Survey: Unpredictable Schedules Taking a Toll on Workers' Financial, Mental Health

Paychex research finds part-timers more likely to report financial distress resulting from irregular schedules
grocery cashier
Photograph: Shutterstock

Irregular work schedules are a stressor for American workers, new research from HR software provider Paychex finds, with schedule unpredictability having an impact on employees' financial and mental health and contributing to worker burnout.

With work environments, companies' staffing needs and workers' daily routines still shifting more than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, 3 in 10 U.S. employees say they have slightly or extremely unpredictable work schedules, according to Paychex's online survey of 605 U.S. workers. Part-time workers, who make up about 20% of the U.S. workforce, unsurprisingly were more likely to report schedule irregularity, and they were more likely than full-time workers (34% vs. 26%) to report experiencing financial distress as a result of unpredictable schedules.

Across the full-time and part-time workforce, employees said schedule unpredictability was associated with:

  • 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%)

Millennials (44%) and Gen Z workers (43%) reported greater burnout related to unpredictable schedules than Gen X (35%) or boomer (33%) workers. Gen Z workers also were more likely than older workers to say that their hours worked per week had changed as a result of the pandemic, with a slightly larger share reporting their hours had decreased (31%) vs. increased (28%).

Hybrid workers were more likely than both fully remote and fully on-site employees to report feeling disconnected from their family and friends (36%) and/or their team/job (26%). In addition, hybrid workers were more likely than fully on-site or fully remote employees to say they're working more hours than before the pandemic.

"As employers consider their processes related to employee schedulingonly 34% of employees said they can choose the days or hours they'd like to workthey should consider both short- and long-term impacts when schedules stray from regularity, and prioritize flexibility, strong communication, and well-being support," Paychex Director of HR Services Alison Stevens said in a news release.

Last April, Walmart, the country's largest private employer and biggest grocery retailer, made moves to improve schedule predictability for its associates across the country, announcing that it planned to move more employees from part time to full time and have two-thirds of hourly roles at U.S. Walmart stores be full time by the end of the company's fiscal year, with consistent schedules from week to week. Having a predictable schedule, Walmart U.S. People Operations SVP Drew Holler said at the time, makes it easier for associates to plan for "all of the important things going on outside of work."

In September, FMI–The Food Industry Association President and CEO Leslie Sarasin called food retailers' labor and staffing challenges unprecedented, and the association reported in its annual SPEAKS survey analysis that 80% of food retailers it had polled said their ability to attract and retain workers had been challenged in the past year, to negative business effect. 



More from our partners