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

Author(s): E. Jeffrey Hill, Alan J. Hawkins, Maria Ferris, Michelle Weitzman Source: Family Relations, Vol. 50, No. 1 (Jan., 2001), pp. 49-58 Published by: National Council on Family Relations Stable URL: . Accessed: 29/06/2011 07:47
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Finding an Extra Day a Week: The Positive Influence of Perceived Job Flexibility on Work and Family Life Balance*
E. Jeffrey Hill,** Alan J. Hawkins, Maria Ferris, and Michelle Weitzman Dataarefroma balance. on of and in of the examines influence perceived Thisstudy flexibility thetiming location work work-family that Results indicate perceived in States = 6,451). (n survey theUnited work lifeissues and Machines (IBM) Business 1996International laborhours, domestic gender, unpaid hours, balance for aftercontrolling paidwork to work-family is jobflexibility related improved Given and both to appears be beneficial to individuals to businesses. job level. and status, occupational Perceived flexibility marital with employees balance. Likewise, work-family havemore favorable job with individuals perceived flexibility the sameworkload, of balance. Implications their impacts work-family negatively workload before longerhours are job perceived flexibility ableto work are these findings presented. he demographiccomposition of the United States workforce has changed dramaticallyin recent years. This work force now includes more dual-earnercouples who have responsibility for the care of children or elderly dependents,as well as more dual-professionalcouples where both have careers, not just jobs (Bond, Galinsky, & Swanberg, 1998). In addition, extensive downsizing by large corporationshas 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-careerparents and those with elder-careresponsibilities, juggling the demands of the workplace and the home has become a more difficult balancing act. Work-familyadvocates have long championedthe 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 repeatedlyseen 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 unpredictabledemands of dependent care when given a measureof controlover 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 demonstratingthe personal benefit is insufficient to convince companies to adopt flexibility. A solid business justificationmust 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 attemptsto do so. The results of our study should be of interest to work and family researchersand to practitionersbecause it will provide objective

informationon 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 substantivetheory 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-familybalance may be defined as the degree to which an individual is able to simultaneously balance the temporal,emotional, and behavioraldemandsof both paid work and family responsibilities.Research has extensively examined the conditionsunderwhich spillover between the work microsystem and the family microsystemis positive or negative. If work-family interactions are rigidly structuredin time and space, then spillover in terms of time, energy, and behavior is generally negative (Barnett, 1994; Williams & Alliger, 1994). Research also offers support for the notion that flexibility in work arrangements,which enables individuals to integrate and overlap work and family responsibilities in time and space, is associated with positive spillover and is instrumentalin achieving a healthy work and family balance (Barnett; Bond et al., 1998; Galinsky, Bond, & Friedman, 1993). A review of the literatureindicates that increased demands on the job and at home have made managing work and family life increasingly difficult (Shore, 1998). Although flextime and flexplace programshave been adopted at many companies, they may not be fully utilized by employees (Hochschild, 1997). Thus, more empiricalresearchis needed to measurethe influence of flextime and flexplace on work-family balance.

Work-Family Balance
Both academic and corporate research are confirming the existence of work-to-familyand family-to-workspillover and the importance of healthy work-family interface for families and businesses. In most of these studies, there are measuresof spillover that are associated with family and business outcomes. Examples of outcomes associated with negative work-to-family spillover from the peer-reviewed academic literature include withdrawalfrom family interaction(Paden & Buehler, 1995; Repetti & Wood, 1997), increased conflict in marriage (Bolger, DeLongis, Kessler, & Wethington,1989; Crouter,Perry-Jenkins, Huston, & Crawford, 1989), less knowledge of children's experiences (Bumpus, Crouter,& McHale, 1999; Crouter,HelmsErikson, Updegraff, & McHale, 1999), less involvement in housework (Aldous. Mulligan. & Biarnason. 1998: Crouter et

*We thankInternational Business Machines Corporation (IBM) for providingthe support and cooperationneeded to collect the data used in this article. Ideas expressed are the opinions of the authors,not necessarily of IBM. **Address correspondenceto: E. Jeffrey Hill, School of Family Life, BrighamYoung University, P.O. Box 25524, Provo, UT 84602-5524; e-mail: Key Words:flexplace, flextime,job flexibility, telecommuting,virtualoffice, workand family. (Family Relations, 2001, 50, 49-58)

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al.), shorterperiod of breast-feedingfor mothers with full-time employment(Lindberg,1996), depression(Beatty, 1996), greater likelihood to misuse alcohol (Frone, Russell, & Cooper, 1993), and overall decrease in the quality of life (Rice, Frone, & McFarlin, 1992). Less academicresearchhas focused on family-to-workspillover, the "neglected side of the work-familyinterface"(Crouter, 1984). Examples documented in scholarly studies of outcomes associated with negative family-to-work spillover include more pronouncedpsychological distress due to poor marital and parentalrole quality (Barnett,Marshall,& Pleck, 1992), decreased job satisfaction (Burke, 1989), decreased quality of work life (Higgins, Duxbury, & Irving, 1992), greaterlikelihood of leaving the company (Burke), and increased absenteeism (Goff, Mount, & Jamison, 1990). In an interestingattemptto link family-to-work spillover to the business objective of increasingbottom-line profits,Forthoffer,Markman,Cox, Stanley, and Kessler (1996) documented $6.8 billion worth of annual work loss in the United States associated with the absenteeism attributedto maritaldistress. data from a nationallyrepresenRecent corporate-sponsored tative sample of workersin the United States confirmthat workfamily balance often is problematicfor employees and employers. This type of researchis differentfrom academic researchin that the objective is to provide descriptive data from which to make decisions regarding company policy. The 1997 National Study of the Changing Workforce (NSCW), sponsored by the Families and WorkInstitutewith grantsfrom large corporations, revealed that today'sjobs consume more physical and emotional energy, are more unpredictable,and require longer hours than were required20 years ago (Shore, 1998). In a recent study at one large corporation,inability to balance work and personaland family life was tied with compensation as the leading reason employees gave for why they would potentially leave the company (Galinsky & Johnson, 1998). Moreover,in the past, workfamily balance has been considereda women's issue; recent studies indicate that men are as likely as women to have difficulty managing work-family demands (Hill, Campbell, & Koblenz, 1997; Levine & Pittinsky, 1997; Milkie & Peltola, 1999).

