Alternative work schedule interventions in the Australian construction industry: a comparative case study analysis

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Lingard, HC, Townsend, K, Bradley, LM & Brown, KA 2008, 'Alternative work schedule interventions in the Australian construction industry: a comparative case study analysis', Construction Management and Economics, vol. 26, no. 10, pp. 1101-1112.

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Project‐based construction workers in the Australian construction industry work long and irregular hours and experience higher levels of work‐to‐family conflict and burnout than office‐based workers, giving rise to an interest in alternative work schedules as a means of supporting work–life balance. Alternative work schedules were implemented in four case study construction projects in Australia. Interventions differed between projects, with two implementing a compressed work week, and the others introducing reduced hours schedules (one of which was optional). Data were collected from each case study project, using various combinations of focus groups, surveys, interviews and daily diary collection methods. The results were mixed. The compressed work week appears to have been favourably received where it was introduced. However, waged workers still expressed concerns about the impact on their weekly ‘take‐home’ pay. Attempts to reduce work hours by changing from a six‐ to a five‐day schedule (without extending the length of the working day between Monday and Friday) were less favourably received. Waged workers, in particular, did not favour reduced hours schedules. The results confirm the existence of two distinct labour markets operating in the Australian construction industry and markedly different responses to alternative work schedules, based upon whether workers are waged or salaried. The results clearly show that attempts to improve work–life balance must take the structural characteristics of the industry's labour markets into consideration in the design of interventions. The impact of alternative work schedules is likely to be moderated by institutional working time regimes within the construction industry.

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