Academic journal article Family Relations

Finding an Extra Day a Week: The Positive Influence of Perceived Job Flexibility on Work and Family Life Balance

Academic journal article Family Relations

Finding an Extra Day a Week: The Positive Influence of Perceived Job Flexibility on Work and Family Life Balance

Article excerpt

Finding an Extra Day a Week: The Positive Influence of

Perceived Job Flexibility on Work and Family Life Balance*

This study examines the influence of perceived flexibility in the timing and location of work on work-family balance. Data are from a 1996 International Business Machines (IBM) work and life issues survey in the United States (n = 6,451). Results indicate that perceived job flexibility is related to improved work-family balance after controlling for paid work hours, unpaid domestic labor hours, gender, marital status, and occupational level. Perceived job flexibility appears to be beneficial both to individuals and to businesses. Given the same workload, individuals with perceived job flexibility have more favorable work-family balance. Likewise, employees with perceived job flexibility are able to work longer hours before workload negatively impacts their work-family balance. Implications of these findings are presented.

The demographic composition of the United States workforce has changed dramatically in recent years. This work force now includes more dual-earner couples who have responsibility for the care of children or elderly dependents, as well as more dual-professional couples where both have careers, not just jobs (Bond, Galinsky, & Swanberg, 1998). In addition, extensive downsizing by large corporations has lengthened the average workweek for many employees. The average American worker now spends additional time equivalent to six extra 40hour weeks per year on the job, when compared with the late 1960s (Schor, 1992), and three extra 40-hour weeks compared with just five years ago (Bond et al.). This means that for many, especially for dual-career parents and those with elder-care responsibilities, juggling the demands of the workplace and the home has become a more difficult balancing act.

Work-family advocates have long championed the adoption of a variety of family-friendly benefits to positively influence work-family balance (Galinsky, 1992). Flexibility in the timing (flextime) and location of work (flexplace) are two characteristics that are repeatedly seen as a way to achieve balance in work and family life in this challenging environment (e.g., Christensen & Staines, 1990; Galinsky, 1992; Galinsky & Johnson, 1998; Zedeck, 1992). Scholars agree that individuals can better manage long work hours with the unpredictable demands of dependent care when given a measure of control over when and where work is done (Barnett, 1994; Shore, 1998). The percentage of companies offering flextime and flexplace is increasing (Galinsky & Bond, 1998). Nonetheless, simply demonstrating the personal benefit is insufficient to convince companies to adopt flexibility. A solid business justification must be made as well. Surprisingly few studies have attempted to quantify how job flexibility is related to work-family balance or how such flexible arrangements may benefit individuals and businesses (Hill, Miller, Weiner, & Colihan, 1998). This investigation attempts to do so. The results of our study should be of interest to work and family researchers and to practitioners because it will provide objective information on which to make policy decisions and help guide individuals to effective decisions.

This study uses an ecological conceptual framework (cf. Bronfenbrenner, 1986; Bubolz & Sontag, 1993) and a work-family substantive theory called spillover theory (Zedeck, 1992). A strong work-family mesosystem is proposed and assumes that the work microsystem and the family microsystem significantly influence one another through a permeable boundary (Bromet, Dew, & Parkinson, 1990). Work-family balance may be defined as the degree to which an individual is able to simultaneously balance the temporal, emotional, and behavioral demands of both paid work and family responsibilities. Research has extensively examined the conditions under which spillover between the work microsystem and the family microsystem is positive or negative. …

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