family conflict, especially for those with preschool children. Shamir (1983) reportedthat working more than 9 hours a day resulted in much greater conflict between work and nonwork facets of life. In addition,the numberof hours spent on the job has been shown to relate to the degree to which spouses choose to participatein family work (Almeida, Maggs, & Galambos, 1993), especially men's involvement in child care (Aldous et al., 1998). Longer work hours by husbandsalso has been shown to be associated with greatermaritalconflict (Kluwer,Heesink, & Van de Vliert, 1996).

Unpaid Domestic Labor

For some time, scholars have lamented that the degree to which fathersparticipatein household chores and child care does not match the emerging egalitarian culture of fatherhood(LaRossa, 1988; Nock, 1998). However, a summaryof recent findings indicates that men are now indeed doing more (Levine & Pittinsky, 1997; Pleck, 1997). Findings from the NSCW reveal that employed marriedfathersincreased their time in child care significantlyfrom 19.4 hours per week in 1977 to 24.3 hoursper week in 1997. The time that employed, marriedmothers spent with their childrenstayed constantduringthis period (31.1 hours per week in 1977 and 31.6 hours per week in 1997). Between 1977 and 1997, the amountof time men reportdoing household chores increasedfrom 14.4 hoursper week in 1977 to 21.2 hours per week in 1997. During the same period, the amount of time women reported doing household chores declined from 32.9 hours per week in 1977 to 27.7 hours per week in 1997. Men are closing the gap. In 1977, marriedemployed women reported doing 18.5 hours more houseworkper week than employed married men. That gap has been cut by about two thirdsto 6.5 hours per week (Bond et al., 1998). Moreover, dual-earnermen generally work longer hours than dual-earnerwomen (Levine & Pittinsky). Though men are working more hours at home, there is continuedgender segregationin household tasks. Men tend to have more discretionand flexibility in when they do tasks around the home (e.g., mow the lawn, household repairs,etc.), whereas women continue to be responsible for tasks (e.g., fixing meals, child care, etc.) that have less flexibility (Milkie & Peltola, 1999). In addition, research continues to show that wives' dissatisfaction with the household division of labor is related to women maritalconflict (Kluweret al., 1996) and thatdual-earner who participatein more domestic labor experiencegreaterworkfamily conflict (Wiersma& van den Berg, 1991).

Paid Work Hours

American workers appear to be expending more hours in paid labor than in recent years. Schor (1992) indicated that, on average, Americanworkersin 1987 worked the equivalentof an extra six 40-hour weeks when comparedwith workers in 1969. The NSCW, documentingthis trendover the past 5 years, reports that in 1992, employed men spent, on average, 48.8 hours per week and employed women spent 41.7 hours per week in jobrelated activities (Galinsky et al., 1993). By 1997 this had increased to 52.0 hours per week for men and 43.2 hours per week for women (Bond et al., 1998). In contrast,Robinson and Godbey (1997), using time diary data, found that the actual number of hours worked has not increased over the past 30 years, but because the pace of work has increased, many employees think they are working longer. An increase in work hours is likely to be real for some and perceptualfor others, and work hours may affect some occupationalgroups more than others. Nonetheless, scholars agree that, overall, workers feel as if they are working longer hours and that this may be related to problematicfamily outcomes. Judge, Boudreau, and Bretz (1994) found a strong re12tionshin between the number of paid work hours and work50

one's Flextime is broadly defined as the ability to rearrange work hours within certain guidelines offered by the company. There are often core hours (e.g., 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.) during which all employees must be working and may be requiredto be on-site. Employees are then given varying degrees of control over when they choose to fulfill their work commitment. Studies indicate that flexibility in the timing of work have generally been well received by workers and have contributed to organizationalgoals. Nonetheless, the degree to which these programsare actually available to the individualdepends on the research immediatemanager(Powell & Mainiero, 1999). Current indicates that some form of flextime is offered in most large companies, but research indicates its link to personal and business benefits is equivocal. A recent study of more than 1,000 U.S. companies revealed that about two thirds (68%) allow emFamily Relations

ployees to change starting and stopping times periodically, although only one quarter(24%) allow this change on a daily basis (Galinsky & Bond, 1998). The NSCW reveals that employees with flextime were "more satisfied with their jobs, more likely to want to remain on the job, and showed more initiative than workers with no access to these policies" (Galinsky & Johnson, 1998, p. 9). Glass and Camarigg (1992) linked schedule flexibility to job-family compatibility. In a review of flextime research, however, Christensenand Staines (1990) concluded that "no compelling case can be made for flextime solely on the grounds of employers' conventionalconcerns with organizational effectiveness, organizationalmembership,or job attitudes"(p. 475). Shinn, Wong, Simko, and Ortiz-Torres(1989) found that the perception of flexibility in the timing of work was weakly related to the well-being of working parents, but that the presence or absence of a formal flextime programwas unrelated.In addition,the fact that flextime policies exist does not necessarily mean that employees feel the option is truly available. In the absence of cultural support within the organization, familyfriendly policies, including flextime, may be used infrequently (Hill et al., 1997; Hochschild, 1997). In any case, there is little researchin this area, and how individualsallocate theirtime over various roles is an importantarea of continued research (Brayfield, 1995).

more time on domestic work than those employed at the company location (Silver & Goldscheider,1994).

