Pandemic Impacts Work Hours for More Than 2 in 3 Hourly Workers

Pandemic Impacts Work Hours for More Than 2 in 3 Hourly Workers

More than half of hourly workers reported having their hours reduced
An hourly worker at their job

As businesses and workers continue to grapple with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, hourly workers report being significantly impacted by regional COVID-19 crisis restrictions, with more than two-thirds (68.1%) of workers saying their hours have already been affected or likely will be in the future.

That's according to a survey from payments company Branch, which found that 62.3% of respondents reported a change, while 5.8% of respondents anticipated an upcoming change.

Even before the pandemic upended people's lives and jobs, many hourly workers were in a financially precarious position, with 78% reporting that they are living paycheck to paycheck.

COVID-19 crisis restrictions lead to reduction in hours worked

More than half of hourly workers (59.1%) who responded to the Branch survey reported having their hours reduced. Meanwhile, one-fifth (20.4%) reported increased hours during the pandemic.

While many workers have had their hours and shifts altered, others are on leave — 10.8% of respondents are currently on or anticipate soon going on unpaid leave (with plans to return) while 4.1% of respondents said they're currently on or anticipate going on paid leave soon.

These disruptions come at a time when workers are concerned about covering basic expenses, such as utilities, groceries and housing. Respondents reported the following sources of financial worry:

  • Utility bills (74.2%)
  • Groceries (68.9%)
  • Home/rent affordability (62.3%)
  • Auto care/transportation (23.5%)
  • Medical/health care costs (20.8%)
  • Child care (18%)
  • Short-term savings (17.7%)
  • School/college tuition debt (9.9%)
  • Retirement (3.7%)
  • Elder care (1%)

The pandemic and associated financial stresses have also caused a large majority of hourly workers to cut back on their plans for holiday spending. Those surveyed responded as follows:

  • Yes (77.3%)
  • No (12.7%)
  • Maybe (10%)

This lines up with previous research which found that 56% of consumers intended to adjust their holiday celebration plans because of the coronavirus pandemic, and that many respondents said they would buy fewer gifts due to job loss, decreased work or concerns about the economy.

Some hourly workers seeking supplemental income

As workers worry about being able to afford basic necessities, many are looking for additional work to make ends meet — 11.7% of respondents said they already have another job to supplement their income, while 44.1% said they were looking for another job for that reason.

Despite that, more than half of respondents are confident or very confident (33.8% and 23.3%, respectively) about their employment outlook over the next three months. Only 12.5% said they were not confident, and just 8% said they were not confident at all. In the middle of the emotional spectrum, 22.3% of respondents opted out of both camps by selecting "neither."

However, more than a third (34%) of workers report feeling more burned out this year than a year ago. More women and employees aged 25 to 30 reported burnout than men and older workers.

Bonus pay the most-desired benefit during COVID-19 pandemic

When asked to pick the top three employer-provided benefits that would be most helpful during this time, respondents were unequivocal, with 84.5% listing bonus pay.

In a near-tie for second place, workers also listed paid sick time (48.8%) and on-demand pay (48.4%) as helpful benefits during the pandemic. With on-demand pay, employees can access wages they've earned more quickly than a traditional biweekly or monthly pay schedule allows.

It's also worth noting that in a previous Branch survey, nearly 90% of hourly workers expected their households to lose income if their children had to attend school virtually from home.

Along with bonus pay, paid sick time and on-demand pay, workers also said flexible scheduling (34.9%), mental health support (22.8%), financial advice/tools (22.6%), child care support (18.2%), career development/training (13.6%), elder care support (2.2%) and "other" (4.2%) would be helpful employer-provided benefits to have during the coronavirus pandemic.

Methodology: The survey was conducted through the Branch app December 2020 featuring responses from 2,998 hourly employees across industries ranging from retail, food service, to health care. Participation in this survey was completely voluntary and all responses were anonymized.

Glen Luke Flanagan covers credit card news for CompareCards.com, MagnifyMoney and other LendingTree-owned site. He joined the team in June 2019. His work ranges from reviews of new cards to in-depth pieces on protecting your financial information, and his background is in journalism and government communications.