The Rise Of Mobile Scheduling Apps In A Gig Economy

By Jaime Lizotte, HR Solutions Manager at ComplyRight, Inc.

Have you ever observed people working on their computers at your local coffee shop during the traditional 9-5 work day? Or maybe glanced out your window to see who’s enjoying a scenic walk at 2:00 p.m.? With the rise of the gig economy, it’s true that many of these individuals may be freelancers who are afforded flexibility to create their own schedules. Service providers such as Uber, Wag and TaskRabbit have structured their business models around the on-the-go and on-demand nature of the gig economy. However, the flexible schedule trend birthed by the gig economy is no longer just for freelancers. Mobile scheduling apps have also permeated the traditional business model, eliminating the need for employers and employees to interact through personal networks (texts, calls, emails) when schedules change.

For business owners apt to embrace new technology, scheduling apps have eased the time-consuming process of assembling employee schedules. For employees, scheduling apps have generated sense of autonomy—an environment where everyone feels like the boss. However, with newfound power available at the touch of a button, employers face increase complexities to comply with rules and regulations.

What’s The Commotion?

Scheduling apps have gained traction with both employer and employee audiences because of their convenience, affordability and the wealth of information they can provide. The web and mobile-based scheduling tools have begun to eliminate a process long considered to be “analog,” bogged down by timesheets and “punching in.” They can help reduce the administrative burden and time it requires both employers and employees to monitor schedules, while increasing transparency through the ability to view multiple days, employees scheduled or locations at a time. Employers can generate schedules based on templates from previous weeks. Furthermore, the scheduling databases can host pertinent information for employers and employees. For example, the TrackSmart Scheduling employee application by ComplyRight gives employers access to their employees contact information within the application. Through this kind of consolidation, employers can post public in-app announcements, or send texts to individual employees regarding shift changes. Finally, employers can gain back the time they previously spent on paperwork or employee outreach in a cost-effective way.  Certain apps may be free or available at a minimal charge, based on their needs.

What Are The Challenges?

While apps certainly afford employers benefits, in turn they now present a new set of challenges. In some instances, employers are embracing the move toward scheduling apps, whereas other corporations such as Starbucks are reluctant to weaken the ties between manager and employee and “encourage our partners to involve their managers when it comes to making adjustments to their schedules.” Before incorporating scheduling apps into your day-to-day operations, consider and be aware of how this increased flexibly and sharing of information could impact your business:

  1. Unexpected Overtime Pay
    • If an employee can pick up extra shifts at the store through an app, he or she could potentially be picking up enough hours to be paid overtime wages. In turn, your business could face the financial repercussions of unanticipated overtime. The best way to avoid running into this issue is to set guidelines for overage hours ahead of time.
  2. Risk of Breaking the Law
    • Scheduling apps can contribute to compliance ambiguity and office policy. If you employ minors and they pick up extra shifts without your knowledge, it can put your business in danger of violating child labor laws. Ensure that if younger employees are deviating significantly from their set schedule, they are approving changes with a higher authority to avoid such violations.
  3. Lack of Transparency
    • Even though your business may not have formally endorsed scheduling apps, your workers could still be utilizing app services without your knowledge. It becomes problematic as employees are allowed their virtual privacy, yet missteps could endanger your business. Create strict company guidelines about what is and isn’t acceptable for shift swapping. If you and your employees prefer scheduling apps, make sure you’re an active participant or admin in the group.

Will Your Business Be Next?

The best approach to incorporating scheduling apps into your workplace is a bit of a goldilocks equation- nothing too hot and nothing too cold. The balance of responsibility and flexibility in scheduling needs to be just right to avoid excessive overtime wages or potential legal threats.

So how can your business most effectively leverage scheduling apps? First, track labor costs as they occur by calculating employee wages into shift costs and forecast for future shifts. Many scheduling apps have features that will track labor costs in real-time, thus making payroll calculations at the end of the week or month fast and easy. Second, own and assess the data analytics from your time scheduling application. Are there certain trends you can detect from your employees’ behaviors? If so, how can you leverage this knowledge to make smarter decisions about scheduling? If your morning employee is always swapping with your afternoon employee, why not switch them? By anticipating employee habits, you can prevent conflicts and situations before they arise.

Jaime Lizotte is HR Solutions Manager of  ComplyRight, which creates practical solutions to help employers streamline administrative tasks and simplify compliance with federal, state and local labor laws.

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