Work-life balance

What are the effects of flexible working arrangements?

SW – 08/2017

The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) investigated the effects that working arrangements have on reconciling work and private life. In a subsequent report, Eurofound analysed data on flexible working arrangements. The report concludes that working arrangements in terms of duration, scheduling and location play a significant role in achieving work-life balance. 


The countries with the highest rates of female employment are also those where workers reported it is ‘very easy’ to reconcile work and private life. It has been proven that attractive working conditions have the potential to promote labour supply for people who find it difficult to reconcile rigid working conditions with their family commitments. 


The reconciliation of work and private life has become an increasingly relevant policy topic. It has an implicit social value which is linked with gender equality and quality of life. Furthermore, it has an economic dimension because a poor work-life balance hinders participation in the labour market. However, participation in the labour market is one of the key objectives of the European growth strategy. 


The report was Eurofound’s contribution to the Informal Employment and Social Affairs Council (EPSCO) on 19-20 July 2017. In his presentation on flexible working arrangements and work-life balance, Eurofound Director Juan Menéndez-Valdés talked about the results of the report including: percentage differences between men and women of various age groups when caring for children or dependent relatives; working time across the entire life course; and differences between actual and preferred working time. He mentioned that possible ways to improve work-life balance include reducing working hours or greater flexibility in working time and location. However, the downside of this increased flexibility is that it can lead to employees working in their free time. 


In April this year, the European Commission proposed not only a European Pillar of Social Rights but also additional legislative and non-legislative initiatives including a proposal for a directive on work-life balance for working parents and carers (see DSV article). 


More information can be found in the Eurofound report and presentation