Motivation and emotion/Book/2019/Flexible work arrangements and work motivation

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Flexible work arrangements and work motivation:
What is the effect of flexible work arrangements on work motivation?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Flexible working arrangements are used by a number[vague] of organisations to fit with a multitude of employee and employer needs and situations. Within this umbrella term fit many unique circumstances that require different arrangements, some of the solutions completely tailored to the individual worker. Flexible working arrangements can be used in a number[vague] of different organisations and research demonstrates them to be effective in terms of retaining employees after long periods of leave, both paid and unpaid absences, or to ease mature employees into retirement.

Large amounts of recent research have focused on the intensification of work and the concept of flexible working arrangements being especially effective on the premise of autonomy and employee choice. Autonomy is regularly mentioned in research as a key factor in the success of flexible working arrangements and organisational policies are often involved in supporting employees who choose to maintain flexible work practices.

Flexible working arrangements have been noted to have multiple beneficial outcomes, both for organisations and for the individual employees. Research indicates that working from home or working flexibly can positively impact on an employee by reducing stress, increasing workplace autonomy and commitment to an organisation. It also can be linked to reduced work/family and work/life conflict.

There is also the potential for employees to show increased intensification of work due to shifted hours or a compressed work week with no adjustment to workload. In addition to this, potential also arises for work/life or work/family balance to be negatively affected due to conflict between workspaces becoming a part of the home.

Focus questions
  • What defines flexible working arrangements?
  • Motivation theory?
    1. Intensification of work
    2. Self Determination Theory
  • Work/Life balance>
  • Career Progression with Flexible Working Arrangements?
Think tanks

Take a moment to think about the topic on a personal level:

  • Have you experienced or watched others experience flexible working arrangements?
  • What are your experiences of flexible working arrangements?

What defines flexible working arrangements?[edit | edit source]

Flexible working arrangements are defined in this chapter as any working arrangements that fall outside the social norm of a five-day work week, daily work hours of 9am to 5pm (Lewis, 2003). Flexible working arrangements include, but are not limited to:

  • Reduced hours in the working week or compressed working time, i.e. working week beginning Monday, ending Wednesday.
  • Telecommuting or remote working, i.e. working remotely and using phone and internet connections to communicate with the office.
  • Non-standard working hours, i.e. working from 10am to 7pm to accommodate international clients or working from 5am to 2pm.
  • Job share arrangements, i.e. splitting the workload of one role between two or more people.

Flexible working arrangements are often utilised by those in the workforce who have outside of work commitments like children, disabled or elderly relatives to care for, second places of work that may have specifically set hours, or by those who have difficult commutes or have the potential to work more effectively remotely. By including flexible working arrangements into workplace policy, an organisation can open themselves up to a more diverse range of employees and better support their existing and current employees if their needs change while they are still employed (Kelliher & Anderson, 2009).

Think tank

Take a moment to think about the topic on a personal level:

  • Can you identify any other flexible working arrangements?
  • How do you think flexible working arrangements can impact a business?
  • Do you think flexible working arrangements can change the working conditions of the employees? Think about remote working, compressed hours and workload changes.

Career Motivation Theories[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail] [Provide more detail]

Intensification of Work[edit | edit source]

Some evidence has shown that, by incorporating flexible working arrangements, some employees demonstrate that reduced working schedules can cause some work intensification and bring about additional workplace pressures, whether they are in the office or not. A number of interviewees in research done by Kelliher and Anderson (2009) reported an increased level of pressure from work when flexible working arrangements were put in place or provided to them. Reports seemed to be more regular when the hours employees were working had been changed to accommodate a new flexible working arrangement, but their workload had not been adjusted to match. For example, someone who is working a normal, five-day work week with set hours that adopts a flexible working arrangement to begin to take care of an elderly parent may have adjusted their work days to be four days a week, however their workplace may not have adjusted their workload to suit the new hours. By having this pressure, there may be some initial stress placed on the employee to keep up with their current workload. This pressure, however, has been shown to further motivate employees who are on Flexible working arrangements to ensure their work is completed

There is also potential that, if working remotely is the arrangement, employees will feel pressured to be available to their office-based counterparts during their non-scheduled work hours. This pressure can also be motivational in terms of access to the staff in the office during scheduled hours and ensuring all work is completed during this time, but can also be detrimental to the work/life balance the employee working flexible is trying to achieve.

