Flexible scheduling

Evidence Rating  
Evidence rating: Scientifically Supported

Strategies with this rating are most likely to make a difference. These strategies have been tested in many robust studies with consistently positive results.

Health Factors  
Decision Makers
Date last updated

Flexible scheduling allows employees to control some aspect of their schedule. This can include flex time, where workers set their own start and end times around a core schedule; flex hours, which allows banking of accumulated hours for future time off; compressed work weeks, such as working 10 hours per day for four days rather than five 8-hour shifts; and self-scheduling of shift work, sometimes used in nursing and manufacturing positions. Voluntary reductions in work weeks, such as temporary transitions to part-time or partial retirement for older workers, are also approaches to flexible scheduling1, 2.

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Improved health outcomes

  • Increased job satisfaction

  • Reduced absenteeism

  • Increased productivity

Potential Benefits

Our evidence rating is not based on these outcomes, but these benefits may also be possible:

  • Improved mental health

  • Improved work-life balance

  • Increased sleep

  • Reduced stress

  • Increased well-being

What does the research say about effectiveness?

There is strong evidence that flexible scheduling improves employee health2, 3, increases job satisfaction and productivity, and reduces absenteeism4.

Overall, increasing employees’ control over their work schedules improves well-being3, sense of community2, and happiness5, 6. Self-scheduling of shift work has been shown to improve indicators of physical health, such as blood pressure and heart rate, as well as mental health and sleep-related outcomes for individuals in a variety of fields, including health care and law enforcement2.

Flexible scheduling may increase retention7, 8, 9, improve employee performance, and increase employee commitment1. Flex time has been shown to increase productivity4 and reduce absenteeism4. Flex time and compressed work weeks improve employee job and schedule satisfaction4, 7 and are associated with improved work-life balance3, 7, 10 and reduced stress11. Availability of flex time may increase female labor market participation rates1, and its use may increase life satisfaction for working mothers from dual earning families12. However, some of these benefits may be reduced when workplace expectations include taking work home and being available outside of work hours7. In some cases, flexible scheduling may also increase the likelihood that work and family interfere with each other13, for example, when the scheduling is employer driven rather than employee-centered14. Adopting flexible scheduling for selected workers may lead to decreases in productivity among workers without the benefit15. Flexible scheduling options may increase profitability when implemented as part of an employee-centered strategy, but may decrease profitability if implemented only as a cost reduction strategy16.

How could this strategy impact health disparities? This strategy is rated no impact on disparities likely.
Implementation Examples

Flexible scheduling options are implemented, officially and unofficially, by employers in many industries across the country1. Government agencies such as the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have official policies in place that support flexible scheduling17.

Implementation Resources

US OPM-Alternative - United States Office of Personnel Management (U.S. OPM). Handbook on alternative work schedules.

US OPM-Flex - United States Office of Personnel Management (U.S. OPM). Labor-Management Relations: Law and policy resources. Negotiating flexible and compressed work schedules.


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1 Golden 2018 - Golden L, Chung H, Sweet S. Positive and negative application of flexible working time arrangements: Comparing the United States and the EU countries. In: Farndale E, Brewster C, Mayrhofer W, eds. Handbook of Comparative Human Resource Management, Second Edition. 2018.

2 Cochrane-Joyce 2010 - Joyce K, Pabayo R, Critchley JA, Bambra C. Flexible working conditions and their effects on employee health and wellbeing. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2010;(2):CD008009.

3 Nijp 2012 - Nijp HH, Beckers DG, Geurts SA, Tucker P, Kompier MA. Systematic review on the association between employee worktime control and work-non-work balance, health and well-being, and job-related outcomes. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health. 2012;38(4):299–313.

4 Baltes 1999 - Baltes BB, Briggs TE, Huff JW, Wright JA, Neuman GA. Flexible and compressed workweek schedules: A meta-analysis of their effects on work-related criteria. Journal of Applied Psychology. 1999;84(4):496–513.

5 Okulicz-Kozaryn 2018 - Okulicz-Kozaryn A, Golden L. Happiness is flextime. Applied Research in Quality of Life. 2018;13(2):355-369.

6 Golden 2013a - Golden L, Henly J, Lambert S. Work schedule flexibility: A contributor to employee happiness? Journal of Social Research and Policy. 2013.

7 Schieman 2017 - Schieman S, Glavin P. Ironic flexibility: When normative role blurring undermines the benefits of schedule control. 2017;58(1):51-71.

8 Caillier 2016 - Caillier JG. Does satisfaction with family-friendly programs reduce turnover? A panel study conducted in U.S. federal agencies. Public Personnel Management. 2016;45(3):284-307.

9 Moen 2011 - Moen P, Kelly EL, Hill R. Does enhancing work-time control and flexibility reduce turnover? A naturally occurring experiment. Social Problems. 2011;58(1):69-98.

10 Bambra 2008 - Bambra C, Whitehead M, Sowden A, Akers J, Petticrew M. “A hard day’s night?” The effects of compressed working week interventions on the health and work-life balance of shift workers: A systematic review. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. 2008;62(9):764–77.

11 Grzywacz 2008 - Grzywacz JG, Carlson DS, Shulkin S. Schedule flexibility and stress: Linking formal flexible arrangements and perceived flexibility to employee health. Community, Work and Family. 2008;11(2):199-214.

12 Minnotte 2016 - Minnotte KL, Minnotte MC, Thompson K. The life satisfaction of dual-earner mothers and fathers: Does flexible scheduling matter? Journal of Happiness Studies. 2016;17(6):2365-2388.

13 Higgins 2014 - Higgins C, Duxbury L, Julien M. The relationship between work arrangements and work-family conflict. Work. 2014;48(1):69-81.

14 Gerstel 2018 - Gerstel N, Clawson D. Control over time: Employers, workers , and families shaping work schedules. Annual Review of Sociology. 2018;44(9):1-21.

15 Yang 2011 - Yang S, Zheng L. The paradox of de-coupling: A study of flexible work program and workers’ productivity. Social Science Research. 2011;40(1):299-311.

16 Lee 2012a - Lee BY, DeVoe SE. Flextime and profitability. Industrial Relations. 2012;51(2):298–316.

17 US FDA-Worklife - U.S. Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA). Working at FDA. Quality of worklife.