Paradigms of flexibility: a systematic review of research on workplace flexibility

Matthijs Bal, Michal Izak

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As flexibility has become a sine-qua-non of the contemporary workplace, we performed a critical review of its different uses and understandings in business and management research. Analyzing the literature on workplace flexibility in the period 1970-2018, using a four-part conceptual framework, and on the basis of subsequent content analysis of 262 most relevant publications, we identify two axes of tension embedding scholarly work on flexibility: the flexibility of vs. flexibility for organizations and employees, and a favorability-criticality tension. We further explain how internal divisions are attributable to three different paradigms of flexibility (two of which dominate), resulting from divergent sets of assumptions regarding: its target, rationale, approach to it, as well as methodologies involved in studying it. We propose a research agenda indicating the ways in which paradigmatic underpinnings of flexibility research may be further clarified and divisions between the paradigms made sense of.

© 2020, The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Management Review
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sept 2020

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