This study examined the perceived influence of job flexibility in the timing (flextime) and location of work (flexplace) on work-family balance. Ratherthan examine the use of formal flextime and flexplace programs,we looked at the perceived flexibility as seen by employees, regardless of the formal program offered. We hypothesized that, as predictedby spillover theory, perceivedjob flexibility will be relatedto improvedwork-family balance. We also hypothesized that, given the same workload, individualswith perceivedjob flexibility will have less difficulty with work-life balance. Finally, we hypothesizedthat those with flextime and flexplace will be able to work longer hours before having difficulty with work-family balance. Few studies have attemptedto quantify how perceived job flexibility is related to work and family life balance or what type of benefits such flexible arrangements may have for individuals and businesses. We hope this study will begin to fill this gap in the research.

The data for this study came from a work and life issues survey administeredonline by InternationalBusiness Machines (IBM) in the United States in 1996. This survey was designed to gather data to help IBM's diverse workforce achieve its business objectives while fostering work and personal and family life balance. During recent years, IBM has implementednumerous policies to enable its employees to better harmonize their personal and family needs with the needs of the business. Some of these policies include child and elder care referral services, financial supportfor near-sitedependentcare facilities, personal and parental leave policies, online and call-in parenting assistance, permanent part-timejob opportunitiesfor professionals and managers,and domestic partnerbenefits. Recent internalsurveys reveal that IBM employees perceive the flexibility to choose when, where, and how work is done to be the most beneficial IBM offering to enhance work-familybalance (Hill et al., 1997). As a result, aggressive policies to enhance flexibility in the timing and location of work have been adopted. For example, individualized work schedules give employees the flexibility to startwork up to 2 hours before or after the normal start time at their location with stop times adjusted accordingly. Meal-breakflexibility enables employees to take a minimum of 30 minutes or up to a maximum of 2 hours for a meal break. This window of time in an employee's workdaycan be used for personal-choiceactivities, such as attendinga child's school function, caring for an elderly relative, or participating in a sports activity. Compressed workweeks make it possible for employees to work their 40-hour week in fewer than 5 work days, for example, four 10-hour days (InternationalBusiness Machines, 1996). Likewise, other policies enable greater flexibility in the location of work. As of the late 1990s, about 25,000 IBM employees in the United States no longer had individual companyprovided office space but had been supplied the portable electronic means (e.g., laptop computer,fax, modem, cellularphone, etc.) to work from a variety of locations (Apgar, 1998). Using

Flexplace is broadly defined as giving employees varying degrees of control over where their work is done. Flexplace includes telecommuting, which is the option for employees to work from anotherfixed, offsite location, usually the home. Telecommuting is sometimes fulltime, but is often 1 or 2 days a week. Flexplace also includes an emerging work form called the "virtual office." In the virtual office employees are given the portablemeans to do theirjob wherever and whenever it makes sense. Despite extensive publicity given to telecommuting in the nationalpress (Shellenbarger,1997), fewer companiesoffer flexplace than offer flextime, and fewer employees choose to use this option when available. About half (55%) of the companies allow employees to work at home occasionally, and one third allow employees to work at home or off-site on a regularbasis (Galinsky & Bond, 1998); however, only about one fifth of workersreportedthat they work any of their regularlyscheduled hours at home (Bond et al., 1998). Some managersare hesitant about authorizingflexplace arrangements because they feel that teamworkwould be adversely impacted or that employees need face-to-face supervision to be successful. Some employees believe that if they spend less time in the office, they will be less likely to be promoted, and there is recent research to support that viewpoint (Judiesch & Lyness, 1999). Forecastsare that because of the decreasingcost of the technology required for telecommuting and the increasing cost of office space, the number of employees utilizing flexplace will increase significantlyin futureyears (Piskurich, 1996). The benefits documented for flexplace include greater productivity,the perception of improved morale, and better work-familybalance (Hill et al., 1998). Nonetheless, research using a quasi-experimental design did not show that employees using flexplace had better work-family balance than those without flexibility in the location of their work (Hill, Hawkins, & Miller, 1996). Other research indicated home-based work enabled women to spend
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this virtual offce, IBM employeeshave the capability better to

harmonizetheirpersonal-familyand professionalneeds by working from home when needed. Other programsenable IBM em51

Table 1 Descriptive Statistics and Correlations (1) Work/ Family .02 -.07** -.06** -.21** -.47** -.10** .41** (4) (5) (7) (2) (3) Preschool- Occup. (6) Domestic Gender Married ers Level Paid Work Labor

Variables 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Work-family balance Gender (0 = male, 1 = female) Married(0 = single, 1 = married) Preschoolers(0 = no, 1 yes) Occupational(level 1 = hourly, 2 = professional, 3 Paid work hours Unpaid domestic labor Flexibility

M 2.98 0.32 0.78 0.24 1.87 55.23 23.44 2.97

SD 0.80 0.47 0.42 0.43 0.58 9.14 16.64 0.78



.03 -.05*

.12** -.01

.25** .09** .06** .14** .00

.05** -.04* .37** .03

.34** -.09** .13**

-.05* -.09**


aWork-LifeBalance (Cronbackalpha: .83) 1. How easy or difficult is it for you to balance the demands of your work and your personal and family life (5-point scale: very easy to very difficult)? 2. I have sufficient time away from my job at IBM to maintainadequatework and personal/familylife balance (5-point scale: strongly agree to strongly disagree). 3. When I take a vacation, I am able to separatemyself from work and enjoy myself (5-point scale: strongly agree to strongly disagree). 4. All in all, how successful do you feel in balancing your work and personal/familylife (7-point scale: extremely successful to extremely unsuccessful)? 5. How often do you feel drainedwhen you go home from work because of work pressures and problems (5-point scale: never to almost always)?
bFlexibility (Cronbachalpha: .72)

1. How much flexibility do you have in selecting the location of where you work (5-point scale: complete flexibility to none)? 2. How much flexibility do you have in scheduling when you do your work (e.g., scheduling hours, time of day, etc.) (5-point scale: complete flexibility to none)? 3. How much flexibility do you have in scheduling what work you will do (e.g., content of work, processes used, etc.) (5-point scale: complete flexibility to none)? 4. I have sufficient flexibility in my job at IBM to maintainadequatework and personal and family life balance (5-point scale: strongly agree to strongly disagree). *p < .01; **p < .001

ployees to work from home on a regular basis to better meet both business and personal-familyneeds (Hill et al., 1997).

