Photo of office workers
You don't always have to be at your desk to be productive, says a new study

Flexible workplaces are healthier workplaces

9 December, 2011

Natural Health News — A flexible workplace can improve employees’ health behaviour and well-being, including a rise in the amount and quality of sleep and better health management

That’s the conclusion of a new study which appears in the December issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Under what is called a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) programme in America, select workers at a popular discount store Best Buy’s headquarters in Minnesota have, since 2005, been able to change their work schedules based on their individual and family needs and responsibilities, without having to ask or even notify their managers.

The study’s key findings were:

  •  Employees participating in the flexible workplace initiative reported getting almost an extra hour (52 minutes) of sleep on nights before work.
  • Employees participating in the flexible workplace initiative managed their health differently: They were less likely to feel obligated to work when sick and more likely to go 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.

The authors notes that while narrower flexibility policies allow some ‘accommodations’ for family needs, they are less likely to promote employee health and well-being or to be available to all employees.

“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 behavior and well-being,” says researcher Phyllis Moen. “This has important policy implications, suggesting that initiatives creating broad access to time flexibility encourage employees to take better care of themselves.”