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The downside of flexible work hours

Updated: Sep 30, 2010, 18:11 PM IST

Washington: According to new research out of the University of Toronto, people who have flexible work hours are reporting more blurring of the boundaries between work and the other parts of their lives, especially family-related roles.

Sociology professor Scott Schieman (U of T) and PhD student Marisa Young (U of T) asked study participants, “Who usually decides when you start and finish work each day at your main job? Is it someone else, or can you decide within certain limits, or are you entirely free to decide when you start and finish work?”

“We wondered about the potential stress of schedule control for the work-family interface. What happens if schedule control blurs the boundaries between these key social roles?” asked Schieman.

The authors describe two core findings:

People with more schedule control are more likely to work at home and engage in work–family multitasking activities; that is, they try to work on job- and home-related tasks at the same time while they are at home.

In turn, people who report more work-family role blurring also tend to report higher levels of work-family conflict—a major source of stress.

According to Schieman, discovering the conditions that predict work-family conflict is critical because “a substantial body of social scientific evidence demonstrates its link to poorer physical and mental health outcomes.”

“People who had partial or full schedule control were able to engage in work-family multitasking activities with fewer negative consequences in terms of conflict between their work and family roles. Overall, our findings contribute to an ongoing—and complicated—debate about the costs and benefits of different forms of flexibility for workers,” he added.

ANI