Finding a Better Work-Life Balance for College Students

College costs continue to soar in the United States, rising 34% between 2005 and 2015 for public institutions. These increases are putting pressure on students to develop strategies to help reduce college debt before graduation. One tactic that students often use is to work on campus during their studies. Students are choosing to work but is that strategy causing more harm than good? What can institutions do to look for signs that their student-employees may be getting burned out and need to take time for themselves..

In 2017, 36% of full-time college students were employed and worked at least 10 hours a week. The reasons to work while enrolled in full or part time studies are clear: working provides an income, helps students pay for essentials, and allows them to graduate with less debt. Working does not come without its burdens. As a working student could tell you, you will have less time to devote to your studies, your friends and family, and self-care, like exercise and hobbies.


The case study findings

My team at Kronos recently conducted a labor analytics engagement with a large US research university to try to understand more about the student workforce. We observed the unusual presence of overtime during the fall months (September, October, and November). It was plain to see that the overtime was driven by transit and parking services. What was not obvious was the root cause of this overtime.


Overtime Volume

Figure 1: Overtime volume. Notable is the rise for September to November

The overtime hours tended to fall on the weekend, and usually on Saturdays. But not every weekend saw these large overtime spikes—some Saturdays were strangely quiet. Piecing together the concentration of hours in transit and parking, the most likely culprit driving overtime was some sort of reoccurring on-campus event. A discussion with the project team and a visit to the university’s website revealed the spike of overtime days matched perfectly with the football team’s home games


Departmental Overtime

Figure 2: Departmental Overtime Comparison

Football, a traditionally fun, leisure activity for students was actually contributing to burn-out for those students who were working. Illustrating the severity of the work is one of the more extreme examples in the data. The data shows one student who was clocked in for 17 hours, from 5:15am to 10:30pm, on the day of a football game.

What are the possible effects on the students?

The employees working on these game days are often students who are likely to be attracted to working long shifts due to overtime pay. Great for their finances but perhaps less great for their physical and mental health. Work-life balance and student mental health is a growing concern for university administrators. According to the American Psychological Association, nearly half (48.7%) of university students sought counseling for mental health concerns. Rates of moderate to severe depression have doubled between 2007 and 2018. Excessive hours in a physically tolling job, reduced sleep, and less time for studying during exam periods are all contributors to a reduced quality of life for student workers.

So, how can universities prevent student workers from becoming fatigued or stressed?  Universities and employers can leverage HCM (human capital management) and employee scheduling solutions to reduce the burden that special events have on all types of employees, including their student workers. These solutions provide visibility into overtime trends, scheduling patterns and absenteeism that often increases as workers become burnt out or fatigued.

To learn more about how Kronos HCM solutions can help you provide a better employee experience for your student workforce check out these resources.


Published: Friday, September 6, 2019