A roundup of recent employment research

What do the experts have to say?

There is no shortage of news about employment and workplace trends and issues, but much of the commentary lacks a strong evidentiary basis. For example, while “quiet quitting” made headlines in the fall, it is unclear whether the behavior was actually occurring at any meaningful or novel rate. As another example, a consortium of advocacy groups and academics released a report in February that purportedly showed the benefits of a four-day workweek. I blogged about my concerns with the report’s methodology and conclusions.

For these reasons, employers should seek out more rigorous studies or analyses about workplace issues, ideally ones that have been published in peer-reviewed academic journals. Below is a summary of some recent research that is more reliable:

  • Pay transparency. The Society for Human Resource Management recently concluded a poll of 1,386 HR professionals and 484 working Americans. The results (subscription required) showed that 70 percent of organizations that list pay ranges for job postings said that doing so led to more applicants as well as higher quality applicants. The data also showed a preference by applicants for pay transparency – 82 percent of workers said they would be more likely to apply for a job if the pay range was listed. Conversely, 74 percent of workers said they would be less likely to apply if the pay range was not listed.
  • Remote work not such a boon? In March, the Integrated Benefits Institute, a health care think tank in San Francisco, found that remote working is associated with slightly higher rates of depression and anxiety as contrasted with in-person work. A description of the research is available here but, according to the IBI, the report will not be publicly available until June.
  • The good finish last? In this article, the authors asked nearly 1,400 managers how they would treat a fictional employee under various scenarios. The results showed that when the employee was described as being loyal – willing to take on extra assignments and work additional hours – the employee was more subject to exploitation than less loyal employees. The research reinforces the need for employers to treat workers fairly and to reward those who are most loyal and diligent.
  • Predictable scheduling increases job satisfaction. Using survey data from 121,408 older workers in the service sector, these researchers found that job scheduling predictability had a positive correlation with job satisfaction and a sense of well-being. Similarly, a study of Gap stores that was conducted in 2015 and 2016 found that schedule predictability was connected with improved sales and productivity.
  • Schedule flexibility results in more applicants. This study found that jobs offering schedule flexibility received more applications and that jobs requiring employees to work at the discretion of their managers received far fewer applications.
  • Less motivation to work weekends, holidays. This paper found that employees who work on weekends and holidays are less motivated, in part because they spend time considering counterfactuals as to how their time could have been better spent.

*Hat tip to the “Bartleby” column in The Economist (subscription required), which regularly provides information about studies concerning the workplace.

Robin Shea has 30 years' experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act). 
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