Flexible scheduling

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 scheduling (Golden 2018, Cochrane-Joyce 2010*).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Improved health outcomes

  • Increased job satisfaction

  • Reduced absenteeism

  • Increased productivity

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Improved mental health

  • Improved work-life balance

  • Increased sleep

  • Reduced stress

  • Increased well-being

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that flexible scheduling improves employee health (Cochrane-Joyce 2010*, Nijp 2012), increases job satisfaction and productivity, and reduces absenteeism (Baltes 1999).

Overall, increasing employees’ control over their work schedules improves well-being (Nijp 2012), sense of community (Cochrane-Joyce 2010*), and happiness (Okulicz-Kozaryn 2018*, Golden 2013a). 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 enforcement (Cochrane-Joyce 2010*).

Flexible scheduling may increase retention (Schieman 2017, Caillier 2016*, Moen 2011*), improve employee performance, and increase employee commitment (Golden 2018). Flex time has been shown to increase productivity (Baltes 1999) and reduce absenteeism (Baltes 1999). Flex time and compressed work weeks improve employee job and schedule satisfaction (Schieman 2017, Baltes 1999) and are associated with improved work-life balance (Schieman 2017, Nijp 2012, Bambra 2008*) and reduced stress (Grzywacz 2008*). Availability of flex time may increase female labor market participation rates (Golden 2018), and its use may increase life satisfaction for working mothers from dual earning families (Minnotte 2016*). However, some of these benefits may be reduced when workplace expectations include taking work home and being available outside of work hours (Schieman 2017). In some cases, flexible scheduling may also increase the likelihood that work and family interfere with each other (Higgins 2014*), for example, when the scheduling is employer driven rather than employee-centered (Gerstel 2018*). Adopting flexible scheduling for selected workers may lead to decreases in productivity among workers without the benefit (Yang 2011*). 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 strategy (Lee 2012a*).

Impact on Disparities

No impact on disparities likely

Implementation Examples

Flexible scheduling options are implemented, officially and unofficially, by employers in many industries across the country (Golden 2018). Government agencies such as the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have official policies in place that support flexible scheduling (US FDA-Worklife).

Implementation Resources

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

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

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

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.

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

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