Tag Archives: schedule

Lego employees.

Part-time workers with flexible schedules work more unpaid overtime — especially mothers

Mothers working part-time take up more unpaid work when given control over their own schedule, a new study reports. The authors say that the findings should draw our attention to how part-time and flexible work schedules are wrongly perceived today.

Lego employees.

One of these workers is not like the others. And the others don’t like it.
Image via Pixabay.

New research from the University of Kent and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam found that both men and women who can set their own hours end up doing more unpaid overtime. Mothers working part-time put in the most unpaid overtime in this scenario, they add.

“Increasing numbers of companies and governments are introducing flexible working, that is giving workers control over when and where they work, as a less costly option to help working families manage work and family demands compared to, for example, paid leave,” the paper explains.

The team drew on the Understanding Society surveys carried out between 2010-2015 to analyze how three patterns of flexible working impact an employee’s workload. The working schedules the team looked at are flexitime, teleworking, and schedule control. On average, they say, UK men work 2.2 unpaid overtime hours, while UK women put in roughly 1.9 unpaid hours per week, respectively.

Under flexitime-type programs, workers have a set number of weekly hours, but they have the option of picking a schedule that suits them best (from 8 am to 4 pm, or from 10 am to 6 pm, for example). Teleworking allows employees to work from home on a regular basis. Schedule control is arguably the most flexible of the flexible work programs — employees are allowed to work whenever they want, for as long or little as they need, to complete their tasks.

For the first two types of flexible work programs, the team couldn’t find an increase in unpaid overtime hours (above that 2.2 / 1.9 baseline level). However, they couldn’t detect a decrease in unpaid overtime hours either.

“Other studies have shown that certain types of flexible working, such as teleworking, are likely to increase work-family conflict rather than reduce it,” the authors explain.

Those in the schedule control group, however, did see a (significant) increase in overtime. On average, men put in around one more hour, and women without children roughly 40 more minutes, over the baseline value, per week. The team notes that full-time working mothers didn’t work any more unpaid time, but part-time working mothers put in around 20 minutes extra (so one hour in total) more each week. The team says that flexible workers’ tendency to work harder and longer — a phenomenon coined ‘the autonomy (control) paradox’ — has already been documented.

As to why, the researchers believe this comes down — in part — to how such working schedules are perceived. Part-time working mothers, they write, may feel the need to work longer hours to compensate for real or perceived stigma from co-workers — especially when working atypical hours. They support this hypothesis with previous research on the stigma felt by part-time workers; around 40% of which believe working part-time had a negative impact on their career progression.

They also write that part-time working mothers may simply have more opportunities to work overtime compared to full-time working mothers. In the context of the gift exchange theory, they could be working harder and for longer to recciprocate/reward employers for the favorable work program.

“More control over your work is supposed to make life easier for workers, particularly those with children. However, it is clear that for many, blurring the boundaries between work and home life expands work to be longer, even when it is unpaid,” says lead author Dr. Heejung Chung from Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research.

“Employers need to be aware of this and ensure staff are not over-stretching themselves and undoing the benefits of flexible working.’

Dr. Chung also made a point of specifying that their study didn’t show flexible working arrangements lead to reduced work from employees, which flies in the face of popular perceptions. Employers need to be made more aware of this, she says, and tackle the stigma against those working flexible schedules.

The paper “Flexible Working and Unpaid Overtime in the UK: The Role of Gender, Parental and Occupational Status” has been published in the journal Social Indicators Research.


You’re doing fun activities wrong — but a new study reveals how to do them right

Scheduled fun isn’t as enjoyable as spontaneous fun, apparently.


Image credits Andreas Lischka.

Your trying to have a good time might just be what’s keeping you from it, a new paper suggests. According to the research, performed by a duo of scientists from the Ohio State University (OSU) and Rutgers Business School (RBS), planning leisure activities ahead of time makes us enjoy them less compared to spontaneous or more loosely-scheduled events.

