Study of the Day: Employees With Flexible Work Hours Are Healthier

By Hans Villarica

New research suggests flexible workplaces promote personnel well-being and more healthful behavior from employees.

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PROBLEM: Are employees in flexible work arrangements better off than those who stay in the office from nine to five?

METHODOLOGY: Researchers led by University of Minnesota sociology professor Phyllis Moen analyzed longitudinal data collected from 659 employees in Best Buy's headquarters before and after the Results-Only Work Environment initiative was introduced in 2006. They compared changes in health-promoting behaviors and well-being between employees who focused on measurable results instead of when and where work is completed and those who passed on the program.

RESULTS: Employees who were allowed to change their schedules and whereabouts based on their individual needs and job responsibilities reported getting almost an hour more sleep on nights before work. They were less likely to feel obligated to work when sick and more likely to seek medical help, even when busy.
 The initiative also improved the staff members' sleep quality, energy levels, and self-reported health; and reduced their emotional exhaustion, psychological distress, and work-family conflict.

CONCLUSION: Arrangements that give workers more freedom with their time and location also enable them to take better care of themselves. As Moen puts it in a news release, "Emphasizing actual results can create a work environment that fosters healthy behavior and well-being."

SOURCE: The full study, "Changing Work, Changing Health: Can Real Work-Time Flexibility Promote Health Behaviors and Well-Being?" (PDF) is published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Image: Yuri Arcurs/Shutterstock.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2011/12/study-of-the-day-employees-with-flexible-work-hours-are-healthier/250524/