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Contemporary workplaces are characterised by increasing complexity, flux, and geographical dispersion providing a powerful impetus for flexible working arrangements (FWAs).
FWAs are linked to a host of beneficial work outcomes (e.g., performance, job satisfaction, and reduced work-family conflict; Baltes et al., 1999; Combs, Liu, Hall, & Ketchen, 2006). To capitalise on such benefits, it is necessary to understand how employee characteristics could impact on the effectiveness of FWAs.
In two fieldwork studies, Professors Rudolph (Saint Louis University) and Baltes (Wayne State University) found that the effects of FWAs on employee engagement are contingent upon age and health. This has implications for managing flexibility initiatives, particularly in the context of an aging workforce (Armstrong-Stassen, 2008).
The study aimed to answer the following research questions:
The two studies used four different measures of age and health:
Study one: In study one, the researchers followed 838 people over a 10-month period to explore the impact of chronological age and functional health on the effectiveness of FWAs.
Study two: The purpose of study two was to see whether the results from study one would hold true for older workers. The sample consisted of 554 employees. Instead of focusing on chronological age, the study examined the impact of subjective age. This is because previous studies have shown that subjective age, how old one identifies as, can help older workers feel a sense of control. This alleviates some of the negative consequences of aging (Heckhausen, 1997).
Overall, FWAs had a positive impact on employee engagement. Nevertheless, these positive impacts appear amplified by certain age/health characteristics:
To engage and retain employees, organisations need to implement flexibility policies. FWAs foster inclusion by supporting diverse needs such as remote working, caregiving responsibilities, and/or other personal commitments. Not only that, they serve to enhance company branding, enabling organisations to attract and retain valuable employees.
This research showed that health consistently bolsters the positive effects of FWAs on engagement. Study two showed that for older workers in particular, health appears to be an important determinant of engagement levels. Significantly, strategies aimed at improving employee functional health are likely to be a viable avenue for maximising the benefits of FWAs, particularly in the context of the contemporary aging workforce.
For more information, contact Andrea Espedido.
To read the full article, see Rudolph, C. W., & Baltes, B. B. (2017). Age and health jointly moderate the influence of flexible work arrangements on work engagement: Evidence from two empirical studies. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 22, 40-58.
Armstrong-Stassen, M. (2008). Human resource practices for mature workers—And why aren’t employers using them? Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources, 46, 334-352.
Baltes, B. B., Briggs, T. E., Huff, J. W., Wright, J. A., & Neuman, G. A. (1999). Flexible and compressed workweek schedules: A meta-analysis of their effects on work-related criteria. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84, 406-513.
Combs, J., Liu, Y., Hall, A., & Ketchen, D. (2006). How much do high-performance work practices matter? A meta-analysis of their effects on organizational performance. Personnel Psychology, 59, 501-528.
Heckhausen, J. (1997). Developmental regulation across adulthood: Primary and secondary control of age-related challenges. Developmental Psychology, 33, 176-187
Reed, A. E., & Carstensen, L. L. (2012). The theory behind the age-related positivity effect. Frontiers in Psychology, 339, 1-9.
As part of her PhD/Masters in Organisational Psychology, she has developed expertise in the areas of leadership and innovation, while acquiring experience in corporations such as PwC, CBA, and Lendlease. Her proven ability in consulting and leadership development is coupled with strong academic and data analytic skills, as evidenced by international prizes and a First Class Honours degree.