Are compressed work schedules the answer to restaurant manager retention?

Last week in my fourth-year class I asked students if they would rather work Monday to Friday 9-5 or have a schedule that saw them work four days from 10-10 followed by four days off.  A resounding majority of the students stated they would rather work long, tough hours for four days straight and then enjoy four days off in a row.  Although a small and informal sample this result seems to go against some of our industry’s thinking that millennials do not want to work hard.

This idea of working longer shifts but working less days is known as a compressed work schedule and has been around for decades. Common in healthcare, policing and other emergency services, research on this topic has shown these schedules can lead to a better work life balance.  As someone whose full- time job is ‘working with millennials’ I’m not surprised to find this idea of more ‘time off’ is exactly what this generation is looking for. It is my experience that millennials don’t mind hard work, it’s just that they value their down-time more than other generations. The opportunity to travel is also something very important to this generation and I’m not just talking about a camping trip in the summer. Young people want to have extended travel adventures, or lots of shorter ones.

What this tells us is that the common restaurant schedule where expectations are that managers work 5 days a week for 10-12 hour shifts is not going to cut it with this younger generation of managers. It’s time for restaurant companies to be more innovative with their manager schedules.  The industry needs to stop thinking in terms of scheduling by the week and start looking at schedules by the month and even by the year.  When I asked my class to comment on why they liked the idea of working in four-day blocks one student responded, “I could use only four vacation days and actually have 12 days off in a row to travel”.  Another student commented that both her mother who is a nurse and father who is a firefighter both have compressed work schedules and the family has benefitted from both their parents being around a lot.

When it seems to be more challenging then ever to attract and retain quality young people into management jobs in our industry isn’t it time to re-evaluate the model?  Our scheduling and expectations for managers have not changed in decades but we continue to do the same old thing we have done for years.  It amazes me how much ‘talk’ and effort there is in industry to change to meet the needs of millennials as restaurant consumers but there is little to no effort on changing to meet the needs of millennials as our employees.  As an educator I know I can’t approach student learning the way my Professors did 30 years ago. I realized a few years ago I had two choices; try to change a generation, or embrace what it had to offer and adapt.  Perhaps its time for the restaurant industry to ask itself the same question!

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