Flexible Work Arrangements

Should you consider Flexible Work Arrangements? Here’s what the research says…

Updated 11/12/2017

Know what you mean by flexible work arrangements.

Flexible work arrangements are mutually beneficial agreements between organizations and people that describe when and where people will work, and how they will stay connected, in order to meet organizational goals.

Flexible work arrangements include flextime and flexplace — broadening the understanding of when and where work can happen beyond traditional fixed business hours in a specific workplace location.

Spoiler alert – flexible work arrangements of varying types produce varying outcomes.

Hear from labor sociologist Dr. Heejung Chung about historical evolution of work practices, today’s trends, and outcomes:

Types of Flexible Work Arrangements:

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Flextime Employees choose which hours of the day to work
Example: Choosing to work 12p-8p instead of 9a-5p.
Core Hours People must overlap several hours per day.
Example: Everyone works 12p-3p, flexible around that.
Compressed Workweeks People can take Fridays off, as long as they make up for it by working longer Mon-Thurs.
Long-term breaks Employees are able to take long breaks or sabbaticals to reenergize or acquire new skills.
Job sharing Two part-time employees share the work of one full-time position.
Hoteling / Free Address Desks and offices are used as-needed, versus everybody having an assigned desk.

Job candidates are more attracted to companies that offer flexible work arrangements.

When job applicants learn about flexible work arrangements during the recruitment process, they are more attracted to the organization.

Research bears out the recruiting power of flexible work arrangements. If you offer flexible work arrangements, be sure to include the parameters in recruiting materials and conversations.

Current employees appreciate flexible work arrangements.

Simply offering flexible work arrangements is associated with higher job satisfaction, stronger organizational commitment, and deeper employee engagement. Flexible work arrangements symbolize concern for employees by the organization.

Flexible work arrangements are not a simple cure-all for work-family conflict.

According to research, people who use flexible work arrangements and people who work traditionally have largely similar experiences with conflicting or overwhelming demands between work and personal roles.

A meta-analysis of 61 investigations of work-family conflict found nuanced relationships. To start, work interference with family (WIF) is more frequent and stronger than family interference with work (FIW). Thus it may stand to reason that flexible work arrangements are better at reducing work interference with family; whereas there is little consistent support that flexible work arrangements reduce family interference with work.

To reduce WIF, flexibility seems to minimize times when an employee cannot attend to family responsibilities or participate in family events by introducing temporary or permanent ways to shift work in time or place beyond what paid time off programs support.

Researchers surmise that FIW is less responsive to flexible work arrangements because more freedom may simply encourage people to commit to greater family involvement, so overall tension is not reduced.

  • Allen, T.D., Johnson, R.C., Kiburz, K.M., & Shockley, K.M. (2013). Work-family conflict and flexible work arrangements: Deconstructing flexibility. Personnel Psychology, 66, 345-376.
  • Frone, M.R. (2003). Work-family balance. In Quick, J.C., & Tetrick, L.E. (Eds.), Handbook of Occupational Health Psychology (pp. 143-162). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
  • Hammer, L.B., Neal, M.B., Newsom, J.T., Brockwood, K.J., & Colton, C.L. (2005). A longitudinal study of the effects of dual earner couples’ utilization of family-friendly workplace supports on work and family outcomes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90(4), 799-810.
  • Silver, H., & Goldscheider, F. (1994). Flexible work and housework: Work and family constraints on women’s domestic labor. Social Forces, 72(4), 1103-1119.

Flextime has a (more) positive impact on satisfaction and key organizational outcomes.

Allowing flexibility in work hours has benefits. In a meta-analysis of 31 experimental studies, flextime was related to higher productivity, job satisfaction, and satisfaction with the work schedule, and lower absenteeism.

As a whole, the research also indicates that flextime (being able to adjust working hours) has a stronger positive impact than flexplace (being able to adjust work location).

Requiring a certain number of ‘core overlap hours’ can boost the benefits of flextime.