Data Collection and Sample

A 9% representativesample of all IBM employees in the United States was invited to take this online survey; 58% (n = of 6,451) responded.Characteristics the 1996 IBM sample compared with a 1997 national sample of United States workers (shown in parentheses;Bond et al., 1998) include the following: female, IBM: 32% (48%); college graduate,IBM: 64% (31%); annual income greater than $50,000, IBM: 67% (-45%); married, IBM: 78% (65%); in dual-earnerhouseholds, IBM: 63% (51%); with children under 18 years of age, IBM: 59% (45%); with elder care responsibilities, IBM: 20% (25%); with both child and elder care responsibilities, IBM: 11% (-20%); managers and professionals, IBM: 75% (34%); nonexempt (hourly, paid for overtime) employees, IBM: 24% (66%). The types of jobs were indicative of the high level of skills needed by IBM: programmers,19%; engineers, 12%; services, 11%; sales, 9%; consultants, 4%; project managers, 4%; exempt professionals, 21%; and other job categories, 20%. To get a general sense for whetherthose who respondedwere systematicallydifferentfrom those who did not respond, the self-report demographicswere compared with those in IBM's human resources data base. Although statistically significant differences were found, the absolute size of the differences were relatively small. The largest in difference was that women were slightly overrepresented the sample (i.e., 32% of respondents were women vs. 29% in the human resources database). This response difference is consistent with other IBM studies. The survey was administeredelectronically, and IBM has conductedonline surveys since 1986. Survey dataindicatea high degree of confidence in the confidentialityand anonymityof the data. To preserve anonymity, the electronic mail address was deleted from the data before it was sent to the survey administrator.Electronicremindernotes were sent three times to all survey invitees to encourageparticipation.Comparedwith the penat cil-and-papermethod, online survey administration IBM has 52

rates, more and longer write-incomyielded higher participation ments on open-ended survey items, quicker data analysis, and faster implementationof new policies based on the data (Hill et al., 1997). All IBM employees had access to and knew how to use computers at work, so there was no danger of biasing the survey by limiting survey access to only those who were computer literate.

The dependentvariablefor this study was work-familybalance, measuredby a composite of five questions aboutthe ability of employees to balance the demands of work and their own personal and family life. (See Table 1 for list of questions and response scales.) The primary independentvariables were paid work hours, unpaiddomestic labor,and perceivedjob flexibility. Paid work hours was the sum of the average reportedweekly work hours and the average reported weekly commute hours. Unpaid domestic labor was the sum of the average reported weekly hours in household chores and child care. For multivariate analyses, perceived job flexibility was measuredby a composite of four questions relatedto the respondent'sperceptionof the degree of flexibility in the timing and location of work. Flextime and flexplace were tested as individualvariablesbut did not contribute additional explanation of the variance, probably because they were highly correlated(r = .52). For otherdescriptive analyses, however perceivedjob flexibility includeddiscretevariables for flextime and flexplace. Demographicvariablesincluded gender, marital status, presence of preschool children, and occupational level. Occupationallevel was coded (1 = hourly employees; 2 = professional salaried employees, and 3 = managers). Althoughtechnically ordinal-leveldata,occupationallevel is treatedas interval-leveldata so it can be used in multivariate analyses. Presence of preschool children was the demographic variable associated with dependentcare because in preliminary analyses, we also looked at presence of children of any age, presence of elders, presence of any dependent,and presence of preteens. Except for presence of elders, each was significantly related to work-family balance. Because of problemswith mulFamily Relations

Table 2 Multiple Regression: Betas, and CumulativeR2 Values (Dependent Variable Work/Life Balance) Variables Demographic
Gender -.02*

-.02 -.04*** -.13***

Cumulutive Adjusted R2 .05

Maritalstatus Presence of preschoolers Occupationallevel Workload Paid work hours Unpaid domestic labor hours Flexibility
Note: N = 5,980. *p < .05; **p < .01; ***p < .001.

.24 -.40*** -.09*** .39*** .39

ticolinearity,however, only one variablecould be used. Presence of preschool childrenhad the strongestcorrelational relationship. The means, standarddeviations, alpha reliabilities, and intercorrelations for all variables are presented in Table 1, as are the wording of the items used as composite scores.

