24 Oct @13:30

Flexible working and its (negative) consequences: findings from the Work Autonomy, Flexibility and Work-Life Balance (WAF Project)

Speaker(s): Heejung Chung, Kent University

Date: 13:30 on Mon, 24 Oct 2016

Duration: 1.5 hours

Seminar Room G, Manor Road Building,Manor Road, Oxford, OX1 3UQ

Abstract: Schedule flexibility and work-family conflict: the importance of contexts

Paper from an ESRC funded project Work autonomy, flexibility and work-life balance

See http://www.wafproject.org for more

With the increase of women in the labour force, and consequently dual earner families, work-life balance is an issue that affects a large population across Europe. Flexible schedules, that is providing workers control over their start and finishing times, and sometimes the number of hours worked per day – is increasingly becoming a popular occupational level welfare policy to tackle work-life balance needs of employees while keeping costs down and potentially increasing productivity for employers (Goodstein, 1994). Providing workers with control over when and how long they work, as well as where they work can have a positive impact on worker's work-life balance (Michel et al., 2011; Allen et al., 2013). However, others have shown that those with most flexibility are the most likely to feel conflict (Plantenga and Remery, 2009). The reasons behind this rather negative impact of flexible working is due to the increase in work intensification (Lott and Chung, 2016; Kelliher and Anderson, 2010) and blurring of boundaries (Glavin and Schieman, 2012) that occurs when workers work flexibly. Furthermore, previous studies have alluded to the fact that there is there are cross-national variations in the way flexible work arrangements are used (Mills and Täht, 2010), and there are gender and occupational differences in the way flexible work arrangements are used (Singley and Hynes, 2005; Schieman and Glavin, 2008; Blair‐Loy, 2009) and accordingly the impact it can have on work-life balance.

This presentation will present two work-in-progress papers that examine whether flexible work arrangements can help relieve work-family conflict of individuals, and whether this relationship will depend on the national, gender, family and work contexts. It uses the European Social Survey of 2010 and the Work Employment Relations Survey (UK) of 2011. A multilevel random slopes modelling technique will be used to examine whether flexible schedules have a varying impact on individual's perceived work-family conflict across different contexts.

Analysis results show that indeed context do matter when examining the relationship between flexible work and work-family conflict.


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Glavin, P and Schieman, S. (2012) Work–Family Role Blurring and Work–Family Conflict: The Moderating Influence of Job Resources and Job Demands. Work and Occupations 39(1): 71-98.

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Kelliher, C and Anderson, D. (2010) Doing more with less? Flexible working practices and the intensification of work. Human Relations 63(1): 83-106.

Lott, Y and Chung, H. (2016) Gender discrepancies in the outcomes of schedule control on overtime hours and income in Germany. European Sociological Review Online first.

Michel, JS, Kotrba, LM, Mitchelson, JK, et al. (2011) Antecedents of work–family conflict: A meta analytic review. Journal of organizational behavior 32(5): 689-725.

Plantenga, J and Remery, C. (2009) Flexible working time arrangements and gender equality: A comparative review of 30 European countries. Brussels: European Comission.

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Singley, SG and Hynes, K. (2005) Transitions to parenthood work-family policies, gender, and the couple context. Gender & Society 19(3): 376-397.

Heejung Chung is Senior Lecturer at the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, University of Kent, UK. She is co-editor of the Policy Press Book Series 'Research in Comparative and Global Social Policy' and on the editorial board of the journal Social Policy & Administration. She is a labour sociologist interested in the changes in the labour markets, the nature of work and how it impacts our daily lives. She has been awarded several grants, including a recent ESRC Future Research Leader's award to carry out a project on the increase in work autonomy, flexibility and its impact on work-life balance. Her articles have been published in journals such as, European Sociological Review; Journal European of Social Policy; Social Policy & Administration and others.