Impacts of Unpredictable Work Schedules

New research from Paychex reveals the adverse impacts of unpredictable work schedules on full-time and part-time employees. Given the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic and related staffing challenges, three-in-ten respondents reported having slightly or extremely unpredictable work schedules.

According to the report, respondents indicated that the top five impacts of an irregular schedule are:

  • Difficulty scheduling personal commitments (44%)
  • Feeling burned out (39%)
  • Financial distress (30%)
  • Feeling disconnected from family and friends (30%)
  • Inability to take care of mental health (24%)

Part-time Workers Face Challenges Due to Unpredictable Schedules

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, part-time workers make up about 20% of the employed U.S. workforce. Of those part-time workers, 63% are women. The Paychex research found that schedules were more likely to be slightly or extremely unpredictable for part-time workers (31%) than full-time workers (23%). Part-time employees are also facing other challenges:

  • Part-time workers (34%) are more likely to report financial distress as an outcome of having an unpredictable schedule compared to full-time workers (26%).
  • Part-time workers (42%) are more likely to report working fewer hours per week due to the COVID-19 pandemic than full-time workers (21%).

“The future workplace will likely continue with part- and full-time workers in a variety of settings and schedules, and employees are experiencing challenges with unpredictable schedules,” said Alison Stevens, director of HR Services at Paychex. “As employers consider their processes related to employee scheduling – only 34% of employees said they can choose the days or hours they’d like to work – they should consider both short- and long-term impacts when schedules stray from regularity, and prioritize flexibility, strong communication, and well-being support.”

Hybrid Workers’ Sentiments on Work Schedules

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed hybrid workers’ schedules, with 29% of hybrid workers saying they are now working more hours per week, compared to 21% of fully on-site and 25% of remote employees.

Other key findings about hybrid workers and schedule instability include:

  • Struggles with Mental Health: Hybrid workers (29%) are more likely to report difficulty taking care of mental health due to unpredictable schedules than fully remote workers (23%) and fully on-site workers (21%).
  • Work Life Balance Issues: Hybrid workers (36%) are more likely to feel disconnected from their family and friends due to an unpredictable schedule than fully on-site workers (31%) and fully remote workers (21%).
  • Disconnect in the Office: Hybrid workers (26%) are significantly more likely to feel disconnected from their team/job because of an unpredictable schedule than fully on-site workers (17%) and fully remote workers (15%).

Younger Generations Feel the Impacts of Schedule Instability
According to the report, A Disrupted Year: How the Arrival of Covid-19 Affected Youth Disconnection by Measure of America, some younger workers have removed themselves from the job market entirely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the Paychex study, among the generations surveyed, Gen Z was more likely to report that their hours worked per week had changed as a result of the pandemic, with 31% saying their hours decreased and 28% saying they increased.

The key challenges younger generations say they face with an unpredictable schedule are:

  • Burn Out: Millennials (44%) and Gen Z (43%) are more likely to feel burnt out due to an unpredictable work schedule compared to Boomers (33%) and Gen X (35%).
  • Personal Development: Millennials (24%) and Gen Z (28%) are more likely to say they’re unable to prioritize their development due to an unpredictable work schedule than older generations (Boomers 12%; Gen X 17%).
  • Mental Health: Millennials (29%) are more likely to say they’re unable to take care of their mental health as a result of unpredictable work schedules compared to Boomers (14%).

“We’ve seen the workplace evolve so much over the past few years, including hours worked by employees. Over half (55%) of respondents in this report say the hours they work per week has changed since the pandemic,” said Jeanne Meister, the founder of Future Workplace and executive vice president at Executive Networks. “Employers need to do what they can to help support workers feeling the pressure of an unpredictable schedule.”

For more insights from this survey, please view the full research report.

About the Research
This data is the result of an online survey of 605 full-time and part-time employees at small to mid-size businesses in the U.S. fielded from February 18 – March 1, 2022. Note: For this study, basis of pay (i.e., salaried versus hourly) was not collected from respondents. This is a survey in a series of research reports administered by Future Workplace that will focus on the employee point of view and pinpoint top concerns, priorities, and trends facing the modern workforce.


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