Think about the following scenario: Some important DL for your work is approaching. You adjust your life so that you meet the deadline: you make work-related phone calls while driving home, you make notes while cooking dinner and then, when your kids are finally asleep, you write a report. For the time that it’s needed, you sacrifice your own time for your work and employer. At the same time, you work flexibly both in space and time because your work requires you to do so.
Our study shows that this kind of scenario is very common to employees doing knowledge intensive work. I believe that it is common to you too. Interestingly, however, people react to this kind of situation very differently: Some experience extreme stress and think that their employer exhausts them with too much work. Yet, others feel only temporary stress, or no stress at all. That arouses an important question: Why are the differences so great?
Of course the reasons for differing reactions are various and relate to both individual differences as well as organizational practices. However, organizations may be particularly interested in this one: Our study shows that well-functioning organizational flexible work policies influence the way employees experience the requirements of work – that is, also requirements to work overtime and at least occasionally at home. Indeed, employees’ experiences of stress seem to be dependent on the flexibility that their employer allows them. Moreover, reciprocity of flexibility seems to be particularly important: employees need to know that their employer allows them flexibility in exchange for the flexibility that they show towards employer.
I think that this is excellent news for organizations: By creating well-functioning flexible work policies organizations are able to improve employees’ well-being and to alleviate employees’ experiences of excessive stress. This really is a two-way street: When employees feel that they are given freedom in deciding where and when to work, they are ready to work hard for their employer when it is needed – and with lower levels of stress.