Plan for Analyses

Multivariateanalyses were conducted to determine if perceived job flexibility was significantly related to work-family balance after controlling for workload and demographic variables. Variousinteractionterms were tested (e.g., gender by domestic labor, gender by presence of preschoolers, occupational level by gender, occupational level by marital status, occupational level by presence of preschoolers, and many other combinations), but none added significantly to the explained variance. The standardizedbetas and cumulative R2 values are presented in Table 2. To demonstratethe personal benefit of perceived job flexibility given a reasonable workweek, we compared the percentages of a variety of groups who indicated they were having a difficult or very difficult time balancing the demands of their work and family life. We compared those with both flexplace and flextime to those with neither flexplace nor flextime; compared those with flexplace to those without flexplace; and compared those with flextime to those without flextime. We calculated the percentage of these groups reportingwork-family difficulty for those who indicated they worked 40 to 50 hours per week, a workweek we considered to be of reasonable hours. Results for these analyses are found in Table 3. To demonstratethe business benefit of perceived job flexiTable 3 Percentage of RespondentsReportingDifficulty With Work-FamilyBalancea Both FT and Neither FT FP nor FP Total Women Men Women with preschoolers Men with prechoolers Managers Exempt professionals Nonexempt hourly 28% 30% 27% 53% 38% 37% 30% 18% 46% 43% 48% 66% 59% 60% 51% 42% Difference 18% 13% 21% 13% 21% 23% 21% 24%

bility in terms easily understoodby a manager (who generally does not have substantialtrainingin multivariatestatisticalanalysis), a break-point-balance-pointanalysis was designed. The break point was defined as the number of weekly paid work hours at which 50% of the sample respondedthey had a difficult or very difficult time balancing the demands of their work and family life. This level of effort might be what would be expected from employees during a peak workload or "crisis mode" period. The balance point was defined as the number of weekly work hours at which 25% of the sample had difficultywith workfamily balance. This might representthe numberof work hours sustainableover a long period without undue hardshipto family lives. The break point and balance point representarbitrarystatistical points designed for illustrative purposes. They were selected because the balance point generally reflected the percentage of employees with work-family difficulty in the 1986 IBM survey "when employees were more balanced," and the break point reflected the percentage of employees with work-family difficulty found in the 1996 IBM survey "when employees were not as balanced." The break-pointand balance-point figures were calculated by a regression equation where work hours per week was the independent variable and work-family balance (percentage of employees having difficulty with work-family balance) was the dependent variable. We calculated the break point and balance point for various groupsby setting work-familybalance equal to .50 or .25 respectively, and solved for paid work hours. We calculated the break point and balance point for those with and without flexplace and for those with and without flextime separately. We separatedthese two types of perceived flexibility because they each representdifferentplans of action that could be taken to increase flexibility. Results for these analyses are found in Table 4.

Descriptive statisticsrevealed that abouthalf of the employees had difficulty with work-life balance. Paid work hours was strongly and negatively correlatedand perceived flexibility was strongly and positively correlatedwith work-familybalance (see Table 1). Of note, gender was not significantly correlated to work-family balance or to perceived flexibility, indicating that men and women report similar levels of work-family balance and perceived flexibility on the job. In harmonywith a nationally representativesample (Bond et al., 1998), we found that men reported somewhat longer work hours, and women reported

With FP 29% 31% 28% 57% 39% 39% 31% 21%

WithoutFP 40% 41% 40% 61% 55% 46% 42% 38%

Difference 11% 10% 12% 4% 16% 7% 11% 17%

With FT 29% 33% 27% 55% 39% 37% 30% 21%

WithoutFT 44% 43% 45% 65% 58% 56% 49% 40%

Difference 15% 10% 18% 10% 19% 19% 19% 19%

Note: Includes employees working between 40 and 50 hours per week. N = 3.898. FP = flexplace; FT = flextime. aPercentage responding "Very difficult" or "Difficult" to the question, "How easy or difficult is it for you to balance the demands of your work and your personal/ family life?"

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Table 4 Break Point-Balance Point Analysis: Hours of Workper Weekat Which50% (Break Point) or 25% (Balance Point) of RespondentsReportedThey Had a Difficult or Very Difficult Time Balancing the Demands of Workand Family Break Point Analysis (50% Difficulty) With FP Total Women Men Women w/pre Men w/pre Managers Professionals Nonexempt hourly 59.3 59.2 59.6 43.1 53.4 55.4 58.0 82.6 Without FP Difference With FT 54.4 54.5 54.3 32.3 46.3 51.0 53.8 56.3 +4.9 +4.7 +5.3 +10.8 +7.1 +4.4 +4.2 +26.3 60.4 60.6 60.3 41.4 53.6 58.4 59.2 73.4 Without FT Difference 52.3 52.9 52.0 31.0 44.9 40.1 50.9 53.6 +8.1 +7.7 +8.3 +10.4 +8.7 +18.3 +8.3 +19.8 Balance Point Analysis (25% Difficulty) With FP WithoutFP Difference With FT 44.1 41.1 +3.0 45.1 42.1 38.4 +3.7 39.3 45.3 42.2 +3.1 47.7 20.7 -1.0 +21.7 12.3 37.6 32.0 +5.6 40.3 34.7 35.2 -0.5 41.2 42.7 40.5 +2.2 43.4 51.0 41.7 +9.3 51.5 Without FT Difference 39.1 38.4 39.0 1.2 30.7 18.6 36.5 41.5 +6.0 +0.9 +8.7 +11.1 +9.6 +22.6 +6.9 +10.0

Note: N = 5,980. FP = flexplace; FT = flextime; pre = preschoolers.

