Academic journal article Accounting Horizons

An Examination of Alternative Work Arrangements in Private Accounting Practice

Academic journal article Accounting Horizons

An Examination of Alternative Work Arrangements in Private Accounting Practice

Article excerpt

SYNOPSIS: Employees are requesting more flexibility in their work schedules to be able to integrate work with other aspects of their family and personal lives. While alternative work arrangements are being offered at progressively more companies, it is unclear whether the work culture accepts these arrangements as a viable work alternative. Here we examine the extent to which flextime and telecommuting arrangements impact management accountants' performance evaluations, job commitment, and career progression as compared to working a traditional schedule. We also examine whether these arrangements are perceived as being less acceptable for men than for women. One-hundred sixty management accountants from 90 companies participated in our experiment. The results indicate that participation in alternative work arrangements did not impact perceptions of current task performance or job commitment. However, participation led to significantly lower perceptions of long-term career potential.

Keywords: alternative work arrangements; flextime; telecommuting; performance evaluation.

Data Availability: Data will be made available by the second author upon request.

INTRODUCTION

Since the mid-1980s, Corporate America has been engaged in restructuring or reinventing the American workplace. Corporations recognize that people are one of their most valuable assets and that employment relationships require a mutual commitment. As employees face growing stress from nonwork commitments, employers have developed alternative work arrangements to provide their employees increased flexibility in managing both a career and a personal/family life. Alternative work arrangements can range from full-time schedules utilizing flexible work hours or compressed workweeks to part-time and/or seasonal work. These arrangements offer flexibility in terms of time and/or workplace.

Several factors explain the prevalence of alternative work arrangements. First, employees increasingly demand work arrangements that enable them to have an appropriate work/family balance. Although women initially made this request, increasing numbers of men are also concerned with their personal and family life (AICPA 1999). Second, firms know they must respond to the needs of current and prospective employees to attain a competitive advantage in the marketplace (Hooks and Tyson 1995; Levy et al. 2000). Alternative work arrangements and other family-friendly programs are perceived to improve the work environment, thereby enhancing employees' performance and commitment. These arrangements are also intended to retain valued employees, thereby contributing to lower recruiting and training costs, maintaining experience in positions, and personnel continuity. Third, recent technological advances make work much more portable and enables telecommuting to be considered as a realistic work option. (1) Firms envision telecommuting as a means of reducing office-space costs while potentially reducing voluntary turnover (Hooks and Higgs 2002; Shellenbarger 2001).

Although more companies offer alternative work arrangements, it is still unclear the extent to which employees embrace them. A key factor in determining the success of these initiatives is whether the work culture accepts them as a viable work alternative. The culture of many organizations still supports the belief that those who work the longest hours are the most productive and that "face time" is equal to productivity (Olmstead and Smith 1994). For employees who need flexibility to integrate work with other aspects of their lives, the unanswered question is whether colleagues and supervisors perceive those working an alternative schedule to be less committed to their jobs, and less likely to enjoy career success (Conner et al. 1997). The availability of these arrangements becomes moot if the corporate culture does not support their use.

This exploratory study examines how management accountants' work arrangements affect performance evaluations, job commitment, and career progression judgments. …

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