Starbucks workers usually seem pretty happy with their jobs — often downright enthusiastic. With equal parts inspiration, perspiration and caffeine, most workers seem to do well.
And yet, when it comes to managing worker hours, Starbucks comes under much of the same scrutiny as other retail chains, including Whole Foods and other "great places to work." Since Starbucks workers, perhaps worried about spoiling a good thing, don't tend to complain much publicly, it took a recent expose in the New York Times to rouse management into action.
Late last week, according to the Times, Cliff Burrows, Starbucks' group president, U.S., Americas, and Teavana, announced that the company would moderate scheduling demands on its baristas. In particular, the company would address the "clopening" problem whereby workers are required to lock up the store late at night only to reopen in the wee hours the next day.
Mr. Burrows' statement was a direct response to the Times' Aug. 13 feature, subtitled "Scheduling Technology Leaves Low-Income Parents With Hours of Chaos." The piece profiled a 22-year-old Starbucks barista, Jannette Navarro, who struggles to provide childcare for her 4-year-old son while dealing with her erratic work schedule.
According to the story: "She rarely learned her schedule more than three days before the start of a workweek, plunging her into urgent logistical puzzles over who would watch the boy."
Starbucks, said Mr. Burrows, will now make changes to its workforce management software to give managers more say in keeping work hours reasonable. Mr. Burrows also promised to enforce a rule calling for schedules to be posted at least a week in advance.
Consistent practices appear to be a sizable part of Starbucks' problem. In a Reddit.com online forum intended for Starbucks workers, one recently transferred employee checked about company rules with his colleagues: "My new manager has a habit of scheduling people to close (11:30) and then open (4:30), and working 7+ days in a row, and no one bats an eye."
The responses varied:
"I have been told, by multiple SMs, that the company does frown upon having less than 8 hrs. between shifts."
"Hmm as far as I knew 'clopens' were a no no."
"The company doesn't like them but there isn't a fixed national policy against them I've been made aware of..."
"I have always been under the impression that the manager has to expressly ask you if you are ok with a clopen... I personally like it some days, as long as it's in the same store."
Overall, Starbucks is rated fairly well by its employees. On Glassdoor.com, a workplace evaluation site, Starbucks workers give the company a 3.7 satisfaction rating out of a possible 5. By comparison, Costco, rated #1 among retail companies last year by Glassdoor as a place to work, currently gets a 3.9 rating.
One former barista interviewed by Glassdoor may have summed it up best. "Great company if you can handle it. ... I once spoke with my manager because my schedule was being changed with less than 24 hours notice, and that was against state law. She got this crazed look in her eye and spat 'Starbucks law goes above state law!'"
Do you think Starbucks needs to significantly moderate the pressure they put on their workers?