somewhatmore hours in domestic labor.Womenwere somewhat less likely to be marriedthan were men. Multivariateanalyses (see Table 2) indicatedthat paid work hours accountedfor the greatestportion of the variancein workfamily balance, adding an adjustedR2 of .19. Additionally,perceived job flexibility, including both flextime and flexplace, added 15%to the explained variance of the model. Then, the model was run with the discrete variables as well as using interaction terms, and neitherscenario added significantlyto the explanation of the variance.Occupationallevel was the demographicvariable that contributedthe most to explained variance in the model. The higher the level of one's occupation,the more difficultywith work-family balance. The other demographicvariables, gender and presence of preschoolers, although statistically significant predictors, did not add appreciablyto the predictive power of the model. Comparingstandardizedbetas is anotherway of indicating the relative influence of paid work hours andperceivedflexibility on work-family balance and provide a basis for a cost-benefit analysis for differentmeans to promotework-familybalance.By dividing the standarddeviation of paid work (9.14) by its standardized beta (-.40), we can see it would take a decrease of 22.8 hours of paid work per week to improve work-family balance by one standarddeviation. By dividing the standarddeviation of perceived flexibility's (.78) by its standardizedbeta (.39), we see that it would take a movement of 2.0 on a 5-point flexibility scale to improve work-familybalance by one standard deviation. Then by dividing 22.8 paid work hours per week by 2.0, we see that a 1-point improvementon a 5-point flexibility scale (e.g., from a little to some, from some to a great deal, etc.) is equivalent to a decrease of about 11.4 paid work hours per week, as far as they relate to improvementin work-family balance. The personal benefit of perceived flexibility in the timing and location of work was clearly demonstrated the decreased by percentage of employees with work-family difficulty, given the hours of a reasonableworkweek (see Table 3). For example, for those working 40 to 50 hours per week, only 28% of those with both flextime and flexplace responded they had difficulty with work-family balance, comparedwith 46% of those with neither flextime nor flexplace, an advantageof 18%.Whereas only 29% of those with flexplace had difficulty with work-familybalance, 40% of those without flexplace had work-family balance difficulty, an advantageof 11%. In addition,only 29% of those with flextime had work-familydifficulty,comparedwith 44% of those without flextime, an advantageof 15%. The personalbenefit for perceived flexibility was evident for both men and women. This

finding was particularlypronouncedfor men with preschoolers. For this group, only 38% of those with both flextime and flexplace had work-family difficulty, compared with 59% of those with neither flextime nor flexplace, an impressive advantageof 21%. The occupationalgroup with the least perceived flexibility (nonexempt hourly employees) indicated the greatest advantage for flexibility. For this group, only 18% of those with both flextime and flexplace had work-family difficulty, compared with 42% with neither flextime nor flexplace, an advantageof 24%. Break-pointand balance-pointanalyses (see Table 4) demonstrated the business benefit of greater perceived flexibility. Employees with perceived flexibility in the timing and location of work were able to work longer hours than those without perceived flexibility before experiencing a difficulty in balancing their work and family life. For example, the break point and balance point for those with perceived flexibility in the timing of work were 60 hours per week and 44 hours per week, respectively. The break point and balance point for those without perceived flexibility in the timing of work were 52 hours per week and 41 hours per week, respectively. Calculatingthe business benefit, in a heavy workload environment,perceived flexibility in the timing of work enables the employee to work "an extra day a week" (60 hours per week with flextime - 52 hours per week without flextime = 8 hours more work) before workfamily balance becomes difficult. It should be reemphasizedthat this "break point" is conceptually the number of weekly work hours during a peak workload period of short duration.It is not thought of as the numberof weekly work hours sustainablefor a long period of time. The business benefit of perceived flexibility in the location of work was most apparentfor women with preschoolers.Their work-family break point in a heavy workload environmentwith flexplace was 43 work hours per week but without flexplace it was 32 work hoursper week, an advantageof 11 hoursper week. The regression equation indicated that the balance point for women with preschoolerswith flexplace was 21 work hours per week, but without flexplace it was - 1 work hour per week, an advantage of 22 hours per week. It appears that, for mothers with preschool children, perceived flexibility in the location of work, coupled with a part-time work assignment, would yield work and family balance. The greatest benefit for flexplace was in the break point analysis for nonexempthourly (paid for overtime) employees where there was an advantage of 26.3 hours (see Table4). The greatestbenefit for flextime was in the balance point analysis for managerswith an advantageof 22.6 hours (see Table 4).
Family Relations

The data clearly indicate thatperceived flexibility in the timing and location of work is related to positive outcomes from both personal and family and business perspectives. Perceived job flexibility, given a reasonable workweek, enables more employees to have work-family balance (personal and family benefit) and also enables employees to work longer hours before impacting work-family balance (business benefit). In harmony with spillover theory, these results empirically document that after controlling for job hours, household work hours, gender, maritalstatus, and occupationallevel, perceivedjob flexibility is significantly and positively related to work-familybalance. Given a workweek of reasonable length, employees who perceive flexibility in the timing and location of work have less difficulty with work-familybalance. In addition,employees with perceived flexibility in the timing and location of work can work longer hours before work-familybalance becomes difficult. These findimings have significantpersonal and family and organizational plications.

Personal and Family Implications

These findings linking work-family balance to perceived flexibility, coupled with findingsfrom previousresearch,indicate the individual and family have a lot to gain from flexibility. The literatureindicates that possible benefits include less maritalconflict, better monitoring of children, increased period of breastfeeding after the birth of an infant, less depression, and so forth (see Beatty, 1996; Bolger et al., 1989; Bumpus et al., 1999; Crouteret al., 1989, 1999; Lindberg, 1996). What is it aboutjob flexibility that proves beneficial to work-family balance? One possible benefit of flextime and flexplace has to do with a reductionin the stress associated with the daily commute. The daily commute now consumes an average of about 45 minutes per day (Bond et al., 1998). In a rigid environment,the commute usually occurs duringrush hour and can be very stressful.Problems are compounded in bad weather when the commute may be dangerousbut must be undertakenbecause there is no alternative. In a flexible environment,it is possible to schedule the commute at a time other than rush hour and thus reduce stress. In times of inclement weather,the flexplace employee may forgo the commute altogetherand telecommutesafely from home. This reduction in stress associated with the daily commute also may explain part of the favorable results found in this study related to perceivedjob flexibility. Flexplace also provides more options for where an employee might choose to live. Withoutflexplace, an employee has to live within commuting distance of the work location, which is often in or near large metropolitanareas. With flexplace an employee would have greater opportunityto live in a small town or rural area. One IBM survey respondentindicatedthat he worked electronically from a small town in Logan, Utah, but his department was physically located in New York. The results indicate perceived flexibility in the timing and location of work to be particularlybeneficial to parents. One possible benefit is that flextime enables parentsto schedule their work hours to be more synchronizedwith the schedules of their school-age children.For example, if the elementaryschool starts at 9 am, a traditional8 to 5 work schedule would requirefinding child care both before and after school. With flexibility in the scheduling of work hours, needed child care often can be limited to after school. In some cases, where both spouses enjoy flex2001, Vol. 50, No. 1

