Summary in English
This PhD dissertation consists of four articles. Overall, it addresses the opportunities and constraints of schedule flexibility in facilitating work-life synergy.
The first article in my PhD dissertation provides an overall view on the dominating work-life conflict and work-life enrichment approaches, which represent contrasting views of work-life interplay. The opposing understandings have resulted in a somewhat polarised field; the conflict approach appears largely to discard the role of human agency due to its primary focus on conditions that impede work-life interplay, whereas the enrichment approach tends to neglect the existence of work-life constraints in its eagerness to demonstrate enriching work-life interplay. Naturally, conflict and enrichment coexist and interact in shaping work-life interplay, and choosing between the two is neither an option, nor the solution. Rather, the influence approach is suggested as a potential integrative framework, which takes into account both enabling and constraining conditions for individuals’ agency.
The second article addresses the dual role of organisations in both offering schedule flexibility to workers and in initiating schedule demands. Findings clearly demonstrated that employer-initiated schedule deviations often counteracted workers’ ability to make use of schedule flexibility, as organisational needs were expected to be met first. However, time of notification was crucial in deciding whether such deviations caused negative consequences. In this context, personal life support defined an important buffer. Specific conditions related to the schedule designs also proved pivotal for shaping workers’ utilisation. Examples of such include possible drawbacks of schedule flexibility when combined with excessive workloads, the strong dependency on managers’ support when schedule flexibility was informally practised, and the crucial role of collective interests in understanding utilisation dynamics in shift work. Nevertheless, the potential of schedule flexibility in facilitating work-life integration was substantial, and workplace support from both colleagues and managers played an important role in making workers embrace these opportunities.
The third article brings friendship into the work-life debate. There is some concern that friendship is being squeezed out in contemporary contexts dominated by time dilemmas, blurred work-life boundaries, and flexible working time arrangements. Findings indicated that friendship defined an important part of life for workers, who all found ways of integrating friendship into their busy lives by blurring boundaries between friendship and family and between friends and colleagues, respectively. Family-based friendships defined a particular practice among workers who were parents, as it enabled them to do friendship in a time-saving way; yet, such friendships were often at the expense of other, more personal relationships. Workplace friendship defined an important practice among all workers, and it included important instrumental and emotional support. However, close collegial bonds could also exacerbate employee stress in interdependent teamwork. Finally, findings demonstrated that flexible working time arrangements influenced when, with whom, and how often friendship could take place. Taken together, the findings illustrated that friendship was strongly shaped by conditions in work and personal life.
The fourth article centres on how schedule flexibility can facilitate work-life synergy. Findings demonstrated that workers by means of flexible schedule resources experienced a stronger sense of agency, which not only stimulated significant personal life benefits, but also had a positive influence on their engagement in the work domain. This relationship, however, was not straightforward: Limited levels of flexibility in shift work impeded the generation of enriching transfers, whereas higher levels of flexibility did not guarantee facilitating interplay in daytime and boundaryless work. Conversely, it seemed that high schedule flexibility could complicate rather than facilitate work-life interplay, if workers did not manage to define strict temporal boundaries for work. Findings also indicated a combined instrumental and emotional pathway for work-life synergy; thus, schedule flexibility had a direct positive impact on workers’ ability to take part in personal life, and the positive affect generated hereby spilled over to work and indirectly facilitated the ways in which they engaged in and performed at work. These findings indicate the potential of meeting both employers’ and employees’ interests by means of schedule flexibility.
In conclusion, this PhD dissertation has demonstrated the need to explore schedule flexibility within employer-led flexible practices, as organisations both place demands on and offer flexible opportunities to workers’ schedules. Moreover, it has substantiated the importance of exploring the opportunities of flexible opportunities within the context of work and personal life to understand how and under what circumstances specific domain conditions hinder or facilitate work-life synergy.
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While the overall responsibility for completing this Ph.D. dissertation is mine, a number of people have provided great support during the process, and I wish to express my gratitude to all of them.
In particular, I wish to thank my supervisor, Professor Hans Jeppe Jeppesen for helpful guidance and advice throughout the conduct of my research. It has been a very educative process, and I am most grateful for your remarkable reassurance and generosity, and for your continuous support.
Also, I would like to thank Professor Suzan Lewis for hosting my research stay at the Human Resource Department, Middlesex University, and for stimulating collaboration. Suzan particularly introduced me to the challenging discipline of academic writing, and I wish to express my deepest gratitude and admiration to Suzan for being highly supportive, inspiring, and encouraging.