It’s all about the timing

The paper explains that we tend to subconsciously ‘lump together’ all of our scheduled activity under the same mental group. It doesn’t matter if said activity is going to the dentist, paying your taxes, or a date with a special someone — if it’s scheduled, it goes in the same group. In the end, that makes us more likely to perceive pleasurable activities as chores, the authors explain, draining them of some enjoyment.

“It becomes a part of our to-do list,” Selin A. Malkoc, study co-author and an associate professor at OSU, wrote in an email to The Washington Post. “As an outcome, they become less enjoyable.”

“When scheduled, leisure tasks feel less free-flowing and more forced — which is what robs them of their utility.”

Part of the problem, Malkoc believes, is cultural. We place such a high value on achievement that even fun and contentment become secondary. Most of us live hectic lives, juggling work, school, social events, hobbies, sports, and many other activities that require an investment of time and energy. We jam-pack our schedules, fearing that we will never do all that we want to do if we give ourselves some free time, Malkoc explains. Because of this over-commitment to achievement, “people even strive to make leisure productive and brag about being busy,” the paper explains.

In the end, we do more — but we enjoy all of it less.

The paper builds on a 2016 study published by the two researchers, in which they pooled together data from 13 previous studies conducted on the enjoyment of leisure activities. After analyzing all the results in parallel, the team concluded that scheduling leisure activities — ranging from a carwash, test-driving a car, and watching a fun video — had a “unique dampening effect” on their enjoyment.

In one of the 13 studies, the authors gave students a hypothetical calendar consisting of classes and other activities. Some of the students were asked to schedule a frozen yogurt outing with friends, two days in advance, and add it to the calendar. The rest were asked to imagine they ran into a friend by chance and ended up going to the same frozen yogurt place — but spontaneously. Both groups were later asked to report how they felt about the situation.

The first group — the schedulers — ended up perceiving the event “more like work,” the paper concludes.

So, then, what can we do to enjoy some downtime but still get something done? Malkoc believes “rough scheduling” could be the answer. Boiled down, this approach means setting up plans to meet for lunch or an after-work drink with someone, but not assigning it a time per se. If this loose plan isn’t enough to make the meetup happen, she adds, that may be for the best.

“As trivial as the change might seem, it has an important effect on human psychology: It reintroduces the flexibility to the leisure tasks,” Malkoc wrote in her email to The Washington Post.

“If things don’t work out, in all likelihood at least one of the parties was forcing themselves to make it happen – and thus would enjoy it less. So, maybe things worked out for the best, right?”

Malkoc uses the approach in her own personal life, saying it goes just fine and that her friends “are willing to play along”. Rough scheduling was also the subject of one of the previous studies she and Tonietto performed.

It included 148 college students who agreed to take a break for free coffee and cookies during finals. Half of these students were asked to come in at a specific time for their snack, while the others were given a two-hour window during which they could do so. The first group reported enjoying their break less than those who were given a window, according to the study.

Another piece of advice Malkoc would give is to simply stop trying to fit so many different activities in our schedule. A good place to start from would be to prioritize our enjoyment of activities rather than their quantity, she suggests.

“Be more selective in what we choose to do … take the liberty to let things go,” she concluded in her emails. “This is not to say we should never make plans. But we can prioritize better and let go of our fear of missing out.”

The paper “The Calendar Mindset: Scheduling Takes the Fun Out and Puts the Work In” has been published in the Journal of Market Research.

An hour nap restores your brain’s energy

sleep-learningA recent study published by Berkeley UC concluded that an hour nap boosts the brain’s learning capacity and restores power, just like an email box. When it’s full, it needs a cleaning session – which is just what the nap does.

So of course, what every student had to learn the hard way, when you study and do an all nighter, your brain’s efficiency goes down a lot; according to the researchers, about 40%. This happens because some of the regions in the brain basically shut down to save energy, so you need sleep to work at full power.

The study went even further and concluded that the more you stay awake, the harder it will be for you to learn new things. From what I can understand, it’s actually better to remove an hour of night sleep and add it in the evening, if nothing else is possible. Learn more about napping.