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Too Much Work Flexibility Can Lead to Stress

A new research study suggests having the ability to control one’s work schedule leads to more blurring of the boundaries between work and other parts of life.

The boundary problems can especially extend to family-related roles.

Researchers measured the extent of control one could have on one’s work schedule — called “schedule control” — and its impact on work and family processes using data from a national survey of more than 1,200 American workers.

“Most people probably would identify schedule control as a good thing — an indicator of flexibility that helps them balance their work and home lives,” noted Sociology professor Scott Schieman of the University of Toronoto.

“We wondered about the potential stress of schedule control for the work-family interface. What happens if schedule control blurs the boundaries between these key social roles?”

The researchers found that people with more schedule control are more likely to work at home. But these same people also try to multitask between work and home activities more often while at home.

This can blur the roles between work time and family time at home. The researchers found that this blurring can also lead to high levels of work/family conflict. Such conflict can often be a major source of stress.

Schedule control was measured by asking participants questions such as, “Who usually decides when you start and finish work each day at your main job?” and “Is it someone else, or can you decide within certain limits, or are you entirely free to decide when you start and finish work?”

The authors measured work-family conflict by asking people questions like, “How often have you not had enough time for your family or other important people in your life because of your job?”

“How often have you not had the energy to do things with your family or other important people in your life because of your job?” and “How often has your job kept you from concentrating on important things in your family and personal life?”

According to Schieman, discovering the conditions that predict work-family conflict is critical because “a substantial body of social scientific evidence demonstrates its link to poorer physical and mental health outcomes.”

Schieman adds, however, that their findings revealed some benefits of schedule control to counteract the downsides.

“People who had partial or full schedule control were able to engage in work-family multitasking activities with fewer negative consequences in terms of conflict between their work and family roles.

“Overall, our findings contribute to an ongoing—and complicated—debate about the costs and benefits of different forms of flexibility for workers.”

Source: University of Toronto

Too Much Work Flexibility Can Lead to Stress

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Too Much Work Flexibility Can Lead to Stress. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 30 Sep 2010)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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