Flexibility at work boosts employee health

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Giving employees more flexibility over their work schedules is likely to boost their health as judged by measures like blood pressure and stress, revealed by researchers.

“Control at work is good for health,” said review co-author Clare Bambra, a researcher at Durham University, in England.

“Given the absence of ill health effects associated with employee-controlled flexibility and the evidence of some positive improvements in some health outcomes,” Bambra said, more flexibility in work schedules “has the potential to promote healthier workplaces and improve work practices.”

In addition to physical risks, the workplace can pose a threat to health due to factors like high workloads, time pressures, lack of control and limited social interaction with others, said review lead author Kerry Joyce, also a researcher at Durham University. Stress, in turn, can contribute to conditions like heart disease, depression and anxiety.

The researchers found 10 studies that fit their criteria for review inclusion. Three took place in the United States, two in Finland and one each in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Australia and Denmark. Another study analyzed workers in the U.K. and Germany.

The review appears in the current issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates research in all aspects of health care. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing trials on a topic.

The studies examined the health in various ways.

In the future, Bambra said, “We need to know more about how the health effects of flexible working are experienced by different types of workers, such as women compared to men, old compared to young and skilled compared to unskilled population groups. This is important, as some forms of flexible working might be available only to employees with higher-status occupations, and this may serve to increase existing differences in health between social groups.”

Source: Health Behavior News Service, USA

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