Workplace flexibility—in hours, location, and even attendance—can lead to a whole host of health benefits, according to a new study
Raise your hand if you'd like the ability to work from anywhere in the world whenever you want. That's what we thought. And thanks to a shift in corporate culture over the past few years, those flexible schedule dreams are becoming a reality for more and more of us.
But beyond the benefits of working without a set vacation policy, office hours, or even office location (hello, working from home and taking guilt-free 11 a.m. yoga classes!), employees who have a flexible schedule also have better health outcomes, according to a new study from the American Sociological Association. (Did you know a lack of work/life balance can increase your risk of stroke?)
A team of researchers from MIT and the University of Minnesota studied employees at a Fortune 500 company over the course of 12 months. The researchers split employees into two groups, offering one the chance to participate in a pilot program that offered a flexible schedule and placed a focus on results over face time at the office. These employees were taught workplace practices designed to help them feel like they had more control over their work lives, like the option to work from home whenever they wanted and optional attendance at daily meetings. This group also received managerial support for work/life balance and personal development. The control group on the other hand, missed out on those perks, falling under the governance of the company's stricter existing policies.
The results were very clear. Employees who were given more control over their work schedule reported greater job satisfaction and happiness and were overall less stressed and felt less burnt out (and burnout needs to be taken seriously, guys). They also reported lower levels of psychological distress and showed fewer depressive symptoms. Those are some major mental health benefits.
This could mean big things for the world of flexible working, which still has sort of a bad rap among employers. The fear is that letting employees have total control over their work/life continuum will mean less productivity. But this study joins a growing body of research suggesting that is not the case. Having the ability to create a schedule that fits into your overall goals and priorities as an individual has actually been shown to improve a company's bottom line and create an office full of employees who are actually present, not just physically in the building.
So go ahead and tell your boss: A happy employee = a healthy employee = a productive employee. (BTW: These are The Healthiest Companies to Work For.)