WORKER STORIES | WHAT WE HEARD
STABLE AND FLEXIBLE:
THE FLOOR OF A GOOD JOB
Workers overwhelmingly said their jobs had stable schedules and flexible work arrangements. Why does this matter? These workers reported schedules and work arrangements that allowed them to manage child care, maintain part-time work to supplement wages, or consider going back to school. This was important so they could plan around other financial needs and personal responsibilities.
“I was sensitive about [not making as much money]. When I first got out of the military, I outranked [my husband]. But he’s good that I’m happy now. My goal was to get my degree. I sacrificed. I never planned to be a stay-at-home mom or wife and for him to travel a lot…. Sometimes it has to be that way. No regrets.”
Forty-five-year-old Kim is high energy and organized, and she likes to keep busy—traits that served her well during the eight years she spent in the Air Force based out of Colorado. When deciding to start a family, Kim and her husband agreed she would stay home when the children were young, despite her higher military rank and pay. As their three children grew older, she began working nights as a server at restaurants. After a decade in that work—and with the children grown—she went back to school and completed her bachelor’s degree.
Kim now has two years of administrative experience working for a small, privately owned K-5 charter school. Putting her organizational skills to use, she handles all the administrative details for the school, ranging from planning the bus schedule and managing support staff to acting as an all-around troubleshooter.
Transitioning to administrative work took some confidence building: she felt at a disadvantage with no recent experience on her resume. As a result, the greatest value she ascribes to her current job is not the money she earns or the skills she is putting to use, but rather the confidence it has given her to move her career forward.
80% of workers say they have stable schedules. 87% say their schedules are flexible.
Arturo, a 31-year-old former security guard educated as a computer technician, said the stable (and safer) schedule afforded at a computer repair shop is vastly different from working nights and weekends in his former job at a Bronx housing project. A set daytime schedule allows him to take a quick bus ride home to pick up his young daughter if necessary, a luxury not possible when working security. At his previous job, his schedule was unpredictable and included weekend shifts, making for an often stressful and difficult family life. His now-stable schedule has improved his relationship with his partner.
“...It works out to have the flexibility of part time given what I’m working toward … that’s why I haven’t been concerned about getting a full-time [job] because I want the flexibility to move in a new direction.”
After working for almost 20 years in accounting and finance positions at both large and small companies, Elizabeth —an accountant at a pedicab company — has a very flexible work arrangement that she appreciates, given her future goals. She works two days per week at the pedicab company and three days a week keeping the books for a small furniture business in Brooklyn. She notes that the pedicab job is more flexible by far; she is largely able to chart her own hours and can take personal time off for doctor’s appointments or other errands, making the hours up later. This arrangement is important to her goal of taking on more Spanish translation work as she completes a certificate in translation at New York University. She says her job for the furniture company will be the first to go as she secures more translation work. Ideally, she would build her translation business (which she finds very satisfying) and keep the pedicab job as a stable financial anchor.
“...[U]npredictable hours and schedules exacerbate financial instability because workers cannot plan or save money when the number of hours they work and their schedules change from week to week.”
Gabriela shares an administrative and finance position with a fellow employee at a waxing services shop owned by her mother-in-law near downtown Miami. Her previous job was very different — she was a full-time addiction counselor at a group home in California. She moved with her children and husband to Florida to be closer to family. Although she found similar work opportunities in the rehabilitation field in Miami, a bachelor’s degree was required to earn the $25 per hour she made at her last job in California. Jobs available to individuals with her experience, but without a degree, paid much less and provided no flexibility. They also required her to be on call after typical working hours, leaving no time for school pickup, family dinners or helping with homework. Gabriela switched to working 28 hours per week at the waxing shop because the pay difference was minimal and the job provided necessary stability and flexibility. The stable schedule leaves her time to be with her daughters after school; the flexibility to adjust work hours with her co-worker will allow her to complete her college degree if she decides to return to the rehabilitation field (something she is currently considering).
“My schedule is super flexible but stable—it only changes when I want it to.”
Kendra, a 21-year-old massage therapist, is expecting her first child. For six months, she has worked at an independently owned studio in San Diego that has a warm, supportive atmosphere. Previously, Kendra worked at a large massage chain for one week, which was long enough for her to figure out what she does not want in a job: a corporate environment, inflexible hours, and a lack of collegiality. Kendra mentions repeatedly how comfortable she feels being pregnant at the current studio, where she is surrounded by caring coworkers and can balance work she loves with taking care of herself. She is extremely appreciative of the schedule, which she describes as “super flexible but stable—it only changes when I want it to.” She explains that she adjusts her schedule as her pregnancy advances, easily swapping shifts with coworkers to attend prenatal doctor visits. Planning to take time off when the baby is born, Kendra is confident the studio will accommodate her scheduling preferences when she is ready to return, even if that means working just one shift a week.
“Low-wage workers benefit from stable schedules,
advance notice of scheduling & scheduling choice.”