Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Julie McMullin


Flexible workplace practices (FWPs), such as flex-time and working from home, facilitate employees’ work-life balance or integration and enhance their quality of work. Yet, their use is constrained by time-oriented and gendered workplace cultures. Typically past research involves either a quantitative analysis of individual-level data or a qualitative examination of a single large firm. Meanwhile inCanada, small businesses (with less than 100 employees) employ 48 percent of the total labour force in the private sector (IndustryCanada, 2010). In this dissertation, I investigate the FWPs available and used at small information technology (IT) firms. Cross-firm comparisons are made with respect to this flexibility and the working time aspect of workplace culture. I then examine potential individual and structural factors that may influence the availability and use of FWPs, as well as the working time rules and behaviours of small firms. How employees experience FWPs is also explored.

This research is guided by a theoretical orientation that is multi-levelled and multi-directional and incorporates the life course perspective. A multiple case study is utilized here to compare 17 small firms located in the IT industry. Data sources include 103 quantitative web-surveys, 136 in-depth interview transcripts, and 17 case study reports and snapshots, as well as eight human resource (HR) policies that existed among these firms. These data come from a larger project, Workforce Aging in the New Economy (WANE). Findings reveal three patterns among firms regarding their FWPs and working time behaviours and rules. These firms vary along gender, class, and age lines. The small business owners’ recent employment transitions and past employment experiences shaped how they ran their firms. Employees’ experiences differ accordingly. This research adds sociological knowledge to literature on FWPs. Findings indicate variation among knowledge-intensive firms regarding the managerial control strategies used and implications for employees. Results also suggest that similar and different processes occur in large and small firms. In order for greater flexibility to be available in small firms, both structural and individual changes need to occur.