Project calendar schedule with office team working together on establishing a flexible working schedule.
Image: © ribkhan/

Flexible working practices: the good, the bad and the grey areas

26 Aug 2021

According to a survey by US payroll services firm Paychex, 58pc of workers said flexible working had made it harder for them to separate their work and leisure time.

Click here to view the full Future of Work Week series.

It is fairly safe to say that people think flexibility is an important part of life, and that they want flexibility from their jobs and working lives.

When US payroll services provider company Paychex surveyed 1,357 employees from Amazon-owned crowdsourcing website Amazon Mechanical Turk to ascertain how they felt about their work schedules and the changes they had undergone as part of Covid-19, responses were mixed.

Almost three quarters (73pc) reported being on some kind of flexible schedule with their job, including those who had complete or a majority control over the hours they worked. In contrast, 27pc of people still had a rigid work schedule, including those who could only control minor aspects of their schedule or whose schedule was completely written for them by a manager or supervisor.

Up to half of people who had adopted flexible working hours said they did so when their company made changes as a result of the pandemic.

Most respondents said the change to flexible working had affected their work-life balance, with more than 63pc saying they had a good balance compared to less than 10pc who said they did not have a good balance.

As for workers on rigid schedules, 48pc said they had a good balance and a fifth said they had no work-life balance.

The survey then dug deeper into these numbers in a bid to find out the differences in each demographic. Unsurprisingly, roughly one in four people working a rigid work schedule with children at home said they had no work-life balance, although non-married people with rigid schedules were more likely than married people to say they had no work-life balance.

And work schedules also affected respondents’ job satisfaction, with lower paid entry-level workers on rigid schedules suffering the most. Almost 30pc of workers on rigid schedules said they had no work-life balance, and nearly 60pc on a salary of $25,000 or less per year said they were unhappy at work.

Infographic: Paychex

Pros and cons

Getting into the pros and cons of flexible working, the survey found that flexible schedules were far more likely to lead to general issues with scheduling, according to 47pc of workers.

While the majority (81pc) said controlling the timing of their work was an advantage of having a flexible schedule, there were disadvantages to increased flexibility also. More than half (58pc) told Paychex that flexible work schedules meant that their work and personal time overlapped. Others said it was becoming difficult to track the hours they worked (38pc) and more struggled with communication (35pc).

Infographic: Paychex.

Infographic: Paychex.

And yet the workers on rigid schedules envied their flexi-time counterparts, with 53pc saying they believed a more flexible schedule would be useful for their job, while 60pc said they would be more productive.

According to the survey results, flexible schedules were more important to women than men. Four in five women and seven in ten men said flexible working was important to them, and whether or not a person had kids also influenced their response.

Finally, nearly 70pc of people with children at home said a flexible schedule was either very or extremely important to them in a new job, compared to 52pc of people with no kids. Gen Z and baby boomers were more likely than millennials to value flexibility.

Infographic by Paychex on flexible working schedules.

Infographic: Paychex

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea joined Silicon Republic in 2021 as Careers reporter, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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