Sustained Effects of Flexible Working Time Arrangements on Subjective Well-Being

Abstract

The article addressed the impact of a transition to two flexible working time arrangements, employee- and employer-oriented, on subjective well-being (measured by job satisfaction and satisfaction with leisure time) from a longitudinal perspective. The study investigated which of three patterns of well-being, i.e., stability, recovery, or chronic strain/long-term improvement, are associated with these transitions. To address this question, the study used data from eleven waves (2003–2013) of the German Socio-Economic Panel. Fixed-effects analyses indicated that the well-being of individuals who switched to the employer-oriented flexible time arrangement followed a chronic strain pattern (women) or adaptation pattern (men). The effect of the transition to an employee-oriented flexible time arrangement is not unanimous: women appear to profit from this arrangement in the long run in terms of increased satisfaction with leisure time, whereas men experience deterioration in satisfaction with leisure time, followed by adaptation. At best, the effect of this transition on job satisfaction is short-lived for both genders.

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Fig. 1
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Notes

  1. 1.

    Many life events, such as marriage, widowhood, divorce, and the birth of a child, are subject to adaptation (see, for example, Clark et al. 2008).

  2. 2.

    Forewarning, in contrast, helps to decrease uncertainty and foster habituation (Frederick and Loewenstein 1999).

  3. 3.

    According to the literature, regulatory processes are particularly active around the time of the change (Carnelley et al. 2006); therefore, the changes in well-being may be rapid immediately after the transition. This finding is especially relevant for the analysis of negative events (e.g. Uglanova and Staudinger 2012).

  4. 4.

    We did perform additional analyses for part-time employees. The transition to an employee-oriented FWTA and the transition to an employer-oriented FWTA do not appear to have an effect on the satisfaction of part-time workers. It may be the case that, on one hand, part-time workers may not need working time flexibility as much as full-time workers because even with a fixed working schedule they have time resources for life domains other than work. On the other hand, having working hours defined by the employer hurts less because there is still time available.

  5. 5.

    For a sensitivity check, we run additional analyses on a sample that also included job and occupation changes and controlled for a job/occupation change. The analyses yield similar results.

  6. 6.

    As a sensitivity check, we conducted additional analyses in which only the transition from an employee-oriented FWTA (without fixed working hours) to “hours fixed by employer” was taken into account. The results were virtually the same as the main analyses discussed in the article.

  7. 7.

    There is one exception – the effect of the transition to employer-oriented flexibility on satisfaction with leisure time (for both men and women). The unadjusted effect of transition to employer-oriented FWTA on satisfaction with leisure is negative, but not significant; it becomes significant only after the controls were introduced. Probably, without adjustment for household income, number of children, hours spent on household chores, and fit between actual and desired working hours the unexplained variance of the dependent variable is too large and weak effects cannot be seen.

  8. 8.

    To check the impact of each control variable, we run stepwise models, including one covariate in a time. The relationships between transitions to FWTA and well-being remain, by and large, unchanged. In order to report our results in a concise manner and remain focused on the main research question of the paper, we do not present all models here.

  9. 9.

    The number of hours spent on household chores also includes childcare.

  10. 10.

    In this case the the number of observations for the estimation of \(\theta_{6}\) coefficients would be rather small, which would lead to larger standard errors.

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Correspondence to Ekaterina Uglanova.

Appendices

Appendix 1

See Table 5.

Table 5 Characteristics of the Selected Subsample of the GSOEP (2003–2013, full-time employed, no self-employed)

Appendix 2

See Table 6.

Table 6 The Distribution of Job Satisfaction and Satisfaction with Leisure Ratings in the SOEP Subsample, 2003–2013, age 17–64, full-time employed, no self-employed

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Uglanova, E., Dettmers, J. Sustained Effects of Flexible Working Time Arrangements on Subjective Well-Being. J Happiness Stud 19, 1727–1748 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-017-9894-6

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Keywords

  • Working time flexibility
  • Job satisfaction
  • Satisfaction with leisure time