Self Determination Theory[edit | edit source]

Self-Determination Theory states that the social environment holds some influence over the [missing something?] on the levels of intrinsic motivation within a person by impacting on the satisfaction of needs and perceptions of competence, relatedness and autonomy (Kuvaas, 2008). In this theory, it is considered that the need to have autonomy is more important than the need for either competence or relatedness[factual?]. Working with the idea of self-determination theory there is potential for the theory to be used to measure the motivation levels of employees that are utilising flexible working arrangements.

Motivation levels in employees with flexible working arrangements have been noted to be greater when they have some say in what their working arrangements are and have worked with their employer to develop a mutually beneficial solution (Atkinson & Sandiford, 2016). This is indicative of the need for autonomy being satisfied, and the value from this being internalised and used to intrinsically motivate the employee to maintain a strong work ethic with their new arrangement.

Think tank

Take a moment to think about the topic on a personal level:

  • Is there anything else that could motivate a person while working remotely?
  • How do you think you would best work remotely?
  • What other influences could impact motivation and working effectively while on a flexible working arrangement?
  • What aspects of the environment would be difficult to manage if working remotely?

Work/Life Balance[edit | edit source]

Multiple sources describe work/life balance or work/family balance as something that is desired to be achieved by the modern workforce and is the main reason many employees have begun opting for flexible working arrangements (Gregory & Milner, 2009; Lewis, 2003; Fleetwood, 2007). Flexible working arrangements can be said to be extremely family-centric in their origin and, as more people are opting for flexible working arrangements to accommodate their needs to be with family, it can be said that motivation for flexible working arrangements can be to be rewarded inadvertently by more time to spend with family.

However, there is some research to show that home offices and measures used to enable the approved flexible working arrangements that aid in work/life balance can blur the lines between professional and personal lives (Hornung & Glaser, 2009; Pedersen & Lewis, 2012). By having an office at home, employees have been reported to worry more while at home. In one study, a participant noted that walking past and seeing their work computer was sometimes too tempting to resist. Some employees would log in and work for a ‘quick half an hour’ which would then easily and regularly become more. This is an indicator of the work pressures that may come from flexible working arrangements and the motivation comes from a worry about letting management or fellow employees down. There is potential for this to be combat by the implementation of remote workspaces.

Due to recent technological and workplace advances, pop up workspaces have become prevalent for those looking to work remotely with no risk of blurring the lines between professional and personal. In many places across the globe, new independently run workspaces are becoming profitable by renting out small spaces to those who are working remotely or working for themselves ("Coworking, Office suites and Meeting rooms | WOTSO WorkSpace", 2019). By having a specific, work-only space there is no chance of the margin between work and family coming too close. This can be extremely beneficial for those who enjoy working remotely and their flexible working arrangement allows them the freedom to pick up and move their workspace around, however can also assist in defining the difference between working time and family time.

Many other studies have reported that, because of the flexibility that has been allowed by the employer, there is some level of reciprocation expected of the employee (Kelliher & Anderson, 2009; Russell, O'Connell & McGinnity, 2009). Implicitly, there may be a transactional relationship perceived by an employee working flexibly due to the feeling of obligation towards an employer. For example, if there is an employee who has to do school drop off before starting work for the day, they may feel that they are required to make up the time they took out of their day, even though they are on a flexible working arrangement. There is data to corroborate this idea and studies have demonstrated that the employee's reciprocation is not always evenly repaid by an organisation. The employee looking to make up their school drop off run time may complete an additional two hours of work, given to the company, and it is highly unlikely their school drop off will take that long. This is a common theme in current research about the subject of flexible working arrangement and how organisations can benefit from the arrangements selected by employers.

Think tank

Take a moment to think about the topic on a personal level:

  • Did you grow up in a family with flexible working arrangements?
  • Do you currently utilise flexible working arrangements? How so?
  • If you don't, how do you think you may use them in the future, if at all?

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Flexible working arrangements have been adopted within organisations to allow for the integration of work/life balance and employees to take ownership of their working arrangements by tailoring their work schedule to their individual needs. Many different schedules and arrangements fall under the term of flexible working arrangements and often these terms are further individualised by employees. Modern workplaces are introducing family-friendly work practices and policies to accomodate[spelling?] and encourage more employees to have a healthy work/life balance.

Research has provided evidence recently that work can become intensified once a flexible working arrangement has been adopted. Employees have demonstrated that having their say and having autonomy over their working arrangements has positively impacted their flexible working arrangements and aided in the accommodations they desired to make. Self-determination theory states that autonomy is the most vital need to be met to ensure the maximum level of intrinsic motivation can be reached by employees.

Working flexibly has been shown to reduce work/family conflict, work stress levels, and increase energy levels and positive feelings about being at work. Flexible working arrangements have also been shown to increase the commitment to an organisation due to feelings of support from management and the enjoyment of working out of the office.

