Propelled by COVID-19, restaurants, retailers, and hourly workplaces increase flexible self-scheduling by 10x

Social distancing, working from home, and stay-at-home orders are impacting hourly workplaces and countless businesses around the globe. In fact, according to the Hourly Workforce Index, workplaces in Minnesota reduced their operations by a staggering 75% following the initial impact of COVID-19—and continue to be down 65% as they work to adapt.

But how are they adjusting to these uncertain times? What are they doing differently to adapt to new market conditions? The answer appears to be: flexible self-scheduling.

Flexible self-scheduling is the term used when a manager defines scheduling needs based on demand, but allows employees to select, trade, and fill shifts themselves. Allowing schedules to be created faster, with less effort, and gives hourly employees more control over their work life. 

Flexible self-scheduling isn’t new. The approach is often heralded as the future of work and key to driving better outcomes for employers and more engaged employees.

Seen as the way of the future, businesses have been steadily adopting flexible self-scheduling over the past decade. Prior to COVID-19, its use was growing at a rate of 20% annually among the 10 million hourly employees that have used When I Work. Incredibly, since early March, this growth rate has increased 10-fold month-over-month.

The impact is even greater in industries hard hit by the changes with a 60% monthly increase in flexibly-scheduled hours for the food services industry. Even the retail industry, which has been slower to adopt self-scheduling in Minnesota, has increased by 130% over the last month and appears to be increasing further.

Flexibility, autonomy, and employee empowerment is not only a competitive advantage, but it’s also key to survival and revival in uncertain environments. Businesses must be able to flexibly fill shifts based on near-term needs, and quickly increase or decrease capacity within uncertain environments of demand. This is then compounded by those that are adapting to untested workplace operations like delivery and curbside pickup. 

Hourly workplaces have been ushering in the flexible, self-scheduling model for a while, but we believe we’ve hit the tipping point, and it’s unlikely workplaces will go back. For those that have found a way to remain open in these uncertain times, they’ve accelerated the reinvention of workplace operations, specifically embracing flexible self-scheduling which will serve all hourly workplaces well as they start to reopen; and get back up and running.