Sometimes less (flexibility) is more. According to research, flex schedules that require some overlapping hours (e.g., “we need everybody here between 11am and 4pm”) lead to improved productivity, job satisfaction, satisfaction with work schedule, and reduced absenteeism compared to more flexible schedules (with fewer than 5 core hours).

Compressed workweeks improve job satisfaction and performance.

A specific type of flextime, compressed workweeks (e.g., work longer Mon-Thurs and take Friday off), also relates to higher supervisor performance ratings, job satisfaction, and satisfaction with work schedule.

Working remotely (flexplace) positively affects people’s attitudes, intentions, and work-life balance.

Working remotely has a positive relationship with perceived autonomy and job satisfaction. Remote work lessens work-life conflict, role stress, and turnover intentions.

Working remotely has a positive impact on performance.

Working remotely boosts an individual’s task performance and contextual performance (i.e., extra-role behaviors, helping behaviors), for three reasons: 1) People experience fewer interruptions when working remotely. 2) Without the commute, there is more time to dedicate to work. 3) Remote workers can perfectly tailor their personal work environment to maximize their productivity.

Working remotely introduces specific challenges that require skill and discipline.

Evidence suggests that working with time and/or place flexibility, like other job conditions, is something people have to get good at.

Researchers also point to the important roles of not only the employee, but also supervisor and coworkers, in achieving the best benefits from flexible work arrangements, with the fewest drawbacks. To create success, everyone must learn new habits and patterns.

When remote work happens at home, the boundary between work and life becomes more permeable. Blurred boundaries create a greater demand for self-control. While flexibility promotes autonomy and individualized efficiency, too much ambiguity about when and where work will happen can backfire instead of easing challenges.

  • Baumeister, R.F., & Voss, K.D. (2007). Self-regulation, ego depletion, and motivation. Social and Personality Compass, 1(1), 115-128.
  • Chua, R.Y.J., & Iyengar, S.S. (2006). Empowerment through choice? A critical analysis of the effects of choice in organizations. Research in Organizational Behavior, 27, 41-79.
  • Hammer, L.B., Kossek, E.E., Anger, W.K., Bodner, T., & Zimmerman, K.L. (2011). Clarifying work-family intervention processes: The roles of work-family conflict and family-supportive supervision behaviors. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96, 134-150.
  • Iyengar, S.S., & Lepper, M.R. (2000). When choice is demotivating: Can one desire too much of a good thing? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79(6), 995-1006.
  • Kossek, E.E., Lautsch, B.A., & Eaton, S.C. (2006). Telecommuting, control, and boundary management: Correlates of policy use and practice, job control, and work-family effectiveness. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 68(2), 347-367.
  • Lapierre, L.M., & Allen, T.D. (2012). Control at work, control at home, and use of planning behavior: Implications for work interference with family and family interference with work. Journal of Management, 38, 1500-1516.
  • Schmidt, K.H., & Neubach, B. (2007). Self-control demands: A source of stress at work. International Journal of Stress Management, 14(4), 398-416.

Working remotely too often can be damaging to leader and coworker relationships.

When people work remotely too often, flexplace can have a negative impact with team-to-member relationships, coworker relationships, and employee-supervisor relationships. Researchers recommend scheduling unifying activities to connect remote workers with coworkers.

Working remotely just the right amount is key to improving job satisfaction.

The relationship between remote work and job satisfaction follows an inverted U-shape. As the number of hours of remote work increases, job satisfaction initially increases but then levels off and may even decrease with high-intensity remote work.

Just because an organization offers flexible work arrangements doesn’t mean people will use them.

The choice and commitment to use flexible work arrangements is based on a person’s

    • work characteristics (e.g., people who work more hours per week are more likely to use FWA, as are people with greater combined work and family responsibilities)
    • social environment (e.g., whether peers use FWA, whether the immediate workgroup is supportive of FWA)
    • personal preferences

Non-work characteristics, such as parenting responsibilities or spousal support, are less influential.

 

More Coetic Flexible Work Arrangement Resources: