Burnout, fatigue, and the adverse health effects of an unstable work schedule extend far beyond the healthcare sector. We know that physicians are facing a professional crisis — are there lessons to be learned from research in other sectors? A new study suggests that inconsistent, erratic work schedules, in addition to being a widespread source of frustration and negatively affecting the well-being of service workers, are also bad for business.
A recent New York Times piece reports on the study conducted by researchers at University of North Carolina and UC Hastings College of the Law with Gap, Inc. The study included the cooperation of more than two dozen Gap stores to understand the impact of predictable and consistent scheduling on the business and their employees’ well-being over the course of a year.
The study randomly assigned two-thirds of the stores to a treatment group, where store managers were able to increase the number of payroll hours they could allocate to employees to provide them with more consistent start and stop times from day to day, as well as more consistent schedules from week to week. The remaining one-third of the stores’ scheduling practices were conducted without any interference and served as a control group.
The results: Average sales for the stores in the treatment group with the more balanced schedules increased seven percent.
Upon closer examination of the seven percent increase, researchers found that the overall consistency of schedules did not increase dramatically. An explanation for the marginal improvements is that managers who were given more freedom focused heavily on experienced employees, which reduced turnover among employees with a better sense of business operations and what’s going on. These more experienced employees contributed to the improved stores’ overall performance, especially since you’re more likely to make a purchase when someone is able to answer your questions in a timely manner and knows the merchandise they’re selling.
Another finding in the study was the importance of matching fluctuating demand (i.e. foot traffic) with supply (i.e. employee capacity). For example, launching marketing campaigns with discounts must be planned with greater capacity to serve a higher volume of activity anticipated.
Overall, the research suggests that it is wise to invest in employee well-being by treating people as more than a tool in doing business — both for their health and your company’s bottom line. If these results are possible for a business selling button-ups and khakis, imagine the potential impact for physician retention, patient outcomes, and the future of healthcare. Healthcare executives who help physicians set flexible, balanced schedules can reasonably expect a positive ROI for their organization.
Read about the study in detail at the New York Times.
Original article appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.