Pitfalls of flexible working revealed in new study

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, November 14, 2018
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LONDON, Nov. 13 (Xinhua) -- Flexible working arrangements to help staff achieve a work-life balance does not always help, a study by a leading academic at the University of Kent revealed Tuesday.

Dr Heejung Chung, lead researcher for the Work Autonomy, Flexibility and Work-Life Balance project, based at the university, said flexible working is not necessarily helping workers across Europe to relieve their work-family conflict.

Her report, published in the latest edition of the journal Society Now suggests a recent report into work autonomy, flexibility and work-life balance.

"The outcome of flexible working hugely depends on the context in which it is being used," said Chung, adding that flexibility in the boundaries between work and family can actually lead to an expansion of work.

One reason her study revealed is that flexible working can make work spill over into family life is that workers worry about work when not working, while employees may also work longer hours, encroaching into family time.

Some workers also appear to work harder to compensate for a potential negative stigma for working flexibly, the study showed.

In addition, flexible working may not always lead to better work-family balance because it increases the potential for women to work after childbirth, when previously they may have stopped working altogether.

"While flexible working can allow women to maintain their labor market positions because they can meet both work and family demands, it means more conflict," said Chung.

She said businesses and governments must address these challenges so that good flexible working practices can be developed.

Chung added: "Work culture needs to change the image of the 'ideal worker' from someone who only works, and only thinks of work, to that of someone who is able to manage both work and other aspects of life, enabling a more productive and happier society overall."

A step forward would be to ensure a 'right to flexible work' rather than the 'right to request flexible work'. This would ensure flexible working arrangements are available for all workers and not only the few.

The research project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), aims to examine how work autonomy and working-time flexibility (flexitime) is being used and provided, and how it can be used to benefit workers rather than to lead to increased intensification of work, blurring boundaries between work and family life. Enditem

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