Bridging Employment for Older Workers and the Role of Flexible Scheduling Arrangements

Published: 2023


We conduct a series of stated preference experiments to determine the willingness of hiring and human resource managers to pay for certain job attributes. A cross section of U.S. hiring managers were given experimental vignettes about an existing employee or potential new hire. They were told that the candidate was indifferent to the job attributes, and they should select the job offer that was best for the firm. Job attributes consisted of measures of paid time off, paid leave, flexible work schedules, telecommuting opportunities, mandated weekends, and shift work. For each vignette we randomly generated a wage offer. Vignettes also randomly assigned a gendered pronoun (he/she) to the job candidate, as well as years-of-experience profile (two, 10, and 35 years). We find that firms are willing to pay a significant wage premium to avoid offering workers flexible work schedules, holding total hours worked fixed. Compared to no flexibility, employers were willing to pay 19% more to avoid workers having the choice between fixed schedules, 33% more to avoid “flexibility within limits” and 62% more to avoid “complete flexibility.” There is some evidence that employers are willing to pay more to avoid offering schedule flexibility within limits to workers who have more years of work experience. However, given the sample size restrictions, we fail to reject the null hypothesis that the results are the same for all experience profiles.

Key Findings

    • We find statistically significant evidence that firms are willing to pay significant percentages of their wage bill to avoid schedule flexibility for their workers.
    • Firms were willing to pay 33% more in wages to avoid offering workers “flexibility within limits” and 62% more to avoid “complete flexibility.”
    • Using a job-experience measure embedded into the vignettes, we focus on bridge employment and older employment by comparing job candidates with 35 years of experience to those with two or 10 years of experience.
    • We find evidence that is strongly suggestive that hiring managers and, by extension, firms are willing to pay more to avoid providing schedule flexibility to these more experienced workers relative to less experienced workers.
    • We caution that, while the results are suggestive, we do not find statistically significant differences between the groups.
    • Our analysis that randomly assigns a gendered pronoun to the job candidate finds similar effects for women relative to men. Firms are willing to pay a large premium on the candidate’s salary to avoid schedule flexibility. Once again, the experiment is underpowered and requires additional observations to accurately measure the effect and variance.


Powell, David, and Jeffrey B. Wenger. 2023. “Bridging Employment for Older Workers and the Role of Flexible Scheduling Arrangements.” Ann Arbor, MI. University of Michigan Retirement and Disability Research Center (MRDRC) Working Paper; MRDRC WP 2023-453.