Lowe's workers say that the home-improvement giant's new scheduling policies are leaving some employees feeling like they're 'walking on eggshells'

lowe's employeeMohammad Khursheed/Reuters

  • Lowe's store employees say that the company's new scheduling policies are driving down morale.
  • In October, Business Insider spoke to 17 current and former Lowe's workers in stores across the country about issues facing workers. Of those employees, 10 cited scheduling as a problem affecting morale.
  • Lowe's recently switched its scheduling system from a four-week rotation - one that ensured full-time workers would get one weekend off a month - to a policy known as "customer-centric scheduling."
  • Employees say the new system only gives them one weekend off every eight weeks and makes it harder to manage their lives outside of work. Other workers took issue with recent changes to policies around clocking in and out.
  • A Lowe's spokesperson told Business Insider the scheduling model "is very similar to what other large retailers use and allows us to staff our stores tailored to customer needs."
  • "The new scheduling model also provides a more consistent schedule for our full-time associates," the spokesperson said in a statement.
  • Sign up for Business Insider's retail newsletter, The Drive-Thru.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Lowe's employees say that a series of policy changes around workers' schedules have sunk morale within the home-improvement retailer's stores.

Last month, Business Insider published a story about declining spirits among Lowe's workers, interviewing 17 current and former Lowe's employees from 14 different states.

One of the primary issues 10 of these workers spoke about had to do with changes to the scheduling policies for full-time employees.

The old four-week rotation for full-time employees was replaced with a new system billed as "customer-centric scheduling," which workers say has brought about less predictability and negatively affected their work-life balance. To protect them from retaliation, these employees will remain anonymous and be differentiated by the state they live in.

"We recently rolled out a new scheduling model that aligns associate shifts with store-specific customer demand patterns by time of day, day of week and department," a Lowe's spokesperson told Business Insider. "We tested this model in multiple regions to gain feedback from associates and customers prior to rolling out to all stores. This model is very similar to what other large retailers use and allows us to staff our stores tailored to customer needs. The new scheduling model also provides a more consistent schedule for our full-time associates."

'They wish corporate would work our schedules'

Employees told Business Insider that full-time store employees' schedules previously operated on a four-week rotation. Under that system, full-time employees would typically get one weekend off every month, multiple workers said. The following week, employees would receive a Sunday and a Friday off, followed by Wednesday and Thursday, and then Monday and Tuesday.

"You couldn't ask for a better schedule," a current Lowe's employee in Florida told Business Insider. "You knew your schedule for the entire year. You could plan out your entire year."

This stability was especially helpful when it came to scheduling medical appointments, vacations, and family time, a current employee in Louisiana told Business Insider.

But that old scheduling system has recently been replaced with a new system billed as "customer-centric scheduling." This new scheduling structure was tested in certain stores before being introduced to the home-improvement giant's fleet of stores this month. Unlike the previous scheduling matrix, this new system operates on an eight-week rotation.

Employees told Business Insider that the company's new rotation for full-timers ensures that they only get one weekend off every eight weeks. A current Lowe's manager, who asked that their specific role and location not be disclosed, told Business Insider that customer-centric scheduling sounded great "on paper," as it promised to ensure that work schedules mirrored store traffic. What's more, they said that, in their experience, the previous scheduling rotation was perhaps overly generous.

"I never thought a weekend off a month made any sense in retail," the manager said.

lowe'sFred Prouser / Reuters

But the manager said that they still took issue with the way that the new policies were rolled out.

"It originally was communicated in a way that sounded pretty harsh, which was, 'You're not going to have any flexibility over this at all,'" the manager said. "And if Lowe's had never had it, it wouldn't have been any great loss. But we had it for years and then it got taken away."

Employees say that under customer-centric scheduling, they're only aware of their schedules about two weeks in advance. Workers also said that they are seeing an increase in weeks when they're assigned non-consecutive days off.

It's not clear whether these issues are store-specific or endemic to the new scheduling system, but multiple employees working in stores across the country have flagged identical problems.

Not everyone has been negatively affected by the changes, however. One current employee from Vermont said that their schedule has improved - specifically thanks to the new policy of capping the maximum of consecutive work days at six days - but that they can see why coworkers are upset to lose the "consistency" and "predictability" of the old system.

"Everybody always says they wish corporate would work our schedules," a current employee from Texas told Business Insider.

'Our store is actually run by humans'

These recent changes have also brought about complaints that customer-centric scheduling is having a negative effect in stores, workers say.

Four employees told Business Insider that, despite the new policy of requiring a maximum of six consecutive work days, they have personally been scheduled to work over six days in a row. A current Florida employee told Business Insider that by the time an employee is on their seventh or eighth day of work, they're often "starting to make mistakes" they don't typically make because "they're tired" and "can't concentrate."

In a statement to Business Insider, a Lowe's representative didn't comment on why some employees are reporting that they've been asked to work over six consecutive days, nor did they weigh in on whether that issue was a store-level mistake or a systemic problem.

The Florida employee added that they have seen the new scheduling system lead to "nonsensical stuff," like entire departments being devoid of workers until midmorning. They added that their store's managers often take a hands-off approach to fixing these schedules.

lowe's signJoshua Lott / Reuters

But in some cases, Lowe's employees report that managers are stepping in to help stores deal with problems caused by the new schedules.

"Our store is actually run by humans, so they're doing our best to keep us happy knowing that morale at the company is at an all time low," a different employee from Florida told Business Insider.

The Lowe's manager who asked that their location not be printed added that their "hands are very much on every single one of these schedules" when it comes to their employees, to ensure that their team isn't unhappy with their schedules.

"I'm very liberal about that," the manager said. "I'm sure some stores are not very liberal about that. So we've made it work. I essentially have to redo every schedule that comes out."

But one employee from Tennessee told Business Insider that they felt their store's managers had been disempowered due to new rules around clocking in. Business Insider reviewed internal documents announcing that employees would incur "time card exceptions" for clocking in either six minutes earlier or six minutes later than a scheduled shift, as well as "staying later than your scheduled shift without a people leader's approval." A representative for Lowe's did not return Business Insider's request for comment on these documents.

The employee from Tennessee said that in the past, they felt that managers had more input in such situations, that exceptions could be made for, say, an employee who clocked out late because they were busy with a customer.

"Now you got literally people walking on eggshells not knowing what to do," the employee said.

The Lowe's manager who asked that their location not be disclosed said that schedules are a particularly "personal" issue for employees, as they have a direct and immediate effect on their lives outside of work.

An employee from Florida added that they took issue with CEO Marvin Ellison's internal communications about the importance of family life.

"You talked about your family and how important it is, and you took us away from ours," the employee said. "Lowe's is just going the wrong way and our scheduling is killing us."

Read the full statement from Lowe's here:

"We recently rolled out a new scheduling model that aligns associate shifts with store-specific customer demand patterns by time of day, day of week and department. We tested this model in multiple regions to gain feedback from associates and customers prior to rolling out to all stores. This model is very similar to what other large retailers use and allows us to staff our stores tailored to customer needs. The new scheduling model also provides a more consistent schedule for our full-time associates."

Are you a Lowe's employee with a story to share? Email acain@businessinsider.com.

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