Flexible work arrangements refer to employer policies or managerial practices designed to give employees greater flexibility in influencing the time (duration), timing (when), or location (place) of work. Typically, these practices permit greater individual autonomy in self-managing work-role enactment in relation to family and other nonwork demands. Flexible work arrangements can be based on formal corporate policies and also on informal use permitted by the immediate supervisor or work group peers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics National Compensation Survey conducted in 2000, which includes employers of all sizes in the United States, 5 percent of U.S. employers provide flexible workplace schedules. Most research on flexible work schedules has been conducted in large employer organization.
Time flexibility (duration of work) policies and practices permit employees to have control over the number of hours they work. Reduced-hours or part-time work is an example of time flexibility practices that allow individuals to work less than full time with a commensurate decrease in salary or workload. Such practices allow individuals increased flexibility in the amount of time that is allocated between work and nonwork. Another example of time flexibility is the leave of absence, in which employees are allowed time off for maternity and paternity leave military service, education, elder and child care, and other life pursuits and are able to return to their jobs or similar jobs when they come back to work. Job sharing involves two employees working part time to share a full-time job.
Timing flexibility (scheduling of work hours) refers to policies offering temporal flexibility or freedom to influence the time at which work occurs. Under flex-time, employees can vary their beginning and ending times (often within a given flex range and established core hours) but generally work full time. Under a compressed workweek, employees typically work a full-time week of work but are allowed to work longer or extra hours on some days of the week in order to have part of a day or a whole day off at another time. Under compensatory time, employees working long hours are allowed subsequent time off to recoup.
Policies and practices offering place flexibility (location of work) allow employees to choose to work outside of the office or main worksite (all or some of the time). Employees may telework, working part time or full time at an off-site location, using technology (e.g., e-mail, fax, mobile phone) to communicate with others. Some avoid long commutes by teleworking, and others may obtain blocks of time without interruptions from coworkers.
Although more well-designed research is needed on the outcomes associated with different forms of flexibility, studies suggest that employee use of flexible work practices can result in lower turnover intentions, less work-family conflict, and greater organizational commitment, job satisfaction, and attraction. More research is needed on how different types of flexibility are linked to different work and family outcomes. Studies on work-family policies also need to examine relationships between policy use and the supportiveness of supervisors and the climate of the organization.
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- Eaton, S. 2003. “If You Can Use Them: Flexibility Policies, Organizational Commitment, and Perceived Performance.” Industrial Relations 42:145-167.
- Kossek, E. E., Barber, A. and Winters, D. 1999. “Using Flexible Schedules in the Managerial World: The Power of Peers.” Human Resource Management 38:33-46.
- Kossek, E. E., Lautsch, B. and Eaton, S. 2005. “Flexibility Enactment Theory: Implications of Flexibility Type, Control, and Boundary Management for Work and Family Effectiveness.” Pp. 243-262 in Work and Life Integration: Organizational, Cultural, and Individual Perspectives, edited by E. Kossek and S. Lambert. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
- Rau, B. L. and Hyland, M. M. 2002. “Role Conflict and Flexible Work Arrangements: The Effects on Applicant Attraction.” Personnel Psychology 55:111-136.