The Effects of Inconsistent Work Schedules on Employee Lateness and Absenteeism
39 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2023
Date Written: August 6, 2023
Problem Definition: Employee lateness and absenteeism pose challenges for businesses, particularly in the retail industry, where punctuality is vital for optimal store operations and customer service. This paper relates employee lateness and absenteeism with inconsistent work schedules. We address three questions: (1) How common is employee lateness and absenteeism at the shift level? (2) How prevalent are inconsistent work schedules? (3) Is there a causal relationship between inconsistent work schedules and employee lateness and absenteeism?
Methodology/Results: Analyzing more than 28 million shift level timecards from two major retail chains covering more than 135,000 employees across 1,000 store locations, we empirically analyze the causal effects of inconsistent work schedules on employee lateness and absenteeism. We focus on two mutually exclusive types of inconsistent work schedules: (i) shifts that are scheduled on a day of the week (e.g. Monday) that the employee did not work the prior week, and (ii) shifts that are scheduled on a day of the week that the employee did work the prior week, but with a start time that differs by more than one hour. We first document that lateness or absenteeism, as well as inconsistent work schedules, are highly prevalent in our data. They occur in approximately 4.6 million (16\%) and 10.7 million (37\%) shifts, respectively. Following the identification strategies of Du et al. (2023) and Bergman et al. (2023), we find that inconsistent work schedules significantly increase the probability of lateness and absenteeism at the shift level. Heterogeneous effects analyses show that these results are primarily driven by the behavior of full-time employees, who may value schedule consistency more than their part-time counterparts.
Managerial Implications: We provide causal evidence of the adverse effects of inconsistent work schedules on employee lateness and absenteeism, which have plausible connections to store performance. Inconsistent work schedules are prevalent in our data, which could reflect the need for flexible and short-notice scheduling practices in the retail industry. Consequently, our findings may assist managers in evaluating the trade-offs of inconsistent work schedules, especially when they are necessary due to fluctuations in demand or disruptions in labor supply.
Keywords: Labor Scheduling, Inconsistent Work Schedules, Lateness and Absenteeism
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