Flexible workplace = improved health

Dec. 7, 2011 at 8:59 PM

MINNEAPOLIS, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Judging an employee not on hours spent in the office, but on output, increases the health of the employee, U.S. researchers found.

Sociology Professors Erin Kelly and Phyllis Moen at the University of Minnesota used longitudinal data collected from 608 employees at the Best Buy headquarters in Richfield, Minn., in 2005, when a workplace initiative redirected the focus of employees and managers toward measurable results, and away from when and where work is completed.

Employees were allowed to routinely change when and where they worked based on their individual needs and job responsibilities without seeking permission from a manager or even notifying one, the researchers said.

The study, published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, found the employees got almost an hour more of sleep before work days, were less likely to feel obligated to work when sick and were more likely to go to a doctor when necessary, even when busy. Increased sleep is linked to less risk of obesity and diabetes.

The flexible workplace initiative increased employees' sense of schedule control and reduced their work-family conflict. That led to improved sleep quality, energy levels, self-reported health and sense of personal mastery. It also decreased employees' emotional exhaustion and psychological distress, the study said.

"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," Moen said in a statement.

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