Prospective effects of work-time control on overtime, work-life interference and exhaustion in female and male knowledge workers

Scand J Public Health. 2024 Mar;52(2):205-215. doi: 10.1177/14034948221150041. Epub 2023 Feb 2.


Aims: Employee-based flexible working hours are increasing, particularly among knowledge workers. Research indicates that women and men use work-time control (WTC; control over time off and daily hours) differently: while men work longer paid hours, women use WTC to counteract work-life interference. In a knowledge-worker sample, we examined associations between WTC and overtime, work-life interference and exhaustion and tested whether gender moderates the mediating role of overtime.

Methods: The sample contained 2248 Swedish knowledge workers. Employing hierarchical regression modelling, we examined effects of control over time off/daily hours on subsequent overtime hours, work-life interference and exhaustion in general and in gender-stratified samples. Using conditional process analysis, we tested moderated mediation models.

Results: Control over time off was related to less work-life interference (βmen= -0.117; 95% confidence interval (CI): -0.237 to 0.003; βwomen= -0.253; 95% CI: -0.386 to -0.120) and lower exhaustion (βmen= -0.199; 95% CI: -0.347 to -0.051; βwomen= -0.271; 95% CI: -0.443 to -0.100). For control over daily hours, estimates were close to zero. While men worked more overtime (42 min/week), we could not confirm gender moderating the indirect effect of control over time off/daily hours on work-life interference/exhaustion via overtime. Independent of gender, effects of control over time off on work-life interference were partly explained by working fewer overtime hours.

Conclusions: Control over time off was related to lower exhaustion and better work-life balance (in particular for women). We found no evidence for men's work-life interference increasing with higher WTC owing to working more overtime. Knowledge workers' control over time off may help prevent work-life interference and burnout.

Keywords: Work–life balance; burnout; flexible work; long working hours; longitudinal.

MeSH terms

  • Burnout, Professional*
  • Employment*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Work-Life Balance