Flexible Jobs Lead to Healthy Habits, Study Says

New research from Wake Forest University School of Medicine suggests that employees are more likely to adopt healthier lifestyles if provided with flexible work schedules.

“Individuals who perceive an increase in their flexibility are more likely to start some positive lifestyle behaviors,” said the study’s lead author, Joseph G. Grzywacz, Ph.D. “This study is important because it reinforces the idea that workplace flexibility is important to workplace health.”

Data from “The Effects of Workplace Flexibility on Health Behaviors: A Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Analysis” was provided by Health Risk Appraisals (HRAs) completed by employees of a large, multinational pharmaceutical company.

The company, which was not identified in the study, is consistently recognized by Working Mother magazine as among the most family-friendly employers in the United States, in part because if its commitment to flexibility such as compressed workweeks, flextime, job sharing and telecommuting.

Grzywacz said the goal of his study is to improve “understanding of the potential effect of workplace flexibility on worker lifestyle habits.”

“These weren’t all office workers – that’s an important point,” Grzywacz said. “This isn’t just about high-level office workers – these people perform a wide variety of tasks within the company.”

The data was analyzed to determine if lifestyle behaviors differ between employees with varying levels of perceived flexibility and to identify if changes in flexibility over a one-year period predicted changes in health behavior. The study focused on frequency of physical activity, engagement in stress management programs, participation in health education activities, healthful sleep habits and self-appraised overall lifestyle.

“Overall, the results showed that nearly all the health behaviors examined in this study were associated with perceived flexibility,” Grzywacz said. “Although further research is needed, these results suggest that flexibility programs that are situated within a broader organizational commitment to employee health may be useful for promoting positive lifestyle habits.”

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