Work Autonomy, Flexibility and Work-life balance project (WAF) is a research project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, by the University of Kent. On 22-23 May 2017, in a final conference in London, Dr. Heejung Chung, leader of the project, presented the project results. Paola Panzeri represented COFACE Families Europe in this event and has been Member of the Policy Advisory Board of the project since 2014. Here are some highlights from the discussion held in London during the final conference:
UK data (2011) showed that flexitime reduced work-family conflict of workers but not as much as expected, while telework increased the family-work conflict. On the same line, EU data (EuroFound EWCS) confirmed that also at EU level, flexitime had no perceived change on the worker work-family conflict while there is a perception that telework increased it.
In particular, a number of reasons can be identified to explain why flexible work is not as effective as it was expected to be. First, it blurs boundaries between family and work (people working flexibly are twice as likely to think about work after working hours than those who do not do use flexible work or telework). Another element is that flexible work increases the number of worked hours, partly due to the stigma that telework/flexible work is still considered not as a right but as a benefit that needs to be paid back with extra efforts and worked hours (not to lose this benefit). All these elements vary quite strongly according to the level of flexibility and the control over working schedules, where full-time flexible workers/teleworkers have more blurred boundaries compared to occasional flexible workers or teleworkers.
The full description of the results and project is available on the project website.