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Workers at all levels within an organization have the need to manage their work and personal/family responsibilities. Much of the past research on workplace flexibility has focused on managerial or professional positions, and thus, higher-wage jobs and workers with higher incomes. But more recently, researchers have begun to investigate the particular challenges of workplace flexibility for workers who do not fit this mold -- specifically, workers who are hourly, receive a lowerwage, or who live in lower-income families. Regardless of how they are defined, workers at the lower end of the wage and income spectrum have some unique workplace flexibility challenges, largely driven by the nature of the jobs within the lower-wage labor market, but also driven by the personal characteristics of the workers themselves.

This paper examines lower-wage workers and their need for one specific kind of workplace flexibility -- flexible work arrangements (FWAs). Flexible work arrangements alter the time and/or place that work is conducted on a regular basis -- in a manner that is as manageable and predictable as possible for both employees and employers. FWAs provide flexibility in the scheduling of hours worked, in the amount of hours worked, and in the place of work.

This paper first provides a general description of lower-wage workers and lays out different definitions that have been used to describe this segment of the workforce. Using the limited data available, we then provide a summary of findings that outline the reasons lower-wage workers need FWAs, the types of FWAs to which lower-wage workers have access, and the benefits and challenges of providing FWAs to workers in lower-wage jobs.


Prepared for Workplace Flexibility 2010 by Anna Danziger and Shelley Waters Boots on behalf of the Urban Institute.