People Management

The Labor Shortage: Flexible Hours to the Rescue

By Andrée-Anne Blais-Auclair October 26 2021

Do you feel helpless in the face of the labor shortage? What if I told you that the solution lies in offering your employees flexible hours?


When it comes to combating the labor shortage and promoting better employee retention, flexible hours are your best bet. Think they would be impossible in your workplace? Think again!

Flexible schedules have positive impacts on multiple levels:

Yes, Everyone Can Offer Flexible Hours!

By nature, some companies will always be able to offer their employees more flexible work hours than others. At these companies, there’s no need to schedule a doctor’s appointment in advance or feel guilty about missing a day of work because of a sick child; the hours are simply made up as soon as possible, and that’s that.

Dans les entreprises de services où existent des contraintes d’heures – restaurants, commerces de détail, cliniques ou maisons de retraite – on ne peut pas composer aussi facilement avec des absences imprévues.

But in service businesses that must contend with time constraints—such as restaurants, retail stores, clinics, and nursing homes—unexpected absences are not so easy to manage.

This being said, less flexibility does not mean no flexibility at all. No matter what your situation, it is possible to give back some power to your team members.

Allow Employees to Trade Shifts

Allow your employees to trade shifts as needed. I remember working at a restaurant where this practice was frowned upon. The employees were discouraged, especially since we could lose a shift permanently. My manager told us in no uncertain terms that if we were missing in action, it was because we had other priorities than work…

This is nonsense—of course employees have other priorities than their work, and this is even more true for those who also happen to be in school.

Think about the message this sends and the pressure it generates.

Dare to Ask For Your Employees’ Preferences

Managers tend to ask their employees for their availability rather than their preferences. This is a holdover from an outdated and super-hierarchical vision of work in which employees are less important than their bosses. Today, we know that no organization can function without its employees.

Nowadays, we tend to take their needs into account rather than exploiting them to the fullest possible extent, as if they were inexhaustible resources.

So why not ask your employees what work schedule they would prefer? Starting with preferences already gives employees the impression that you are prioritizing their well-being. It doesn’t mean that you can give everyone exactly what they would have liked, but it’s a good way to build your relationship.

Authorize Time off as Soon as Possible

Leave requests are often a huge source of stress for employers, especially when they’re short on replacements.

This being said, giving employees time off is an act of consideration and empathy. An employee who feels valued will often in turn want to put in more time.

The labor market is changing and the quality of life a job provides is increasingly becoming the number one criterion for most workers.

Explore Rotating Schedules

Rotating schedules are fixed schedules, but they allow for different shifts to be worked in the course of a week, while still providing some regularity. For example, rather than having an employee work Thursday, Friday and Saturday night every week, you can alternate.

As a student, I also waitressed on the side, and I can’t even begin to tell you how upset I was when I was told that my work schedule would require me to give up my weekend nights. I would have loved to know that every other week or every three weeks, for example, I could plan a dinner with friends. Rotating schedules are a way to help meet this need for flexibility.

Give Back Some Power to Your Employees!

In today’s job market, employees don’t want a job they feel subjected to. Since schedules are key to job satisfaction, adopting flexible schedules is a must.

After all, people’s quality of life depends in large part on their ability to balance work and personal life.

Give it some thought!


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