Flexible working and happiness in the NHS

Carol Atkinson (University of Bradford School of Management, Bradford, UK)
Laura Hall (Freelance Academic, Wilmslow, UK)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Publication date: 4 January 2011



This paper aims to explore the influence of flexible working on employee happiness and attitude, and the role of this within a high performance work system (HPWS).


A case study of flexible working within an NHS Acute Trust is presented. A qualitative study is undertaken based on 43 employee interviews across a range of directorates within the Trust.


Employees perceive that flexible working makes them “happy” and that there are attitudinal/behavioural links between this happiness, discretionary behaviour and a number of performance outcomes.

Research limitations/implications

This paper presents a single case study with a relatively small sample which uses an inductive approach based on emergent data; it explores one element of a HPWS rather than an entire employment system. Respondents were volunteers, which raises the possibility of sample bias.

Practical implications

There may be a need for organisations to focus more on employee happiness to encourage performance. HR practitioners could reflect on the impact of HR practices on happiness and which features of a job role are likely to promote happiness.


This paper contributes a much‐needed employee perspective on the effect of HR practices, specifically that of flexible working, and explores the neglected employee attitude of happiness.



Atkinson, C. and Hall, L. (2011), "Flexible working and happiness in the NHS", Employee Relations, Vol. 33 No. 2, pp. 88-105. https://doi.org/10.1108/01425451111096659

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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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