Article: a PhD thesis.
La flexibilité du temps de travail: entre autonomie et contraintes. Une étude de cas en Suisse.
Levy R., Lichtenberger Y.
Université de Lausanne, Faculté des sciences sociales et politiques
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Flexitime : between autonomy and constraints. A case study in SwitzerlandBy looking at how a new regulation is translated into everyday practices, this dissertation explores through a specific case study the degree of autonomy gained by wage-earners with the introduction of flexible working schedules. The guiding hypothesis is that by introducing procedural rules, flexitime opens the space for more daily negotiations, therefore reinforcing the effects of power relations inherent to employment relationships. The goal is to understand, through a sociological approach, how employees experience a form of working time that transfers responsibility for time management to them, and howthey integrate work-related constraints with their life outside the workplace. The first part of the dissertation sets up the context of the case study. It offers a definition of flexibility by situating it in the broader history of work time, as well as in relation to various organizational forms and cultural transformations. An international literature review and a focus on the Swiss case are offered. In the second part, the focus is narrowed to a specificSwiss firm specialized in mail-order, where a system of individualized management of annual work time has been introduced. By combining a quantitative and qualitative approach, it is possible to analyze determinants of the practices internal to the firm anddeterminants related to employees themselves, as well as the way in which employees articulate these two orders of constraints. The results show that the implementation of flexible working time is not affecting daily negotiation practices so much as it is creating a set of informal rules. The autonomy ofwage-earners is expressed first and foremost through their capacity to produce, negotiate, and legitimate these rules. The intraindividual level has proven to be central for the social regulation of flexible working time. It is not so much a question of legitimation, but rather the process of institutionalization nurtured by the energy invested by wage-earners in their personal quest for a compromise between their various roles, identities, and aspirations. It is this individualized regulation that is ensuring the success of the system under study.
work, flexibility, working time, social time, organisation, firm, gender, family, negotiation, social regulation
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