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Flexible Work Arrangements

Should you consider Flexible Work Arrangements?

Here's what the research says... ​

1. Flexible work arrangements are a win-win for organizations and teams.

Flexible work arrangements (FWA) are mutually beneficial agreements between organizations and team members that explain when and where teams will work. Leaders use FWA to keep teams connected and achieving under unique, adaptable working conditions18.

FWA expand when and where work happens with flextime (being able to adjust working hours) and flexplace (being able to change work location). Arrangements can extend beyond fixed business hours and workplace locations. Team members use the flexibility to attend to personal obligations outside of work while maintaining focus on work that matters most at times and places that work best for them.

Did you know? – FWA of varying types produce varying outcomes. Hear about the history of work practices, today's trends, and outcomes from labor sociologist Dr. Heejung Chung:​

Types of Flexible Work Arrangements

  • Flextime: Team members choose which hours of the day to work. Example: Choosing to work 12p-8p instead of 9a-5p.
  • Flexplace: Team members choose which where they work. Example: Choosing to work at the office, from home, or another location.
  • Core Hours: Team members must overlap work during set hours each day. Example: Everyone works 12p-3p, but schedules remain flexible around that.
  • Remote Work: Team members work from their own workspaces either full or part-time.
  • Compressed Workweeks: Team members can take Fridays off, as long as they make up for it by working longer Mon-Thurs.
  • Long-term breaks: Team members 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.

2. Job candidates are more attracted to companies that offer FWA.

While leaders and teams find mutual benefits in FWA, job applicants also seek organizations that offer flexibility5. Including FWA parameters in recruiting materials and conversations ensures a competitive recruitment approach18,26. Research confirms that FWA attracts applicants to organizations and teams27.

3. Current team members appreciate flexible work arrangements.

FWA improves job satisfaction3, strengthens organizational commitment6, and increases employee engagement22. Team members perceive leaders and organizations10 that offer FWA as caring for their well-being2 and promoting freedom to pursue meaningful work.

4. Flexible work arrangements do not end work-family conflicts.

In both flexible and traditional work arrangements, people face challenges with conflicting or overwhelming demands between work and personal roles18. However, FWA offers mutually beneficial solutions to leaders and team members to mitigate these challenges, referred to as Work Interference with Family (WIF) and Family Interference with Work (FIW).

Experts find that FWA reduces Work Interference with Family (WIF). Leaders who offer FWA enable team members to better attend to family responsibilities through either temporary or permanent adjustments in work schedule or location. In comparison, traditional paid time off programs do not support team members as well15

Overall, relationships between different forms of flexibility (flextime and flexplace), and both forms of interference (WIF and FIW) only show small differences. Research shows that WIF occurs more often than FIW, and as stated earlier, FWA significantly impacts WIF. However, FWA is less effective in reducing FIW than WIF, as the added freedom from FWA enables team members to commit more to their families25.

5. Flextime improves satisfaction and key organizational outcomes.

Many leaders discover mutual benefits from flexibility in work hours (flextime) and flexplace (being able to change work location). Flextime and flexplace promote higher productivity, work schedule and job satisfaction, and work attendance2. However, experts find more value in flextime, as it shows more positive results than flexplace1.

6. Leaders that set 'core overlap hours' boost the benefits of flextime.

Sometimes less (flexibility) is more. Leaders who help teams set flex schedules requiring overlapping hours (e.g., “we need everybody here between 11 am and 4 pm”) often find positive results. Research comparisons show that teams using flex schedules with core overlap hours improve their productivity, satisfaction with work schedule and jobs, and absenteeism, especially when compared to flexible schedules with fewer than five core hours2.

7. Compressed workweeks improve job satisfaction and performance.

Compressed work weeks (working fewer than five days a week), improve supervisor and leadership performance ratings, as well as team member job satisfaction and work schedule satisfaction2

8. Remote work (flexplace) positively affects people's attitudes, intentions, and work-life balance.

The freedom to work remotely strengthens team members’ perceived autonomy and job satisfaction. As a result, leaders see team members committed to achieving in their roles and work13. Additionally, remote work lessens work-life conflict, role stress, and turnover intentions; remote work serves as a win-win for both leaders and team members10.

9. Remote work improves performance.

Remote work boosts team member task and contextual performance (i.e., extra-role behaviors, helping behaviors)10. Research highlights three key ways remote work boosts performance:

  1. People experience fewer interruptions when working remotely.
  2. Without the commute, there is more time to dedicate to work.
  3. Remote workers tailor their workspaces and maximize productivity9.

10. Remote work introduces specific challenges that require skill and discipline.

Like any change in the workplace, people need support, time, and practice to adjust to additional flexibility4. Both leaders and team members need to align and engage in the changes that new flexibility adds18. For those who work from home, the lines can blur between work and life roles14. Team members with the freedom to work remotely need to create balance and order to maintain stable boundaries between their roles16. To ensure success, everyone must learn new habits and patterns18.

Leaders, also note, that while added flexibility improves autonomy19 and individualized efficiency21, too much ambiguity about when and where work will happen can create challenges for team coordination and collaboration23.

11. Too much remote work can be damaging to workplace relationships.

When people work remotely too often, flexplace can harm connections between teams, team members, and leaders10. Researchers recommend that leaders set core hours or create unifying activities to connect team members and promote collaboration13.

12. Finding the right amount of remote work will improve job satisfaction.

To gain the most from remote work flexibility, it’s helpful to understand the relationship between the amount of remote work and job satisfaction12. Picture an upside-down U. Researchers find that as remote work increases from zero, job satisfaction increases. However, job satisfaction levels off and then begins to fall as the amount of remote work continues to grow toward 100%. Teams that take on high-intensity remote work experience a decrease in job satisfaction. Leaders find improved team effectiveness through a middle ground mixing remote work with working in a shared environment11.

