Through an intervention with a major U.S. retailer (The Gap), the project tests whether shifting hourly workers to more stable schedules results in cost savings and increased productivity for businesses. In the second year of work, Williams and her team continued to make progress, including broadening the intervention in three important ways: an increase in hours, which research shows can improve sales by adding staffing at peak hours; agreeing to consider sources of instability stemming from the supply chain; and adding a worker survey and focus groups to gather information on scheduling impacts, pre and post intervention, on workers’ and their families’ well-being.
Through an intervention with the major U.S. retailer, The Gap, this project tests whether shifting hourly workers to more stable, predictive schedules, and providing them with additional hours result in cost savings and increased productivity for businesses. In the first year of work, Williams and her team made significant progress, including the launch of a pilot program that will test schedule-stabilizing practices to inform the larger intervention.
This research will investigate the interaction of business time-scheduling policies and changing family structures. Unpredictable work hours, more common among low-wage workers, may reduce worker productivity and thus economic growth. In conjunction with at least one corporate partner, the researchers will test the impact of effective scheduling systems on employees via a controlled intervention. They will divide workers into groups, with certain groups receiving greater control over their schedules, and then examine the resulting absenteeism and attrition rates for each group. The research will test the hypothesis that an improved work-life fit will lead to greater job satisfaction for hourly workers, who will in turn be less likely to leave their jobs when family obligations interfere with their schedule, and ultimately will result in enhanced economic security for these workers. At the same time, the research will explore whether employers who implement scheduling practices that improve work-life fit are able to retain experienced employees who are more productive than newly-hired employees.
Joan C. Williams is Distinguished Professor of Law and the Founding Director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. She is also chair of the UC Hastings Foundation. She received her J.D. from Harvard Law School, an M.A. in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a B.A. in history from Yale University.
Williams was awarded the Families and Work Institute Work Life Legacy Award (2014), Hastings Visionary Award (2013), American Bar Foundation's Outstanding Scholar Award (2012), the Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award (2012), the ABA’s Margaret Brent Award for Women Lawyers of Achievement (2006), the Distinguished Publication Award of the Association for Women in Psychology (2003), and the Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award for “Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and What to Do About It” (Oxford University Press, 2000). In recognition of her interdisciplinary work, Williams gave the 2008 Massey Lectures in American Civilization at Harvard University, delivered in prior years by (among others) Eudora Welty, Gore Vidal, and Toni Morrison. She is the author or co-author of more than 90 academic articles and book chapters, along with eight books, most recently “What Works for Women at Work: Four Patterns Every Woman Should Know” (NYU Press, 2014) with her daughter, Rachel Dempsey.