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Prospective effects of work-time control on overtime, work-life interference and exhaustion in female and male knowledge workers
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Stress Research Institute.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0724-6823
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Stress Research Institute.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8433-2405
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Stress Research Institute.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Stress Research Institute. Swansea University, UK.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8105-0901
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Aims: Employee-based flexible working hours are increasing, particularly among knowledge workers. Research indicates that women and men use work–time control (WTC; control over time off and daily hours) differently: while men work longer paid hours, women use WTC to counteract work–life interference. In a knowledge-worker sample, we examined associations between WTC and overtime, work–life interference and exhaustion and tested if gender moderates the mediating role of overtime.

Methods: The sample contained 2248 Swedish knowledge workers. Employing hierarchical regression modelling, we examined effects of control over time off/daily hours on subsequent overtime hours, work–life interference and exhaustion in general and in gender-stratified samples. Using conditional process analysis, we tested moderated mediation models.

Results: Control over time off was related to less work–life interference (βmen=-0.117; CI95%: -0.237 to 0.003; βwomen=-0.253; CI95%: -0.386 to -0.120) and lower exhaustion (βmen=-0.199; CI95%: -0.347 to -0.051; βwomen=-0.271; CI95%: -0.443 to -0.100). For control over daily hours, estimates were close to zero. While men worked more overtime (42 minutes/week), we could not confirm gender moderating the indirect effect of control over time off/daily hours on work–life interference/exhaustion via overtime. Independent of gender, effects of control over time off on work–life interference were partly explained by working fewer overtime hours.

Conclusion: Control over time off was related to lower exhaustion and better work–life balance (in particular for women). We found no evidence for men’s work–life interference increasing with higher WTC due to working more overtime. Knowledge workers’ control over time off may aid to prevent work–life interference and burnout.

Keywords [en]
flexible work, work-life balance, burnout, longitudinal, long working hours
National Category
Occupational Health and Environmental Health
Research subject
Public Health Sciences; Gender Studies; Epidemiology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-197317OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-197317DiVA, id: diva2:1601447
Funder
NordForsk, 74809Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, 2013-0448Available from: 2021-10-08 Created: 2021-10-08 Last updated: 2022-03-21Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The Highs and Lows of Work-Time Control: Exploring the role of control over working hours for health
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Highs and Lows of Work-Time Control: Exploring the role of control over working hours for health
2021 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Flexible work-time arrangements are thought to create ways of aligning work and private life and facilitate recovery. While temporal flexibility is found to generally bolster work–life balance, its effects on health outcomes are less well known. The present thesis seeks to examine if and how perceived control over working hours benefits workers’ health. Utilising a large Swedish cohort study, four empirical studies explored the association of work-time control (WTC) with subsequent mental and physical health as well as the underlying mechanisms and moderating influences.

Study I assessed the factorial structure of an instrument to measure WTC and found two sub-dimensions: control over daily hours (the length, starting and ending times of a workday) and control over time off (the taking of breaks/time/days off, paid and unpaid). Levels of control per sub-dimension were described by demographic and work-related factors for a large sample of Swedish workers. In particular, shift, public sector and female workers reported low levels of WTC.

Study II examined effects of control over daily hours and time off on depressive symptoms. Increasing control over time off was related to decreasing depressive symptoms over time, whereas only initial level of control over daily hours was associated with lower levels of depressive symptoms. For both sub-dimensions of WTC, the direction of this effect was predominantly from perceived control to subsequent depressive symptoms; reversed processes were of less importance.

Study III focused on work–life interference as one step on the causal chain between WTC and depressive symptoms and musculoskeletal complaints, respectively. For both sub-dimensions of WTC, part of the effect on depressive symptoms went through work–life interference. Reversed processes played a role between depressive symptoms and work–life interference only. Control over time off was found to mitigate work–life interference and subsequent depressive symptoms more than control over daily hours, albeit with generally small effects. Regarding musculoskeletal complaints, effects were even smaller and work–life interference appeared to be less important.

Study IV assessed gender differences in the impact of WTC on work–life interference and exhaustion regarding the mediating role of overtime hours. In a sample of knowledge workers, higher control over time off was associated with lower subsequent work–life interference and exhaustion, while control over daily hours was unrelated to both outcomes. Although men worked more overtime hours than women on average, no evidence was found for men with high control over time off/daily hours to perceive more work–life interference/exhaustion due to increased overtime compared to women.

This thesis found that higher levels of WTC were beneficial for a range of health outcomes, which was partly explained by fewer work–life conflicts. While these effects were generally small, control over time off in particular was consistently associated with favourable outcomes in health, work-life balance and working hours. Given that the level of workers’ discretion over working hours varies starkly by work and demographic factors, enhancing the availability of flexible work-time arrangements is in the interest of public health. WTC, with a particular focus on employees’ ability to take time off from work, may improve the daily work–life interface and support a sustainable working life.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Public Health Sciences, Stockholm University, 2021. p. 110
Series
Stockholm Studies in Public Health Sciences, ISSN 2003-0061 ; 5
Keywords
flexible work, flexible work-time arrangements, autonomy, psychosocial working conditions, longitudinal, mental health, physical health, work-life balance
National Category
Occupational Health and Environmental Health Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Research subject
Public Health Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-197318 (URN)978-91-7911-646-0 (ISBN)978-91-7911-647-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2021-12-10, lärosal 18, hus 2, Albanovägen 12 and online via Zoom, public link is available at the department website, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, 2013-0448NordForsk, 74809
Available from: 2021-11-17 Created: 2021-10-11 Last updated: 2022-02-25Bibliographically approved

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Albrecht, SophieLeineweber, ConstanzeKecklund, GöranTucker, Philip

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