Examining the tensions in workplace flexibility and exploring options for new directions

Source: Linda L Putnam, Karen K Myers, and Bernadette M Gailliard, Human Relations, Vol. 67 no. 4, April 2014
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From the abstract:
Workplace flexibility initiatives as a potential remedy for work–life conflicts are the focus of a considerable number of investigations. Despite their contributions, research findings reveal tensions and contradictions in the ways that employees, managers and organizations develop, enact and respond to these flexibility initiatives. This critical review identifies three primary tensions (variable vs fixed arrangements, supportive vs unsupportive work climates and equitable vs inequitable implementation of policies) that reveal inconsistent and sometimes contradictory findings. We tie these tensions, and the management of them, to an overarching dilemma in implementing workplace flexibility, the autonomy–control paradox. To develop alternatives for handling these tensions, we recommend reframing them through changing organizational cultures, adopting a philosophy of adaptability, customizing work and making workplace flexibility an employee right. We conclude by urging organizations and society to reframe the tensions between work and life, to treat them as enriching rather than competing with each other and to transcend these opposite poles through exploring third spaces.