When is the best time of day to post shifts?

Key takeaways

  • Fill rates for in-person shifts vary by the time of day when they are posted
  • Shifts posted in the afternoon or evening tend to have the highest fill rates in leisure and hospitality
  • In the supply chain, businesses may want to try posting shifts at the edges of or outside of normal business hours

At Instawork, we're always working hard to make sure businesses and workers can find each other on our platform. And it turns out that even apparently minor details – like the time of day when a shift is booked by a business – can affect the likelihood of success.

As part of our ongoing analysis of our labor market's dynamics, we've started looking at how the booking time affects the likelihood that a shift will be filled by one of our Pros. There's plenty of nuance here, but the preliminary results are pretty striking.

When the sun goes down, fill rates go up

Businesses in leisure and hospitality can require flexible labor at any time of the day or night, from coffee shops in the morning to stadiums in the afternoon, and from restaurants in the evening to hotels in the wee hours. When it comes to booking shifts in entertainment, it's mostly a case of the later, the better:

The booking times and fill rates above are for shifts posted one to seven days in advance of the start time, and they do not include shifts intended for Pros on our business partners' rosters or shifts that are part of long-term assignments. Only a few businesses post shifts after midnight, when fill rates are lowest, but the highest fill rates are for shifts posted at 5 pm local time or later.

In hospitality, there's more stability in fill rates for shifts posted over the course of the day. Some of the highest fill rates are in the evening, but posting after midnight is again a serious no-no:

The sun also rises

Over on the goods-producing side of the economy, things are a little different. Warehouses and factories may be open all night, but managers tend to book shifts during normal business hours. In manufacturing, the vast majority of shifts are posted between 9 am and 5 pm. Yet the highest fill rates are at the edges of that window:

These data suggest that fill rates might go even higher for shifts posted outside of normal business hours. It makes sense; most flexible workers have other jobs, so they might not be looking for extra shifts during the day. The same is true to an even greater degree in logistics, where the highest fill rates by far are for shifts posted between 9 pm and 10 pm local time:

At the other end of the supply chain, things are a little different. Here are the fill rates associated with different booking times in wholesale and retail:

The data are more scattered here, but the overall trend is for high fill rates up until about 4 pm, and somewhat lower fill rates after that. We don't know why fill rates are lower for shifts booked at night; it may be that the Pros who usually fill them are doing other jobs. But the difference between a 90% fill rate and a 95% fill rate can be important, especially for large operations that bring in Pros for hundreds of shifts over the course of a month.

For now, we're not controlling for pay rates, distances to the shift, or types of work. We can look at these data at a more granular level, breaking things down by role and metropolitan area, or even focusing on a single business. If you're interested in knowing more, please get in touch using the links below or via your contact at Instawork.

Realtime metrics

These metrics, derived from data aggregated across the Instawork platform, compare the two weeks starting 8/31/2023 to the previous two weeks. To control for the overall growth of the Instawork marketplace, only shifts involving businesses that booked shifts in both periods are included:

  • $0.22 rise in hourly pay
  • 0.2% point drop in share of short-notice shifts
  • 0.2 hours drop in hours per existing worker

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