Session: Bringing a Social Work Voice to Research on Workplace Flexibility (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

115 Bringing a Social Work Voice to Research on Workplace Flexibility

Friday, January 17, 2020: 2:00 PM-3:30 PM
Liberty Ballroom O, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Cluster: Work and Work-Life Policies and Programs (WWLPP)
Symposium Organizer:
Susan Lambert, PhD, University of Chicago
Workplace flexibility — having a say in when, where, and for how long you work — has been shown to enhance the health and well-being of workers and to benefit employers through reduced turnover and improved employee performance. Social work scholars, including members of this panel, have been critical of the work-family discourse and research on flexibility because most of the focus has been on loosening up rigid job requirements for professional and salaried workers. Social work researchers have instead focused on dimensions of working time previously neglected in the work-family literature that are especially relevant to low-income workers and families, notably, schedule unpredictability and instability. In this symposium, we return to the study of flexibility with a new eye, informed by social work research on the nature of working time in lower-level jobs. Drawing on a range of quantitative and qualitative methods, our goal is to advance knowledge on the nature of schedule control in low-level jobs and to identify which aspects of control are most important for which outcomes, and for whom.

Each of the papers takes a critical look at, and provides empirical evidence on, the nature and ramifications of schedule control in today's labor market, paying particular attention to the experiences of workers in hourly jobs. The papers unpack schedule control by differentiating the nature of control. For example, one paper draws on new questions in national data to investigate how control over the number of weekly work hours versus control over the timing of hours are differentially associated with measures of worker wellbeing versus economic security. Another paper employs national data to examine how the quality of parents' relationship to one another is related to their having access to different flexibility options, from formal flextime programs to being able to adjust daily start and end times. Two papers take an on-the-ground look at schedule control in occupations at the lower-end of the labor market, one focused on a job where work hours are often scarce (sales associate) and the other on jobs in which hours can be long (hospital workers). These on-the-ground analyses reveal that lack of control over the time work ends (for retail workers this means working beyond the scheduled stop time and for hospital workers this means working overtime) is a dire source of caregiving conflict and work-to-family interference.

Together, this symposium brings a social work voice to research and discourse on workplace flexibility. The papers provide a rich picture of what schedule control looks like in today's hourly jobs and offers compelling evidence regarding which aspects of control may matter most to lower-level workers. The panel includes scholars who bridge social work and work-family scholarship and are part of the vanguard conducting research on work scheduling practices at the lower-end of the labor market. A discussant will consider implications for both research and policy, including new city and state scheduling laws that incorporate some provisions to increase workers' control over when and how much they work.

* noted as presenting author
Control over the Number and Timing of Work Hours: Implications for the Wellbeing of Hourly and Salaried Workers
Hyojin Cho, MSW, University of Chicago; Emily Ellis, MSW, University of Chicago; Julia Henly, PhD, University of Chicago; Susan Lambert, PhD, University of Chicago
Parents in Retail: Schedule Control and Caregiving Conflicts
Dylan Bellisle, MSW, University of Chicago; Susan Lambert, PhD, University of Chicago
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