Human Capital Management Blog

Strategies for HCM Professionals

Clopening: A Hidden Danger to the Customer Experience

By  John Orr, SVP of Retail, Ceridian

Clopening.  While this catchphrase sounds funny, its impact on retail workers, shift employees and customers is far from a laughing matter. Clopening is the practice of scheduling employee to work a closing and opening shift back-to-back — often with very limited time for the employee to sleep between the shifts.

So why do some retailers and other employers schedule employees like this? There are a number of reasons often fueled by the pressure to ensure coverage and accommodate customers with longer store or service hours.  For example, many fast-food restaurants and other service businesses have high employee turnover and may be left with only a few trusted employees who have the authority and experience to close at night and open in the morning.

While there are perceived cost-savings associated with a “lean” workforce, retailers and other employers need to consider the negative mental and physical impact on their employees and how this cascades to the customers they serve. Because clopening negatively impacts sleep health, some of the short- and long-term mental and physical effects include: impaired judgment and slowed reaction times; errors and accidents; interpersonal conflict; shifts in mood; obesity; mental illness; depression, and chronic health concerns.

The Ceridian sleep study covered nearly 700 North American HR professionals from a variety of industries. One of the key findings was that shift workers are especially vulnerable to poor sleep practices.  While half of the survey respondents offered shift work, only a third of them scheduled shifts in a manner that supports generally accepted principles of sleep health. For example, changing shifts frequently, limited time lapses between shifts (i.e., clopening) or working against the biological clock can be extremely detrimental to sleep health.

Retail employees – particularly those in customer-facing roles – can’t provide a positive customer experience in a diminished, sleep-impaired state.  Even worse, employees suffering from the sleep-robbing effects of clopening could potentially detract from the customer experience.

So what can be done to improve this situation?  Several high-profile employers, such as Starbucks, have been changing scheduling practices including eliminating the practice of clopening. Instead of waiting for legislation to force the issue, employers should voluntarily change this practice.

Employers can start with a thoughtful and thorough review of policies and scheduling practices to determine if they support employee well-being.  This can be challenging if there is a lot of schedule irregularity or if employees are able to choose their own shifts or switch shifts with other associates without any consideration of sleep health.  Current workforce management technology solutions, such as Dayforce Workforce Management, can ensure that schedules are fair and can also alert managers when schedules are problematic so that they can proactively participate in improving work-life balance.

Employers, especially retailers, need to connect the dots between clopening, sleep health and employee well-being. Retailers rely and invest heavily in customer-facing staff because they know it’s critical to the customer experience and the bottom line. It naturally follows that employers who implement practices, policies and technologies that support employee well-being and work-life balance will do a better job recruiting and retaining the best talent.

John Orr


John Orr is the SVP of Retail at Ceridian. Follow him on Twitter at @John_Orr. 

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