Flexible workplaces improve employees’ health and well-being, including an increase in the amount and quality of sleep, a new study has suggested.
The study by University of Minnesota sociology professors Erin Kelly and Phyllis Moen used longitudinal data collected from 608 employees of a white-collar organization before and after a flexible workplace initiative was implemented.
“Our study shows that moving from viewing time at the office as a sign of productivity, to emphasizing actual results can create a work environment that fosters healthy behaviour and well-being,” said Moen.
“This has important policy implications, suggesting that initiatives creating broad access to time flexibility encourage employees to take better care of themselves.”
The study examined changes in health-promoting behaviours and health outcomes among the employees participating in the initiative compared to those who did not participate.
Employees participating in the flexible workplace initiative reported getting almost an extra hour (52 minutes) of sleep on nights before work.
They even managed their health differently as they less likely felt obligated to work when sick and more likely felt like going to a doctor when necessary, even when busy.
The flexible workplace initiative increased employees’ sense of schedule control and reduced their work-family conflict which, in turn, improved their sleep quality, energy levels, self-reported health, and sense of personal mastery while decreasing employees” emotional exhaustion and psychological distress.
“Narrower flexibility policies allow some ‘accommodations’ for family needs, but are less likely to promote employee health and well-being or to be available to all employees,” said Kelly.
The study has been recently published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.