Special thanks go also to my fellow co-workers at LINOR (Leadership and INfluence in ORganisations) for helpful advice and a cheerful atmosphere. Especially, I would like to thank my office companion, Ellen Barsett Magnus, for many joyful moments. Moreover, I wish to thank Maj Schøler Fausing for useful suggestions to my introductory outline. Further, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to my colleagues and friends, Kim Berg Johannessen and Gitte Laue Petersen, for all your emotional and intellectual support. Last but not least, I wish to thank my helpful assistants, Anne Bruun, Kristina Langemose Jensen, and Marie Louise Rimestad, for taking an active share in the study and for providing great assistance along the way. Also thank you to Signe Hegestand-Sverdlin for help with the analysis in relation to one of the articles.
I would also like to thank the participating companies, Danish Crown, Dansk Autohjælp, Schur, Vejle Sygehus, and Vestas, and especially the participating workers for taking part in the study.
Finally, I wish to express my gratitude to my family and close friends for all of your support and encouraging words, and for believing in me. A special thank you to my partner, Jacob Møller Dirksen, for stimulating discussions and help, and for your endless patience and faith.
Table of contents
Introductory outline p. 4
Background – the underlying structure and agency relationship p. 5
Research design and methods – some elaborating notes p. 11
Significance of the findings p. 18
Perspectives p. 30
Article 1 (original Danish version) p. 38
Article 1 (translated English version) p. 48
Article 2 p. 60
Article 3 p. 101
Article 4 p. 133
Resumé på dansk p. 164
Summary in English p. 167
Appendix 1 p. 169
Appendix 2 p. 172 Appendix 3 p. 183
Appendix 4 p.184
Appendix 5 p. 185
Considering the significant changes in work and personal life over the last decades, debates about the challenging act of combining multiple life roles have become increasingly salient. With the growing number of women entering the workforce, dual-earner families are trying to juggle competing claims and high personal standards to both career and parenting (van der Lippe & Peters, 2007; Higgins, 2010). Moreover, alternative family compositions to the traditional nuclear family, for example single parents, ‘combined’ families, and parenting on a weekly basis, raise new challenges for work-life interplay. Significant changes in the work domain are related to the increasing global competition and technology developments that place high demands on organisations and employees alike with regard to the willingness to adapt, the high pace of work etc. (Lewis, Brannen & Nilsen, 2009). Consequently, many workers report feelings of time squeeze, work intensification, and blurred work-life boundaries (Gambles, Lewis & Rapoport, 2006; Kelliher, 2010).
The allocation of time to different life domains defines a central theme in the work-life literature with a considerable amount of research focusing specifically on time-based work-family conflict (e.g., Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985; Greenhaus, Colins & Shaw, 2003). The issue about time and working time in particular has proved crucial in understanding how people manage to integrate various life domains (Lewis, 2007). Solutions to the time dilemmas have largely been sought through various workplace initiatives in terms of family-friendly arrangements (Allen, 2001; Thompson & Prottas, 2005). In this context, a re-conceptualisation of working time has taken place from a simple quantity analogy to a much more inclusive understanding that comprises the temporal placement, the predictability, and the qualitative aspect of time, among others (Jeppesen, 2003; Thompson & Bunderson, 2001). Thus, it is not only a matter of how individuals are able to allocate time, but also how they can use time in meaningful ways. This understanding calls for a dynamic approach in which individuals’ actions in relation to working time issues are believed to make a difference for work-life interplay (Pedersen, 2009).
Inherent in this understanding is also the assumption that work and personal life domains are not necessarily juxtaposed. Rather, multiple role participation is believed to add a greater number of opportunities and resources to the individual and his or her personal life network (e.g., Clark, 2000; Grzywacz, Carlson, Kacmar, & Wayne, 2007). In this context, schedule flexibility has shown to define an important resource that facilitates positive connections and synergies between different
parts of life (e.g., Greenhaus & Powell, 2006; Voydanoff, 2005). However, numerous questions remain with respect to how and under which circumstances schedule flexibility facilitates workers’ opportunities to integrate work and personal life interests and, on this basis, stimulates the generation of synergic transfers between domains (Greenhaus & Allen, 2010). With the aim of contributing to this stance of work-life research, this Ph.D. dissertation seeks to answer the following overall research question:
How can employee influence on working time (i.e., schedule flexibility) facilitate work-life synergy?