Asking for hours: Encouraging employees to communicate their desired hours each week

Message framing
Experiment Type
Field Experiment
Increase engagement
Increase earnings
Focus Areas
Behavioral Concepts
Framing Goal-gradient theory Reciprocity
Partner Type

What Happened

It worked. The intervention increased the percentage of Homebase employees with entered hours by 14.7% from 25.7% to 29.5%. As a result of this study, Hombase moved forward and implemented the structure of the "Completion Bias" conditions, moving the desired hour screen into the new employee onboarding flow.

Lessons Learned

These results suggest that incorporating the desired hours function into the employee onboarding flow (meaning that incompletion looks like missing information) encourages employees to input their desired hours.


Managing finances and planning for the future is especially difficult for people working jobs with variable hours often because they have little direct control over when their shifts are. Managers have the responsibility of setting schedules, which often result in hours that do not match the preferences of their employees.

We again partnered with Homebase to explore how we might make it easier for these workers to plan for the future. Homebase currently allows employees to set how many hours they would ideally work each week. However, we found that this feature was underutilized – only 26% of workers have entered desired hours.

Together with Homebase, we worked to encourage more employees to communicate how many hours they would want to work each week. By facilitating communication between employees and their managers, we hope managers will try to create schedules that more closely and consistently matched their employees’ desired number of hours.

Key Insights

To better understand what might prevent workers from setting their hours, we analyzed data from Homebase users. Among employees that set their desired hours, most indicated that they would like to work around 30 hours a week, although a substantial portion said they would prefer as many as 40 hours a week. Yet, employees were scheduled to work only 22 hours in an average week.

Our analysis suggested two reasons why employees may not have set their desired hours:

  • Employees may not enter them because they think that their manager either can’t give them as many hours as they would like, or the manager simply won’t consider their request.

  • Setting the desired number of hours is a hassle. Doing so requires multiple steps, and the entry field was slightly hidden under the employee profile, which people often don’t visit after they have signed up.


Provided these insights, we designed an experiment to encourage existing employees to enter how many hours they would like to work each week, and we advised Homebase to display that information more prominently to managers. We moved the desired hours question to the central employee dashboard and tested several behavioral approaches to encourage employees to enter desired hours. We selected over 90,000 existing Homebase employees who had not entered their desired hours but who had worked in the last month. These employees were randomly assigned to either a control or one of four experimental conditions.


We found that prominently moving the desired hours prompt from under the profile settings to on the dashboard increased the number of employees who entered their desired hours by at least 58%. The two lowest performing conditions – the personal benefit condition and the question condition - encouraged 495 and 490 people to enter hours, compared to only 70 people in the control.

Asking employees to do a favor for their manager increased the number of entries further to 854 people. The most effective framing, though, was the completion bias condition. Framing the desired hours as “missing information” encouraged 1018 people to enter hours – more than tripled entries compared to control. Leveraging the idea of missing information is a powerful motivator because people feel motivated to correct the error.

Overall, our intervention increased the percentage of Homebase employees with entered hours by 14.7% from 25.7% to 29.5%. As a result of this work, Homebase moved the desired hours screen into the new employee onboarding flow, guaranteeing that every new employee who downloads their app will be prompted to enter their desired hours.

Once more employees have entered their hours, Homebase wants to display this information, along with the number of hours the employee worked in the past week, more prominently to managers at the point of scheduling.