The recent government shutdown illustrated how damaging the loss of a paycheck can be on those workers who are living paycheck-to-paycheck. But what about the millions of Americans who are living hour-to-hour? Released today, a new study from WorkJam, a leading digital workplace platform, found that even one missed shift means late payments on rent, utilities, and other basic necessities for almost half of the respondents surveyed.
The study, titled “The Economic Impact of Missing a Single Shift”, is based on data collected from over 1,000 U.S.-based hourly employees and employers across the retail, hospitality, logistics, healthcare, and banking industries. While missing a few hours may not seem like a big deal, this study exposes the far-reaching implications of missing a single shift, including being unable to pay utilities on-time (49% of respondents), missing rent (27% of respondents), and foregoing groceries for a week (25% of respondents). As you can imagine, single parents are the hardest hit as they are faced with additional challenges. The obvious is they have the extra expenses of childcare, food and clothes for their children. But equally as difficult is the juggling act they must do every day with little backup. They are solely responsible for their child, and with children frequently getting sick or childcare cancelling, the chance of having to miss a shift and not getting paid becomes greater. Add to that stress having to work more than one hourly job to make ends meet, and the burden of that juggling act increases exponentially.
Whether the hourly worker is a parent or not, this study brings to light several important issues. Not only does the financial instability leave workers unable to cover the necessities for living, they also feel unengaged from their employers and are left with a sense of little control over their work-life balance. In fact, the study show that 71% of dissatisfied hourly employees are currently looking for new jobs, citing unstable schedules and difficulties reaching their managers as reasons for leaving.
These results reinforce the need for an emergency fund, however for the many living shift-to-shift, every cent is going towards expenses, making it seem impossible to put anything away for savings. So the question becomes, what can be done about the problem among hourly shift workers on an industry level? Things happen, people get sick, cars break down – people have to miss work from time to time. For a shift employee who gets paid by the hour and depends on each and every shift, an obvious solution is to help ensure that workers are easily able to make up that money by adding another shift. But this isn’t as easy as it sounds.
I remember being a waitress in college “20-something” years ago, and I lived and breathed by the piece of paper thumbtacked on the bulletin board in the break room, titled “Employee Weekly Schedule”. We would erase, scratch off and add side notes as we bartered our shifts each time it came out. Twenty-ish years ago this seemed completely normal, as these were the days of CDs, and cell phones were only used for talking. Technology wasn’t nearly what it is today, and with everything else in this world gone digital you may assume these scheduling headaches are no more. Surprisingly, this study shows that 55% of hospitality and 57% of retail employees still depend on those paper schedules posted in break rooms.
The lack of digital systems available to hourly workers becomes an issue for several reasons, the obvious being it makes it that much harder to manage your schedule and ensure you can meet the hours needed to pay the bills; employees simply need dependable schedules and dependable pay. Steven Kramer, co-founder, president, and CEO of WorkJam lists additional reasons digital systems are critical today, including the opportunity for online training resulting in greater potential for promotion, plus simply knowing what is going on in the company so they can do their jobs in a more effective way.
“Customers have told us that the initiative to put in a digital workplace has come from the employees.” Kramer states. “They want a digital relationship with their employer because everything else in their life is digital, from making a dinner reservation to online banking. Employees are asking for a solution.”
The good news is, employers are listening. Kramer believes a lack of digital communication systems isn’t a result of employers not caring for their employees. But rather, there has just been a focus on other areas needed to advance their business. Several factors including a new found focus on in-store experience and increased difficulty in finding skilled workers have caused employers to now focus on how to retain and engage their hourly employees. More and more employers are seeing the need to invest in their employees and give them more opportunity to develop in the organization, providing a possible light at the end of the tunnel for hourly workers.
He provided the case study of a single mom who worked 3 jobs trying to make ends meet and care for her children. Once one of these companies introduced their digital systems, she was able to depend on steady hours each week from them and could quit two of those three jobs. Beyond giving her dependable income, this reduced the juggling act and gave her a greater sense of control over her financial well-being.