You have one more reason to ask for workplace flexibility from your boss. It has now been proved scientifically that if companies provide workplace flexibility and if employees perceive that flexibility as real, then healthier lifestyle habits are put into action by those employees.
"People who believe they have flexibility in their work lives have healthier lifestyles. Individuals who perceive an increase in their flexibility are more likely to start some positive lifestyle behaviours," says Joseph G Grzywacz, author of the study on effects of workplace flexibility on health behaviours.<b1>
Data for the study came from Health Risk Appraisals (HRAs) completed by employees of a large multinational pharmaceutical company.
This company is consistently recognised by Working Mother magazine as among the most family-friendly employers in the United States, in large part, because if its commitment to flexibility such as compressed workweeks, flextime, job sharing, and remote or telework.
Employees with a wide variety of jobs and responsibilities completed the HRA, including executives, administrative support staff, and warehouse and production workers. The data was analysed to determine if lifestyle behaviours differ between employees with different levels of perceived flexibility and to identify if changes in flexibility over a one-year time period predicted changes in health behavior.
"These weren't all office workers that's an important point," Grzywacz of Wake Forest University School of Medicine, said. "This isn't just about high-level office workers these people perform a wide variety of tasks within the company."
The study focused on frequency of physical activity, engagement in stress management programmes, participation in health education activities, healthful sleep habits, and self-appraised overall lifestyle.
"Overall, the results showed that nearly all the health behaviours examined in this study were associated with perceived flexibility, Grzywacz said.
"Although further research is needed, these results suggest that flexibility programmes that are situated within a broader organisational commitment to employee health may be useful for promoting positive lifestyle habits."
The author said the study is important because it reinforces the idea that workplace flexibility is important to workplace health and there had been little systemic research till now in support of this belief.