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

Leaders have several considerations when deciding if FWA is the right move for their teams:

  • Work Characteristics - Is the work people are doing mobile enough for enough hours in a week for a FWA to make a meaningful impact? Are team members able to complete quality work while working on a different schedule (flextime) or in a different location (flexplace)? Will a flexible work arrangement lower Work Interference with Family (WIF?)20
  • Social Environment - Will a FWA support team goals? Are team members supportive of adopting Flexible Work Arrangements? Will all team members participate in FWA in some way, creating peer understanding and support, and fairness?17
  • Personal Preferences - What internal preferences may impact the decision to engage in a FWA?)24

As stated earlier, with any change, leaders can engage team members in developing FWA approaches and shape a positive experience for everyone. If you’d like to explore how to bring the research evidence supporting FWA to life in your organization, contact us.

For more on Special Work Arrangements, see our writing for employees and managers.

References

  1. 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. https://doi.org/10.1111/peps.12012

  2. Baltes, B. B., Briggs, T. E., Huff, J. W., Wright, J. A., & Neuman, G. A. (1999). Flexible and compressed workweek schedules: A meta-analysis of their effects on work-related criteria. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84(4), 496-513. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.84.4.496

  3. Batt, R., & Valcour, P. M. (2003). Human resources practices and predictors of work-family outcomes and employee turnover. Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, 42(2), 189-220. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-232X.00287

  4. Baumeister, R. F., & Vohs, K. D. (2007). Self-regulation, ego depletion, and motivation. Social and Personality Compass, 1(1), 115-128. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1751-9004.2007.00001.x

  5. Casper, W. J., & Buffardi, L. C. (2004). Work-life benefits and job pursuit intentions: The role of anticipated organizational support. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 65(3), 391-410. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2003.09.003

  6. Casper, W. J., & Harris, C. M. (2008). Work-life benefits and organizational attachment: Self-interest utility and signaling theory models. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 72, 95-109. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2007.10.015

  7. 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. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0191-3085(06)27002-3

  8. 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. https://doi.org/10.1037/10474-00710.1037/10474-007

  9. Gajendran, R. S., Harrison, D. A., & Delaney‐Klinger, K. (2014). Are telecommuters remotely good citizens? Unpacking telecommuting’s effects on performance via I‐Deals and job resources. Personnel Psychology, 68(2), 353-393. https://doi.org/10.1111/peps.12082

  10. Gajendran, R. S., & Harrison, D. A. (2007). The good, the bad, and the unknown about telecommuting: Analysis of psychological mediators and individual consequences. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92(6), 1524-1541. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.92.6.1524

  11. Golden, T. D. & Veiga, J. F. (2005). The impact of extent of telecommuting on job satisfaction: Resolving inconsistent findings. Journal of Management, 31, 301-318. https://doi.org/10.1177/0149206304271768

  12. Golden, T. D., Veiga, J. F., & Simsek, Z. (2006). Telecommuting’s differential impact on work-family conflict: Is there no place like home? Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(6), 1340-1350. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.91.6.1340

  13. Golden, T. D. (2006). The role of relationships in understanding telecommuter satisfaction. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 27, 319-240. https://doi.org/10.1002/job.369

  14. 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. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0020927

  15. 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. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.90.4.799

  16. 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. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.79.6.995

  17. Kossek, E. E., Barber, A. E., & Winters, D. (1999). Using flexible schedules in the managerial world: The power of peers. Human Resource Management, 38(1), 33-46. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/%28SICI%291099-050X%28199921%2938%3A1%3C33%3A%3AAID-HRM4%3E3.0.CO%3B2-H

  18. Kossek, E. E., Hammer, L. B., Thompson, R. J., & Burke, L. B. (2014). Leveraging workplace flexibility for engagement and productivity. SHRM Foundation’s Effective Practice Guideline Series, 1-45. https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/special-reports-and-expert-views/Documents/Leveraging-Workplace-Flexibility.pdf

  19. 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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2005.07.002

  20. Lambert, A. D., Marler, J. H., Gueutal, H. G. (2008). Individual differences: Factors affecting employee utilization of flexible work arrangements. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 73, 107-117. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2008.02.004

  21. Lapierre, L. M., & Allen, T. D. (2010). 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. https://doi.org/10.1177/0149206310385868

  22. Roehling, P. V., Roehling, M. V., & Moen, P. (2001). The relationship between work-life policies and practices and employee loyalty: A life course perspective. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 22, 141-170. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1016630229628

  23. Schmidt, K. H., & Neubach, B. (2007). Self-control demands: A source of stress at work. International Journal of Stress Management, 14(4), 398-416. https://doi.org/10.1037/1072-5245.14.4.398

  24. Shockley, K. M., & Allen, T. D. (2010). Investigating the missing link in flexible work arrangement utilization: An individual difference perspective. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 76(1), 131-142. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2009.07.002

  25. Silver, H., & Goldscheider, F. (1994). Flexible work and housework: Work and family constraints on women’s domestic labor. Social Forces, 72(4), 1103-1119. https://doi.org/10.1093/sf/72.4.1103

  26. Thompson, R. J., Payne, S. C., & Taylor, A.B. (2014) Applicant attraction to flexible work arrangements: Separating the influence of flextime and flexplace. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 88(4), 726-749. https://doi.org/10.1111/joop.12095

  27. Uggerslev, K. L., Fassina, N. E., & Kraichy, D. (2012). Recruiting through the stages: A meta‐analytic test of predictors of applicant attraction at different stages of the recruiting process. Personnel Psychology, 65(3), 597–660. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1744-6570.2012.01254.x