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Predictability at work improves health and well-being, research says

Alongside wages, work schedules are a fundamental component of job quality. A study conducted by professors from the University of California and Harvard Kennedy School found that a Seattle ordinance requiring more notice in scheduling for hourly workers resulted in more predictable shifts. This increased stability led to improvements in worker well-being, sleep quality, and economic security. 

In 2017, Seattle became the second large US city to pass fair workweek legislation. Seattle’s Secure Scheduling ordinance aims to increase schedule predictability by requiring employers to provide two-week notice of work schedules, among other provisions. 

“Our paper shows that Seattle’s law not only increased schedule predictability but also improved subjective well-being, sleep quality, and economic security.” 

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), looked at the impact of the new ordinance during its first two years in effect. The law regulates work schedules in the retail and foodservice sectors for companies with 500 or more employees worldwide and restaurants with at least 500 employees and 40 outlets. The researchers compared the outcomes to those of shift workers in other cities that do not have such scheduling requirements. 

The paper notes that work schedules in the service sector are frequently unstable and unpredictable. But given that shift workers often are low-paid and face other stresses, the role of unpredictable scheduling has been hard to measure. 

The findings suggest that eliminating all forms of schedule unpredictability would measurably increase the share of workers reporting good sleep and would reduce the percentage of workers experiencing material hardship. 

“Fair workweek legislation like the [Seattle] Secure Scheduling ordinance can be effective in increasing schedule predictability and improving worker well-being,” researchers conclude.

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Source: PNAS