Research Seminar

Hard Times: Routine Schedule Unpredictability, Worker Wellbeing, and What to Do About it

Examining the challenges faced by essential service sector workers in the U.S., both pre and post-COVID19, using data from the Shift Project. The study highlights the prevalence of unstable work schedules and assesses the potential for improved employer practices and local labour policies to enhance scheduling stability.

Service sector workers have been heralded as essential workers, critical to the national effort to fight COVID19. However, service sector workers contended with precarious jobs before the COVID19 crisis and also bore the brunt of the first economic shocks of the COVID19 pandemic. Prof. Schneider introduces and draws on data from the Shift Project to describe the reality of working conditions for America's retail, food service, grocery, pharmacy, and fulfillment workers, before and during the COVID19 pandemic, with a particular focus on work scheduling. It shows that unstable and unpredictable work schedules are widespread and pose challenges for workers and their families. They then exploit the employer-employee linked structure of Shift and targeted geographic over-samples to assess the potential for firms to take a “high road” approach to work scheduling and the efficacy of local labour standards that “raise the floor” on scheduling.

Daniel Schneider is the Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and Professor of Sociology at FAS. Professor Schneider completed his B.A. in Public Policy at Brown University in 2003 and earned his PhD in Sociology and Social Policy from Princeton University in 2012. Prior to joining Harvard, he was a faculty member in the Department of Sociology at UC Berkeley and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Postdoctoral Scholar in Health Policy Research at Berkeley/UCSF. Professor Schneider’s research interests are focused on social demography, inequality, and the family. He has written on class inequality in parenting, the role of economic resources in marriage, divorce, and fertility, the effects of the Great Recession, and the scope of household financial fragility. As Co-Director of The Shift Project, his current research focuses on how precarious and unpredictable work schedules affects household economic security and worker and family health and wellbeing.