working conditions – really any place where pay is usually used as the motivator to attract or retain employees. It just requires thinking “outside the norm.”

I’ll leave you with the story of a large window manufacturer in northern Minnesota. Their largest factory and corporate headquarters, with about 500 office positions (working primarily Monday through Friday), were located across from each other. Over the years, many of the factory employees had moved to the corporate office seeking day shift jobs. After implementing a unique rotating day and night shift schedule that increased weekend coverage but offered employees extended three to five day weekends regularly, many of the former factory employees working corporate day jobs starting to apply for factory jobs. So many employees were leaving the corporate office that the company had to halt all transfers for fear of losing too many skilled, trained office employees. Now that’s the power of scheduling!

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