June 2 2011: Expert meeting on working time flexibility and productivity

Ce, 02/06/2011
Ce, 02/06/2011

Main aspects covered

Four experts presented research in relation to the following questions:

  • How can different forms of working time flexibility (WTFL) impact labour productivity?
  • Does it make a difference whether WTFL is employee or employer driven?
  • Which contextual factors could have an impact? (Social dialogue arrangements, working time legislation, external pressures, etc.)
  • Any other aspects of relevance

Eurofound was interested into getting their advice on the following questions:

  • Which international or national data sources (surveys or employer-employee matched administrative sources) would allow to research more closely the question whether and which impact (different forms of) working time flexibility have on either individual/company/sectoral level labour productivity?
  • Which quantitative or qualitative methods could prove useful to research this topic?
  • How could a research, which includes at least two European Member States, be set up, and what resources would be implied?


  • The varying company performance outcomes of working-time flexibility practices across 13 sectors in 21 European countries using the European Establishment Survey (2004/2005) [presentation,.pdf. 231kb] [paper, .pdf, 890kb]
    Heejung Chung, Tilburg University, Netherlands
    This study examines the performance outcomes of the use of working-time flexibility strategies using company level data. At first glance, the result confirm that of previous studies where employee-friendly flexibility provides good performance outcomes, while employer-friendly flexibility provides negative consequences to workers' health, recruitment and motivation. Investigating this relationship in detail, I find that this relationship varies across countries and sectors. The use of employee-friendly working-time flexibility provides positive or negative outcomes depending on the sector and country in question. However, employer-friendly flexibility provides negative outcomes for all sectors and countries although the strength of the impact varies.
  • Working time flexibility and productivity in Britain: theory and evidence [.pdf. 258kb]
    John Forth, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, UK
    In the UK, a long-term policy focus on the ease of hiring / firing has been accompanied by a more recent focus on flexibility of working time. Policy documents talk about promoting the business case for flexible working time. However, we consider that there is insufficient evidence that the average firm does benefit. We discuss some theorised effects of flexible working time (some positive, others negative). We then go on to chart the prevalence of flexible working time arrangements in Britain and examine their associations with workplace performance. We also point to unresolved issues in the research literature and discuss new research opportunities. John Forth and Alex Bryson: Working time flexibility and productivity in Britain. Theory and evidence
  • Is part-time employment beneficial for firm productivity? [.pdf. 129kb]
    Annemarie Nelen, Maastricht University, Netherlands
    This paper is the first to analyse and explain the relation between part-time employment and firm productivity. Using a unique dataset on the Dutch pharmacy sector that includes the working hours of all employees and a 'hard' physical measure of firm productivity, we estimate a production function including heterogeneous employment shares based on working hours. We find that firms with a large part-time employment share are more productive than firms with a large share of full-time workers. Additional data on the timing of labour demand show that this can be explained by a different allocation of part-timers compared to full-timers. This enables firms with large part-time employment shares to allocate their labour force more efficiently over working days. (Annemarie Nelen, Andries De Grip, Didier Fouarge, 'Is Part-Time Employment Beneficial for Firm Productivity?' http://ftp.iza.org/dp5423.pdf).
  • Doing more with less? Flexible working practices and the intensification of work [.pdf. 100kb]
    Clare Kelliher, Cranfield University, UK
    This article examines an unanticipated consequence of adopting flexible working practices - that of work intensification. Based on a study of professional workers and in line with other studies, we present evidence showing that flexible workers record higher levels of job satisfaction and organizational commitment than their nonflexible counterparts. However, we also report evidence of work intensification being experienced by both those who work reduced hours and those who work remotely. We identify three means by which this intensification occurs - imposed intensification, enabled intensification and intensification as an act of reciprocation or exchange. We argue that the apparent paradox of high job satisfaction and organizational commitment, alongside work intensification can be explained by employees trading flexibility for effort. Using social exchange theory we propose that employees respond to the ability to work flexibly by exerting additional effort, in order to return benefit to their employer.
    ('Doing more with less? Flexible working practices and the intensification of work', Human Relations 2010; 63; 83 originally published online Dec 1, 2009; Clare Kelliher and Deirdre Anderson -

For more information, please contact Christine Aumayr or Oscar Vargas, Eurofound

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