The Perfect Shift: How to Boost Happiness Among Hourly Employees


“I need more hours.”

“I can’t come in today.”

“Can I swap this shift with my friend?”

“I have to be at my other job by 5:00, so I need my shifts done by 4:00 every day.” 

Keeping employees happy can seem like an endless string of requests. When you’re busy, it can get tiring, even annoying at times, right? But it matters (a lot), and we have some ways to make it all not only manageable but dare we say easy?

How Much Do You Value Happiness?

In a recent 500 respondent survey of our customers at When I Work, 18% of small to medium businesses said that employee satisfaction was a top critical driver in running their business; as or more important than customer satisfaction.

So, to keep things real, start by asking yourself this question: Am I a business owner (or manager) who really values employee satisfaction, or is customer satisfaction or bottom line satisfaction (simply money) more important to me? If you’re a business owner that is more geared to a churn-‘em-and-burn-‘em approach to employees, you probably stumbled onto the wrong article. But since you’re here, read on — you may think twice.

Happiness Counts

Many studies have counted up what employee happiness means to businesses.

A recent study by economists found that happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers proved 10% less productive. So, if you think a happy employee base doesn’t matter, think of it this way: a happy employee base versus an unhappy employee base equates to having an extra worker, for free, on a five- to eight-person shift. Happiness matters – count on it. 

When I Work is now FREE  for to up 75 employees.  Click here to start scheduling your employees today.

Think about it in terms of our industry. You probably know, if even implicitly, that helping employees helps your bottom line. Simply put, happy employees show up for their shifts, and that ensures that you and your customers don’t have to deal with shorthanded shifts, and dour, sulky, or snippy hosts, servers and bartenders.

Needs and Wants: What is Happiness?

Start by finding out what matters most to each employee; what he or she needs. Some people have second jobs or are in school and want to come in early or late. Some have young kids and want the flexibility to be home when they wake up and go to sleep. Some want to exercise in the morning. Some want to make more money or to get ahead. Some want to avoid working with that pain-in-the-neck co-worker who is a downer all the time.  Some need to work certain shifts to hitch a ride to work.

The best managers figure out what matters most to each of his or her workers and then gives that to them. It goes further than most things in terms of making them happy. Spend time with them. Get to know them and their lives. Ask them directly. It starts with “What can I do, within a work frame, to make you happy?”

But some people’s happiness is more about goals, hopes and dreams than needs. Everybody has something beyond work that he wants to achieve or access through work. Help them reach their goals, because when you help them achieve theirs they will help you reach yours.

Insight leads to understanding which leads to empathy, and acting on that leads to trust. Employees can’t work their best or their hardest if they don’t trust your company or its mission, its odds for success, or that their boss is there for them. Distraction comes in many forms, and none of them help productivity.

When I Work is now FREE  for to up 75 employees.  Click here to start scheduling your employees today.

Monitor and Stay Ahead

Beyond individual employee insights, look beyond to stay on top of trends.

Among your employee base, start collecting and tracking a simple Happiness Score over time. Ask it, measure it, act on it. While some online employee satisfaction measurement tools can keep responses anonymous, you can go old school and simply ask on a regular basis, one on one, “One to 10, how happy are you now? What could make you happier?” That’s especially key for your top performers you want or need to keep.

When employees leave, ask why. Start exit interviews. Yes, many people quit with barely a text, and some just plain don’t show for their last shift. But for those who even phone in their departure, ask them if there was a reason or cause for their leaving, or why they are going where they are going. What made them unhappy?

To Avoid Unhappiness is to Avoid Worst-in-Class Behavior

You know what they want, but how do you avoid falling into behavior that is sure to make your employees less than happy? What must you avoid? Here are five worst-in-class practices that are sure to make employees unhappy:

1. Clopenings. Scheduling workers to close one night and open the next morning not only leads to burned-out employees, it can build resentment when you’re over-scheduling the same team members.

2. Relying on the same few people over and over again to pick up the slack when you’re shorthanded. This will builds resentment. Make sure you’re grooming people to fill in for one another and have “emergency workers” in the wings, especially during busy times.

3. Short lead time before schedules are communicated. Posting next week’s schedule later than Thursday the week before leaves employees’ lives up in the air. This is especially important to avoid during peak times and holidays. You don’t want to be scrambling at the last minute to fill open shifts.

4. Scheduling in ways that make it harder to access and manage. Paper schedules posted in the back room are not employee-friendly in the age of cell phones and tablets.

When I Work is now FREE  for to up 75 employees.  Click here to start scheduling your employees today.

5. Too few days off in between / Too many days on in a row. Constantly scheduling employees to have only one day off a week or only giving them single days doesn’t offer the sense of a “weekend” break. This is a sure path to an unhappy, burned out employee.

Employee management systems can act as a built-in check and balance on tactical scheduling issues. A good one can make it simpler for you and your employees to manage what they want and need, and avoid what makes them miserable. Hourly workers can post their vacation requests and conflicts early on, swap shifts, and communicate among themselves (and with you). Overall, these systems cut down significantly on the amount of time you need to spend passing updated schedules around among your team.

Finally, remember that keeping your employees happy – and making them even happier – results in them working harder and better, which in turn makes you a happier, better manager. If you can’t do it for them, do it for you!

NOTE: A version of this article previously appeared on the Nightclub & Bar website

The Perfect Shift: How to Boost Happiness Among Hourly Employees