Parents who are shift workers face a unique set of challenges when it comes to scheduling. From a parent’s perspective, they want to have flexibility in their schedule so that they are able to meet the demands of their child, whether it be attending activities their child participates in, picking them up from school when they are sick, or being with them when childcare is unavailable. From an employer’s perspective, they want to have their shifts covered so that they are able to run their business, but they want to be accommodating of unforeseeable situations that arise for their workers.
We spoke to a Dairy Queen franchise owner, Amy Popenhagen, who is a parent herself and also has employees who are parents, to see how she handles work schedules for parents.
Q: What are some of the challenges parents face related to their work schedules?
A: Parents want to be able to attend activities their child is in and we do our best to allow our employees to do so. Our employees end up working half shifts so that they can take the time off. However, allowing parents to leave on short notice oftentimes leaves us with not enough coverage at night.
Many of our employees also need to work around their spouse’s schedule so that at least one of them is able to care for their child or be able to all have off at the same time so that they can spend time as a family. It is challenging to balance those needs so that we have enough help on each shift. We realize parents need to take care of their child, so we make our best effort to accommodate their requests for time off.
Q: How often do you need to make scheduling changes on short notice due to family obligations?
A: All the time. We need to make scheduling changes to accommodate for family obligations several times per week.
Q: How do you and your employees make scheduling changes on short notice?
A: Before we started using an app to manage schedules, our employees would text me and my husband that they needed someone to fill in for them on their shift. It was really distracting to receive so many text messages.
Now, the scheduling app allows our employees to request time off and swap shifts. All we need to do is go into the app and approve it. We want to make sure that the people scheduled to work together will work well as a team. It is important that our workers swap shifts with others in the same pay grade so that we don’t end up spending more on payroll.
We also want to make sure that when an employee picks up a shift that we don’t end up having to pay overtime. Since the app is still new to our employees, if they text us that they need to make a change to their schedule, we text back and remind them to use the scheduling app to make the change.
They usually only need to be reminded once. This has greatly reduced the number of text messages we need to reply to regarding shift changes. Our employees can instantly see the schedule and I love that.
Q: How does scheduling for parents compare to scheduling for non-parents?
A: Since we allow our employees who are parents to take time off when they need to in order to accommodate the needs of their child, we try to give workers without families the same flexibility for time off.
Employers who want to provide flexibility in scheduling should make sure they have the proper tools in place to manage schedule changes, otherwise they will end up spending additional time making accommodations.
Working parents want flexibility in their schedules and will seek employers who offer them this flexibility. But don’t forget, if you offer working parents flexible schedules, make sure you offer the same benefit to everyone in your company.