A history of work-family research indicates benefits for workers and employers of providing employees input into work schedules (i.e., schedule control). Yet not all schedule control is the same. Some employees have input into when they start and end work (work timing), which may reduce work-family conflict by allowing workers to better navigate time-based job demands around nonwork obligations. Other employees exercise control over the number of work hours, which may be especially important for hourly workers’ financial security. Control over both types (number and timing) may reduce exhaustion, sleep problems, and depressive symptoms. This study tests these hypotheses by examining the contribution of two types of schedule control on distinct measures of wellbeing. Based on prior research, we anticipate that hourly and salaried workers may show distinct responses to schedule control.
Data include 170 full-time salaried workers and 252 full-time hourly workers from the 2016 General Social Survey, a cross-sectional survey of US adults. Dependent variables include job-to-family interference, exhaustion from work, restless sleep, financial insecurity, and a depressive symptomatology index. Independent variables are control over number and timing of work hours. By estimating a series of linear regressions separately for salaried and hourly workers, controlling for an extensive set of demographic and job characteristics, the study addresses how each dimension of work schedule control is associated with each outcome. Supplemental analyses consider whether control over number and timing of hours operate differently in the context of short and long hours.
Salaried workers who have control over schedule timing report significantly less job-to-family conflict and exhaustion from work, but control over the number of hours is not related to these outcomes. For hourly workers, the opposite is true: hourly workers who control the number of work hours report lower job-to-family conflict and less exhaustion, whereas control over work timing is not significant. Both hourly and salaried workers who control the number of hours report comparatively less restless sleep. Control over schedule timing is not related to restless sleep for hourly workers but is (unexpectedly) positively related to restless sleep for salaried workers. Contrary to expectations, neither type of control is associated with depressive symptomatology index or financial insecurity.
Conclusions and Implications
Results underscore the importance of exploring distinct dimensions of schedule control and their contributions to multiple measures of wellbeing. Our findings suggest schedule control may be more sensitive to proximal outcomes (job-to-family conflict, exhaustion, sleep) than broader evaluative assessments (depression, financial insecurity), although limited power may have affected results. Supplemental analyses suggest tentative explanations for observed hourly/salaried differences. For example, workers can use control over number of hours to increase or decrease work effort. Some salaried workers likely increased hours, heightening work-family conflict and exhaustion, whereas others likely reduced hours, with the opposite effect. Given high levels of instability in hourly jobs, control over how much one works may be insufficient to reduce feelings of financial insecurity, hence the unanticipated null finding. Implications for work-family scholarship will be discussed from a social work perspective.