Working flexibly has been shown to have some minor negative impacts if the lines between workspace and family space become blurred, as is the case in some home office situations.

Overall, flexible working arrangements have the potential to be utilised effectively within an organisation and can result in more positive feelings about an organisation, if they are developed collaboratively and effectively between the two parties. Further research can be done into the effects of flexible work arrangements in ageing populations and how the effects of work intensification can impact on employees over the long term.

Test your knowledge![edit | edit source]

1 Which of the following is NOT a flexible working arrangement?

Part-time work
Working remotely
Calling in sick
Working alternative hours

2 True or False: workers have reported flexible work arrangements lessen their workload.


3 Self determination theory indicates that ________, ________ and ________ are influenced by intrinsic motivation.

Autonomy, readiness and confidence
Autonomy, relatedness and competence
Automobile, references and coherence
Autocracy, reliability and competence

4 Which of the following is correct about organisational influences?

Behaviours of management and senior staff can influence the attitude towards flexible working arrangements.
Policy does not directly determine the flexible working arrangements offered to employees.
Every organisation has the same attitude towards flexible working arrangements.
Flexible work arrangements are detrimental to the business as they cost more to arrange.

5 How can working from home be a negative thing?

People get to spend more time with their family and are more available to their family.
It can become difficult to completely switch off if your office is in your home.
No worrying about what is going on in the office.
Guilt about being away from family.

6 True or false: all flexible working arrangements involve working outside of the office.


7 What is the best way to establish a mutually beneficial flexible working arrangement?

Employer determines the entire arrangement to suit business only.
Employee works collaboratively with employer to establish the arrangement.
Employee does whatever they want with their hours and where they work from.
Employer says no to any potential flexible working arrangement.

8 Due to demand, flexible workspaces have become a potential for working remotely, rather than a home office. Can these be accessed in Canberra?


9 True or false: flexible work is only appropriate if the management of an organisation have their own arrangements in place.


10 True or false: employees who have access to flexible working arrangements are more likely to remain employees after long leaves of absence, i.e. maternity leave or long-service leave.


See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

WOTSO WorkSpace. (2019). Retrieved 20 October 2019, from

Dex, S., & Bond, S. (2005). Measuring work-life balance and its covariates. Work, Employment And Society, 19(3), 627-637. doi: 10.1177/0950017005055676

Dex, S., & Scheibl, F. (2002). SMEs and flexible working arrangements. Bristol: Policy Press.

Fleetwood, S. (2007). Why work–life balance now?. The International Journal Of Human Resource Management, 18(3), 387-400. doi: 10.1080/09585190601167441

Gregory, A., & Milner, S. (2009). Editorial: Work-life Balance: A Matter of Choice?. Gender, Work & Organization, 16(1), 1-13. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0432.2008.00429.x

Hornung, S., & Glaser, J. (2009). Home-Based Telecommuting and Quality of Life: Further Evidence on an Employee-Oriented Human Resource Practice. Psychological Reports, 104(2), 395-402. doi: 10.2466/pr0.104.2.395-402

Kelliher, C., & Anderson, D. (2009). Doing more with less? Flexible working practices and the intensification of work. Human Relations, 63(1), 83-106. doi: 10.1177/0018726709349199

Kuvaas, B. (2008). A test of hypotheses derived from self‐determination theory among public sector employees. Employee Relations, 31(1), 39-56. doi: 10.1108/01425450910916814

Lewis, S. (2003). Flexible working arrangements: Implementation, outcomes, and management. International review of industrial and organizational psychology, 18, 1-28.

Pedersen, V., & Lewis, S. (2012). Flexible friends? Flexible working time arrangements, blurred work-life boundaries and friendship. Work, Employment And Society, 26(3), 464-480. doi: 10.1177/0950017012438571

Russell, H., O'Connell, P., & McGinnity, F. (2009). The Impact of Flexible Working Arrangements on Work-life Conflict and Work Pressure in Ireland. Gender, Work & Organization, 16(1), 73-97. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0432.2008.00431.x

ten Brummelhuis, L., Haar, J., & van der Lippe, T. (2010). Collegiality under pressure: the effects of family demands and flexible work arrangements in the Netherlands. The International Journal Of Human Resource Management, 21(15), 2831-2847. doi: 10.1080/09585192.2010.528666

Wheatley, D. (2016). Employee satisfaction and use of flexible working arrangements. Work, Employment And Society, 31(4), 567-585. doi: 10.1177/0950017016631447

External links[edit | edit source]