If they had a choice, U.S. workers would much rather be able to work from home than choose the hours they work, new research finds.
The study from Princeton University and Harvard University found that the average employee would take an 8 percent pay cut if it meant they could work remotely. Although flexible scheduling on its own wasn't enough for most employees to be willing to cut their salaries, combining it with being able to work from home and decide how many hours they work each week was attractive to many. The study found that employees would also be willing to take close to an 8 percent pay cut for this combined option.
"Overall, the combined flexible option looks very similar [in terms of how much pay employees would sacrifice] to the work from home option, the only worker-friendly alternative that workers seem to value," the study's authors wrote.
An irregular work schedule is what employees hate most. The research revealed that half of U.S. employees dislike this so much that they would not take a job with an irregular schedule even if the position paid 25 percent more than a 9-to-5 job. [See Related Story: Is Having Too Many Remote Workers Bad for Business? ]
In addition, the average worker would be willing to take a 20 percent pay cut in order to never have to work nights or weekends.
"Most workers want to work Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.," Amanda Pallais, the study's co-author and an associate professor at Harvard University, said in a statement. "They don't value flexible scheduling, and they really dislike working evenings and weekends."
The study was based on a real-life hiring process for a national call center. Overall, about 7,000 people applied for the positions online. When applying for jobs, the applicants were asked to state their preferences between a 40-hour, weekday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., onsite job and a work schedule that included one of five options:
- A flexible schedule in which a worker could make his or her own schedule, but needed to work 40 hours
- A schedule with a flexible number of hours, in which workers could choose how many hours they wanted to work each week, up to 40
- A traditional 40-hour, weekday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. job that allowed workers to work from home
- A combined flexible schedule wherein workers could make their own schedules, choose their number of weekly hours and work from home
- A schedule based on the employer's discretion, under which a worker's 40-hour schedule was dictated by a supervisor, was irregular (included evenings and weekends) and was given to the worker a week in advance
The different positions also varied in how much they paid. The traditional schedule paid the maximum salary, while the alternative schedules were lower in salaries by 25-cent per hour increments.
The study found that working 40 hours a week was the "bliss point" for the most workers and that the work-from-home arrangement was the most desirable of all of the alternative schedules.
"Despite some of the rhetoric on the importance of workplace flexibility, the majority of workers do not value flexible scheduling or the ability to choose the number of hours they work," the study's authors wrote. "Workers do value the option to work from home, and strongly dislike employers setting their schedules on short notice."
While the researchers did not make specific policy recommendations, they did raise questions about whether irregular scheduling should be regulated and if flexibility polices should be expanded.
"For example, it might be worth thinking about the benefits and costs of policies that require wage premiums for short-notice scheduling, or evening and weekend work," said Alexandre Mas, one of the study's authors and a professor Princeton University. "Our findings suggest that the benefits of these policies to workers are potentially large."
The study was recently published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.