Psychological Flexibility is the Essence of Flextime

September 11, 201410:00 am4459 views

There’s extensive research supporting the usual benefits of flex-time work schedules.  But what lies at the core of flexible work arrangements?  In short, flex time is a variable work schedule in which there is a certain time in the day that every employee is expected to be at work (core hours), but the start and end times are flexible.  The flex time clock below illustrates how it might work:


Employees obviously desire flex-time, but what are some of the benefits for an employer? A compilation of 8 studies on flex time found some interesting results showing how just a simple policy change can really have an influence.  Some interesting results are:

  • Employees are twice as likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease when their employers are inflexible in regards to caring for their family (e.g. caring for a sick child).
  • Employees who work for a company that allows flexibility receive 30 minutes more of sleep a night, totalling to 15 more hours a month
  • Employees who feel conflict at work are disengaged from their childrens activities.

Clearly, there are repercussions for a rigid schedule manifesting itself in all aspects of an employees lifestyle. Flex time can be viewed as a double-edged sword as well.  Almost 40 percent of employees believe they are less likely to advance within their company if they were to request flex time.  Nonetheless, the benefits of flex time are immense.  Employees experience less work-life stress, in addition to numerous other health benefits.

See: Research Insight: Flexible Working and Intensified Work

Psychological Flexibility

Flex-time capitalises on the principle of psychological flexibility.  Psychological flexibility is “the ability to contact the present moment more fully as a conscious human being and to change, or persist in, behavior when doing so serves valued ends”. Literal flexibility about when an employee needs to be at work allows a person to be more psychologically flexible and present at work because they are not overwhelmed or distracted by outside problems.

Having psychological flexibility allows an individual to adapt to situational demands, shift mindsets and repertoires, maintain balance in various domains, maintain consistency with their values and promotes overall health. These are all factors desired in employees, as it translates to less downtime and greater satisfaction, as well as reducing employee attrition.

Employees need to feel as though they have flexibility, in the domains of their behavior and psyche. A company benefits from flex time, as individuals with flex time feel more flexible, are able to be psychologically present and productive when they are at work.  This increases their quality of work and keeps employees happy.

Keeping employees happy and healthy is key to organisational performance.  Companies with a flexible culture have employees who are committed to the organisation, support the organisation more and experience 4 percent less employee turnover, compared to organizations with more rigid scheduling.  Companies just need to ensure that employees know they will not be discriminated against if they use flex time.

Overall, the more flexible the work schedule the happier employees are.  But clearly it has to be within reason for the company as well.

Credit: Taylor, L. (2011). Psychological Flexibility: The Essence of Flex Time.

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