Work schedules can be an important source of employment instability in today’s labor market. Unpredictable and variable work hours and work during nonstandard times of the day — especially when outside of employees’ control — can limit earnings, impede performance, and interfere with workers’ access to social benefits defined in both workplace and public policy. Work schedule characteristics such as these can also interfere with caregiving and the organization and management of family life, with potentially profound consequences for child and family well-being.

The University of Chicago Work Scheduling Study (WSS) is a multi-component case study that examines work scheduling practices and their consequences in one national women’s retail apparel firm that operates over 800 stores nationwide. A sample of stores across states in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast United States were selected to be part of the study. These stores are located in urban and suburban strip malls, discount outlet malls, and large shopping centers featuring big box stores and other retailers. Distinct components of the WSS project include an analysis of firm-level administrative data on turnover and retention, store-level payroll and scheduling data on work hours and schedules, a RCT workplace intervention designed to increase schedule notice, and in-person interviews and telephone surveys with managers and sales staff. Overall, 150 stores and over 600 store managers, assistant managers, sales associates, and other store employees participated in one or more parts of the project over the course of the study.

To learn more about the different empirical components of the WSS case study click here.

To access publications from the WSS case study click here.

To read a brief summary of key WSS case study findings click here.