The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Daily Job Flexibility and The Wellbeing of Hourly and Salaried Workers

Thursday, January 16, 2014: 4:00 PM
HBG Convention Center, Room 001A River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Julia R. Henly, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Susan J. Lambert, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
JaeSeung Kim, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Lonnie Golden, PhD, Professor, Pennsylvania State University - Abington, Abington, PA
Background and Purpose: Recent work-life research calls for greater attention to flexibility options for nonsalaried workers. Work-life benefits such as flextime, family leave, and sick days are distributed unevenly, with hourly workers having limited access. Another type of flexibility involves daily job flexibility, for example control over schedule timing and the ability to leave work during the day. Such daily flexibility may be increasingly important as more workers juggle multiple jobs, or one job with school or caregiving. Daily job flexibility may be especially welcomed by hourly workers, who have fewer outside resources to assist with work-life management. In fact, hourly workers’ schedules are one source of job instability, and employee discretion over work time can attenuate instability, and is associated with less work-family conflict and stress. The relative importance of daily job flexibility by hourly-salaried status has not been studied, however. In this paper, we 1) examine the association between daily job flexibility and employee well-being, and 2) explore whether this association varies between hourly and salaried workers in a nationally representative sample.

Methods: Data include 2,982 working adults from the 2002, 2006 and 2010 US General Social Survey Quality of Work Life module. Dependent variables include: perceived stress, the average of two items assessing frequency of exhaustion and work stress (1=never - 5=very often), and life/work satisfaction, the average of two items assessing happiness and job satisfaction (1=not, 2=somewhat, 3=very happy/satisfied). Two indicators of daily job flexibility include ability to change starting and quitting times (1=never - 4=often) and difficulty taking time off during work (1=very hard - 4=not at all hard). Demographic and job characteristics with demonstrated relationship to well-being and job flexibility are included as controls.  For each dependent variable, a series of regression equations are estimated to assess their association with daily job flexibility. The interaction of daily job flexibility with hourly/salary status is then assessed, and the regression analyses are rerun by hourly/salaried subgroup for clearer interpretation.

Results: Descriptively, salaried workers report higher life/work satisfaction and stress, less difficulty changing schedule and taking time off than hourly workers. Regression results indicate that net of controls, the ability to take time off and vary work times are associated with greater life/work satisfaction and lower stress. The interaction is statistically significant. Specifically, the associations between ability to take time off and life/work satisfaction and stress respectively are significant for hourly and salaried workers, but much stronger among hourly workers. For salaried workers, there is no significant relationship between changing work time and either satisfaction or stress; but for hourly workers, the relationship is stronger and significant.

Implications: Findings suggest that daily job flexibility can yield positive returns to workers well-being. Benefits may be especially strong for hourly workers because of fewer external resources to respond to work demands. Future research might examine whether daily job flexibility also poses costs in terms of reduced hours or supervisor sanctions that may ultimately reduce well-being. Findings will be discussed in the context of the current work-life policy agenda.