time, the need for before- or after-schoolcare may be completely eliminated. By coordinatingwork schedules, one spouse could care for the children before school and the other after school. This simplifying of child-care logistics may enable parents of school-age children to better manage work-family balance. Flextime also may contributeto quality time, both at work and at home. The highest quality work hours are not always between the hours of 8 and 5. It may be that the best strategic ideas come to one at 5 a.m. or at 11 p.m. Perhapsan important report can be better written between 9 p.m. and midnight than during normal work hours when interruptionsoccur frequently. Likewise, the highest quality personal and family hours may not always be outside the regular workday. A child's play may be at 2 p.m., or the best time to hear about children's school experiences may be right after they come home from school. Putting one's time to its best use, regardlessof the time, may translate into better work-familybalance. Another major benefit of both flexplace and flextime may be an increased capacity for parentsto overlap work time effectively with unexpected child-care situations.For example, when a child becomes ill at school, a parent in a rigid work environment would be stressed about leaving work and finding care for the sick child. Many parentsare forced to use their vacationdays or to call in sick to care for sick children.In fact, a recent study shows that only 22% of sick days are actually used because the employee is ill. Many sick days are used for dependent care needs (Lang, 1998). With flextime, the parentcan leave work to pick up the ill child. With flexplace, the parent can continue to work, albeit at a reduced pace, while caring for the ill child at home. The parentalpeace of mind of knowing that one has the flexibility to care for a sick child effectively may contributeto a more favorable perceptionof work-family balance. For those with responsibility to care for elders or to guide adolescents, flexplace may be particularlybeneficial. Elders and adolescents often do not requireconstantcare, but simply someone in the same home with whom they can interact from time to time. The ability to work from home may save the expense and alleviate the logistical difficulty of arrangingfor adult day care. It also may provide the ability to monitor an adolescent more effectively. Many jobs include periods of peak work demands.In a rigid work environment, these times make it extremely difficult simultaneously to meet the demands of work and family life because the work has to be done physically from the work location. In such times, a workermight go to the office early in the morning, eat breakfast,lunch, and dinnerat the workplace,and return home late at night. Workersin such conditions could go weeks with little quality family time. By contrast, in a flexible work environment, an employee can work the same long number of hours, but intersperseseveral hours of quality family time each day. For example, the individual may arise early and work from home for a few uninterrupted hours at the beginning of the day. Then he or she could be available to provide family members breakfast and to get the children off to school or to other care arrangements.In the evening, the flexible worker could be at home for a couple of hours with the family during the dinner hour and then continue work for several hours from home after the childrenare in bed. This kind of flexibility might explain the results suggesting that workerswith flexibility in the timing and location of work can work more hours without impactingworkfamily balance. 55

Work and family issues are increasingly problematicin the corporateworld. These data present evidence that implementing flexibility programs sufficient to improve employee perception of flexibility by 1 point on a 5-point flexibility scale is statistically equivalentto reducing workloadby 11 hours per week per employee as relatedto perceptionof improvingwork-familybalance. The fact that flexibility programsapparentlyhelp ameliorate these problems and requirelittle or no expense to the company makes a strongbusiness case for their adoption.Some common job flexibility programsthat might be considered include flexible work hours, meal-time flexibility, part-time work, job sharing, compressed workweek, telecommuting, and the virtual office. If flexibility programs are so beneficial and inexpensive, why is it that they are not more widely used? There are obstacles to making flexplace and flextime culturally acceptable. Friedman, Christensen,and DeGroot (1998) reportthat many leaders of organizationssee work-family programsas a zero-sum game in which "every time an employee's personalinterests 'win,' the organizationpays the price in its bottom line" (p. 119). Flexible work programs enabling employees to better manage the demands of their work and family lives may be irrelevantto some business managers unless financial benefits to the business can be demonstratedas well. Another implication for business relates to the performance evaluation systems of flexible workers. Adoption of increased flexibility in the timing and location of work usually means that the employee will be working less frequently at the same time and place as the manager.This potential for change points out the need for carefulconsiderationof performanceevaluationsystems to assurethey are based on the measurableresultsdelivered, rather than just on the subjective view of the manager. Some managershold the attitude, "If I don't see my employees, how do I know if they are working?" The company that embraces job flexibility also should move away from a "face-time" business culture to a "results-oriented"business culture (Friedman et al., 1998), and performanceevaluation systems must adaptto include more specifically measuredobjectives. Another issue may be the size of the organization.Larger organizations may have greater resources to support the technology requiredfor flexplace, and this type of flexibility may be less prevalent in small companies. Also, larger organizations have a greater pool of workers for coverage issues that might arise from flextime. On the other hand, some types of small companies may be flexible by their very nature (e.g., the "" start-upcompanies) and even more suitablefor flexibility than larger companies. In any case, furtherresearch addressing size of company needs to be conducted. The differencesnoted by occupationallevel indicate thatthe benefits of perceived flexibility vary accordingto the kind of job and responsibilityinherentin thatjob. For example, it appeared that flexplace was of little benefit to managers,but of more importance to others. It also is interesting to note that the occupational group that could benefit most from flexibility (nonexempt hourly employees) is the group with least access to flexibility. In some cases, there are good reasons for less flexibility (e.g., flexplace doesn't make sense for the manufacturingemployee who is assembling computers on the line). Nonetheless, it may be that companies could expend more effort to see how to implementflexibility programsamong lower level employees. 56

