Berkeley Flexible Work Time Initiative



About Us



Work Time and
the Environment

Work Time and
the Family

Work Time and
the Good Life

Work Time and Economics

Work Time Choice
is a Success

Work Time Choice: Model Policies


Classic Essays

Leaflet [PDF]

Initiative Text




Work Time and the Family


The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 created our standard 40-hour work week. At that time, families were expected to have a father who worked full time and a mother who stayed at home and cared for the children.

Today's families need more flexibility, because both families and the workplace are much more diverse today than in the 1930s:

  • Fewer households have a stay-at-home parent. According to the Census Bureau, 40% of families with children have two working parents, and 23% have a single working parent. Thus, 63% of families with children do not have a stay-at-home parent.
  • Surveys show that, in families that do not have a stay-at-home parent, 90% of parents say it is hard to balance their work and family obligations, according to UC Berkeley professor Catherine Albiston.
  • In the decades following 1970, the amount of time that the average American child spent with parents declined by ten hours per week, as work hours increased and more women entered the workforce.
  • One-third of all school-age children are home alone during at least part of the week, according to the Census Bureau. For children under 10, loneliness, boredom, and fear are common results of being home alone. For children in their early teens who are home alone, peer pressure can lead to experimentation with alcohol, smoking, and sex.
  • Studies show that people who work part-time face a "flexibility stigma." Mothers who work part-time are often considered less committed to their work. Fathers who ask for more time for their family obligation are penalized even more than mothers, because they are seen not being committed to traditional masculine role as full-time workers supporting their families.
  • The National Study of the Changing Workforce, published in 2002 by the Families and Work Institute, found that employees with access to flexible work arrangements reported less interference between their job and family life, and fewer mental health problems.

In response to the needs of today's workforce, some employers allow flexible work arrangements that give employees more choice about the time or place at which they work or the amount of work that they do, to help employees meet the needs of both work and family life.

Corporate Voices for Working Families found that implementing workplace flexibility improves employee satisfaction, morale, and teamwork as well as employee health, well-being, and resilience, and helps to reduce stress.

Flexible work arrangements have also been shown to improve the bottom line for businesses. Corporate Voices for Working Families found that implementing workplace flexibility improves the bottom line by helping businesses to attract and retain key talent, increase employee retention and reduce turnover, reduce overtime and absenteeism, and enhance employee productivity, effectiveness, and engagement.

Despite all the advantages of a flexible workplace, and despite the huge changes in the the American family and the American workplace, most employees still have the inflexible 40-hour week that we have had since 1938.

Today's families need more flexibility than father needed 75 years ago.


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