What is the effect on the US worker when flextime is offered in lieu of a preset, inflexible schedule? The author explores two major national studies and presents some fascinating facts about flextime trends for males vs. females, various ethnicities, and workers at companies of various sizes.
Flextime, in the most general sense, is considered working a different schedule than the normal 9-to-5 work day. In a broader sense, flextime can mean working in shifts, working part-time hours while job sharing with another employee, and working extended hours in a four-day work week. Companies have defined flextime in different ways to reflect the nature of their particular industries and the culture of their organizations. This article reviews survey results found in two comprehensive national studies presenting statistics on flextime in the US workplace.
Studies on Flextime
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (a division of the Department of Labor) released a supplement in 2004 to its monthly household Current Population Survey (CPS). This comprehensive supplement entitled, Workers on Flexible and Shift Schedules provided a report from full-time workers on their use of flextime options in their organizations. There is also a plethora of research studies by private work-life advocacy organizations such as the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which in 2008 instituted the National Study of Employers (NSE) survey to 1,100 small (50 to 99 employees) and large (100 to 999 employees) businesses. These studies shed light on various aspects of flextime as part of the overall national discussion on work-life balance and workplace flexibility.
Use of Flextime Options for US Workers
The 2004 CPS supplement reported that 27 million full-time workers were allowed to do some kind of flextime at work. This made up 27.5% of the total number of full-time and salaried workers in the US. In the private sector, most of the flextime options were practiced in the financial services industry (37.7%), 37.6% were used in the professional business industry, with 34.6% in the information industry, followed by 22.9% and 20.3% in the mining and construction industries respectively. In the public sector, 28.8% of employees of the federal government took flextime options as well as 28.4% of state government employees followed by 13.7% of local government employees.
Demographics of Flextime Workers
The 2004 CPS supplement found that flextime workers were more likely to be male in that 28.1% of males surveyed used some flextime options while 26.7 % of female workers used flextime. The same survey also found that 35% of workers 65 years and older had used some flextime options, as opposed to 22% of workers aged 20 to 24 years of age.
With regards to ethnicity, White (28.7%) and Asian (27.4%) workers were more likely than Black (19.7%) and Hispanic (16%) workers to practice flextime options on their jobs. Interestingly enough, of the White and Asian workers, men were more likely than woman to get flextime. Among the Black and Hispanic workers, women were more likely than the men to practice flextime work options.
Other Forms of Flexible Working
Both studies on flextime examined the different forms of flexible work options available from organizations. The 2004 CPS survey of workers found that 15% of full-time workers were allowed to change to work in shifts such as an evening, night, or rotating. Black men were more likely than any other type of worker to use work shifts. The survey also examined the types of jobs where shift work was prevalent and found that the most popular jobs that used shift work were protective services (50.6%) such as fireman and policemen as well as food preparation (40%).
The 2004 survey further found that full-time workers were allowed to vary their start and finish times. Specifically, it was found that over 66% of workers were starting their work between 6:30am and 9:30am and over 50% of workers were finishing work between 3:30pm and 6:30pm. The most popular time to finish work was reported between 4:30pm and 5:30pm. When surveying small and large companies, the 2008 survey found that smaller companies (50 to 99 employees) were more likely than larger companies to allow workers to vary their start and finish times.
Of these interesting statistics on flextime, the 2008 National Employer Survey of 1,100 small and large organizations found that smaller companies were slightly more likely to allow workers flextime in their jobs. This survey asked companies about many different options such as varying start and finish hours, shift work, reduced hours through job sharing, paid leaves for various reasons, and caregivers options. Although smaller companies were more likely to support flextime, the survey did find that the management in both smaller and larger companies was somewhat supportive of flextime options for their employees. This was not the case in a previous 2005 study done by the same research group.
Benefits of Flextime
Researchers have long been interested in the positive effects of flexibility options in the workplace. For instance, case studies have looked at the effects of flextime on absenteeism and worker productivity. Other avenues of research have included studying the effects of flextime on worker retention, overall health, and employee satisfaction. Studies in these areas have primarily been smaller, firm-based ones in the form of specific case studies.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. Workers on Flexible and Shift Schedules in May 2004, at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/flex.pdf.
Families and Work Institute. National Study of Employers, 2008, (undertaken by Alfred P. Sloan Foundation), at http://www.familiesandwork.org/site/research/reports/2008nse.pdf.
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