Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Work-Family Balance and Alternative Work Schedules: Exploring the Impact of 4-Day Workweeks on State Employees

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Work-Family Balance and Alternative Work Schedules: Exploring the Impact of 4-Day Workweeks on State Employees

Article excerpt

Introduction

Around the globe, employers in every sector of the economy are seeking strategies to improve employee productivity and work environments. This issue is especially critical for public sector organizations as they face several significant challenges. For example, in the United States, governments face a looming tide of retirements, which will require either replacing employees or restructuring work and work processes. In other countries, a broad range of issues drive the need for new employees; these range from immigration to urban migration. In 2008, the world suffered a significant economic slowdown, triggered at least in part by the collapse of the U.S. housing market. As a result of the economic crisis, governments saw revenues shrink. Because personnel costs are often the largest expenditure for governments, especially subnational governments, public organizations frequently responded by targeting human resource-related costs. For example, many organizations implemented furloughs, pay freezes, and layoffs. As a result of these policy choices, many organizations struggled to address the potential declines in productivity or the resultant shortage of personnel. Many of the employees affected by furloughs or pay freezes stuck with their public sector employer because of the extremely tight labor market. However, as the economy has recovered, public employees have seen new opportunities ranging from retirement to sector shifting. Governments must now manage personnel in this changing environment. Employers, especially in the public sector, need to find creative strategies to be employers of choice for a workforce that sees service opportunities not simply limited to government service (Mulvaney, 2014; Vandenabeele, 2008). A strategy frequently used during the last 25 years has been to offer non-traditional benefits (e.g., child care, dependent care, employee assistance programs) and alternative work arrangements (e.g., flextime, job sharing, telecommuting, and compressed workweek) to assist employees in balancing the demands from work and family.

Over the last several years, there has been increased interest in non-traditional benefits and alternative work arrangements in the public sector. For example, according to a BBC report, about one third of men in the Netherlands either work part-time or 40 hr in 4 days (Barford, 2013). In 2013, public sector workers in the nation of the Gambia shifted to a model of working 40 hr in 4 days. Although organizations throughout the world have begun implementing similar forms of flexible work schedules, more research is needed on the impact of such schedules on individual employees and on the workplace. The current research seeks to respond to the call for closer attention to the variables that affect work-family interaction and specific types of flexible work arrangements (T. D. Allen, Johnson, Kiburz, & Shockley, 2013).

This study adds to the existing literature in several ways. It examines the first statewide adoption of an alternative work schedule in the United States. Second, it presents new analytical frameworks for analyzing attitudes and impacts of compressed work schedules. Third, the article examines the connection between compressed work schedules and work-family balance. Finally, various demographic characteristics of the respondents are considered to provide a more complete picture of the impact of compressed work schedules on employees. To do this, we focus on the U.S. state of Utah, which implemented a compressed workweek schedule (four 10-hr days) for employees. The article proceeds as follows: First, the literature on compressed workweeks and work-family balance is presented. Then, the relationship of demographic variables to the use of compressed workweeks and also to levels of work-family balance is examined, and research hypotheses are presented. This is followed by the methods used to collect data and the measures used in the current study. …

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