Finally, these data supportthe fact that work-familybalance is an issue for all employees. There is no longer a gender problem. The need for work-family balance and the benefits of flexibility are equally applicableto men and women. An importantaspect of this study for practitionersis that much of the past work-family balance trainingin work settings and other informal education has focused on how to manage child-careresponsibilities.These data suggest that trainingabout how to create opportunitiesfor flexibility in the timing and location of work also should be given priority. Given the nature of this material,however,practitioners should be forewarnedthat there may be little patience for traditionalclassroom-typedelivery programs.This kind of trainingmay be addressedmore appropriatelywith an interactiveCD-ROM or Internetapproachto deliver the information. In summary,the results of this study indicate thatperceived flexibility in the timing and location of work offers the promise of enabling employees opportunitiesto better balance work and family life in this era of increasing workload. These offerings appearto be true win-win solutions to help mitigate the personal toll of increasedwork demands.If visionary business leadersand empowered individuals adopt greaterflexibility, we may see the end to the "zero-sum game" (Friedmanet al., 1998) and set up a "virtuous cycle" in which work-family balance programsleverage on each other to promote individual well-being, family solidarity,and organizationalsuccess.

Several limitations are apparentin this study. The respondents all worked for IBM in the United States. Employees of IBM, in general, are more highly educated,have higher salaries, and have more experience with computer technology than the general population.For these reasons, the degree to which these results may be generalizedto other companies and in otherparts of the world is uncertain.Even if the IBM sample is representative of employees working for large corporations,it may not be representativeof the majorityof men and women who work for smaller firms or are self-employed. In addition, most IBM employees work in or near urbancenters, so the applicabilityof this research to those who work in rural settings is uncertain also. This survey is one of many that IBM uses to addresschallenges in the work environment. At IBM, there is a 30-year history of taking action based on survey data. One limitationto self-report data particularlysalient in this survey may be the tendency for respondentsto answer questions in a way to generate the changes they want, ratherthan answeringthe questions at face value. There is also a question of how the 42% nonrespondent employees might systematically differ from the 58% who responded.Although respondentsseemed to be demographically representative,they may differ in other ways. It may be that those who are working the longest hours did not have the time to respond, so those with the most workloadmay be underrepresentedhere. On the other hand, it may be those with the fewest work-familyissues chose not to invest time in takingthis survey because they did not have a felt need to participate. Anotherconcern is the natureof self-reportdatain a survey, especially when respondentsare asked to estimate time in work activities. Robinson and Godbey (1997) have shown that selfreport data of time in work activities are substantiallyinflated. Even though this is an anonymoussurvey, employees may overestimate their hours to appearto be working hard. More central Family Relations

to this study than work hours are employees' perceptionsof flexmeawhich are appropriately ibility in their work arrangements, sured by self-reportquestions. All these limitationspoint to the need for more researchon the influence of flextime and flexplace on work and work and family balance. This research should expand to a variety of groups. It might be fruitfulto examine those in academicsettings as a group that has flexibility and could make suggestions about implementing flexible work options. In addition, researchusing nonsurvey (e.g., interview and observation) methodologies might be useful.

We hear much about the changing natureof families as we enter the 21st century. Less often do we attendto the substantial occurringin the way we work. Just as flexibility transformations in family processes diminishes potentialfamily stress, flexibility in work processes can help employees managethe contemporary stresses associated with balancing work and family demands.In fact, this study empirically documents how greaterflexibility in the timing and location of work decreases employees' sense of stress at meeting the needs of work and family. Data such as these can reinforcemanagement'sefforts to provide greaterflexibility in the workforce, especially when the results are so clear and the costs of such efforts are relatively small. Just as important, these data may help encourageemployees to take advantage of the flexibility thatis increasinglyoffered so thatthey can more effectively care for their families. As more companies offer flexibility in the timing and location of work and more individuals use that flexibility, the work-familyimbalancethat was problematic for employees in the twilight of the 20th centurycan become the balance so many seek in the 21st century.

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E. Jeffrey Hill is an Associate Professor in the Departmentof Marriage,Family, and Human Development at Brigham Young University and works at IBM in Global WorkforceDiversity. Alan J. Hawkins is an Associate Professorin the Departmentof Marriage,Family, and Human Development at Brigham Young University. Maria Ferris works at IBM in Global WorkforceDiversity. Michelle Weitzmanworks at American Express Corporation. Received 1-4-00 Revised & Resubmitted7-18-00 Accepted 7-19-00




Ph.D. M.A / M.S. /

* Human Development and Family Studies 0 0 * Early Childhood Development * Child Life * Four-year J.D./M.S. degree * Family Mediation * Human Services in Administration or Public Policy 9* Family Studies * Life Span Development in perspective to Ouruniquefocus is a commitment familydiversityanda multicultural families, includedivorce,single-parent emphases Facultyresearch teachingandresearch. of families,development racialidentity,familyandchild AfricanAmerican stepfamilies, aging,and siblingrelationships, development, to carecontributions childandadolescent acrossthe life course. relations parent-child fee including waivers,areavailable. All currentlyassistantships, Teachingandresearch also is who desirefunding(90%)arereceivingit. Specialsupport enrolledstudents students. availablefor minority Ganong,Bob Hughes, TeresaCooney,MarkFine, SaraGable,Lawrence MarilynColeman, LynnBlinnPike,PamelaRaya-Carlton, Morrison, Kowal,Johnetta JeanIspa,Amanda KathyThornburg Studies of Director Graduate MarilynColeman, & Development FamilyStudies Dept.of Human Universityof Missouri-Columbia MO 314 Gentry Hall, Columbia, 65211 Phone: (573) 882-4035 Fax: (573) 884-5550 Email:

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