More Flexibility at Work Means Healthier Employees

The more flexible an employee’s work schedule – having more control over their work schedule and reducing conflict between a worker’s family and work life – the healthier they are.

Those are the findings reported in the December 2011 issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior of a 2011 study done by faculty at the universities of Minnesota and Delaware.

The study looked at 608 employees of Best Buy after the company had instituted a “flexible workplace initiative” at Best Buy’s headquarters in 2005.

The flexibility initiative aimed to move workers and their managers away from having set parameters regarding when work was done and where and instead moved toward allowing employees to get the work done as they saw fit and according to their job responsibilities. They could do so without needing a manager’s permission, or even knowledge.

University of Minnesota professor Phyllis Moen said that the 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.”

Among the study’s findings:

  • Those surveyed said they found themselves less likely to work when sick and more likely to visit a doctor.
  • Initiative participants said they were getting just about an hour (52 minutes) extra sleep at night.
  • The initiative also helped participants feel they had more control over their work/life balance, less stress and a “reduced emotional exhaustion.”

The study’s researchers also said that while some employers try to come up with “accommodations” for employees’ family needs, many come up short in true flexibility. In addition, not all companies provide family flexibility for all employees (unlike the Best Buy initiative, which covered all of the company’s workers at headquarters).

Our take on this study? It may not be possible to allow all of your employees the opportunity to get the work done when and where they will. You may, for example, have certain office hours where at least a handful of employees must be available in order to interact with and serve customers.

But take a look at your policies. Must employees come to work at 8 a.m. and leave at 5 p.m. every day? Could they work at home one or more days a week? What if a family emergency takes place Thursday? Could the employee come in on Saturday to make up the time and finish projects?

If you need help in finding great employees – either temporary on your own payroll –you’re your Jackson-area company, contact a recruiter at the Professional Staffing Group. We’ve been finding great people for Jackson companies since 1994 and we look forward to helping you, as well.