Even people who love their jobs can admit that the eight hours a day, five days a week work schedule can be monotonous. Let’s face it: There’s a reason the song goes, “working for the weekend.” But what if we had a more flexible work schedule: Would work be compromised and rushed? Would connection with coworkers and group think crumble? According to a recent study, employees who had a more flexible work schedule showed higher job satisfaction, reduced levels of burnout, and reduced psychological stress.
The research was conducted by Phyllis Moen, who holds the McKnight Endowed Presidential Chair in Sociology at the University of Minnesota, and Erin L. Kelly, a professor in Work and Organization Studies at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Over the course of a 12-month period, Moen and Kelly observed volunteer participants from an IT department of a Fortune 500 company.
According to the release, to conduct the study, the IT department was cut in half. While one half of the department was given the option to have flexible schedules, the remaining employees continued to work the normal 40-hour schedule. Throughout the year, the flex work groups schedules shifted. For example, participants got to work from home, and shift their schedules by rethinking the amount of daily meetings they went to.
In order to maintain communication, the flexible group members were placed in learning groups where they were encouraged to increase their use of instant messenger and anticipating times of high demand. All of these practices focused on results, rather than face time at the office.
According to the researchers, the studies results were definitive: Employees with flexible schedule options, “felt control over their schedules, support for their bosses, and were more likely to say they had enough time to spend with their families.”
Despite these good results, one of the major roadblocks of more offices practicing flexible work schedules is the perception of this type of schedule. According to the Eurek Report release, both workers and managers have skeptical feelings surrounding flexible schedules.
However, according to Moen there should be no doubt of the benefits that flex hours would bring to the workplace.
“Our research demonstrates that workers who are allowed to have a voice in the hours and location of their work not only feel better about their jobs, but also less conflicted about their work-to-family balance. Crucially, these workers are also more efficient and more productive on the job. In other words, workplace flexibility is beneficial — not detrimental — to organizations,” Moen explains.
Further support of this idea can be seen in previous studies, which have shown that many people show up to work but do not engage or participate productively.
The argument comes down to whether perfection of the traditional appearance of an office is more important than the actual production — or lack of production — that traditional work hours often lead to.
“Today’s workers are bombarded by advice on how to juggle their work and family lives — we’re told to take up yoga, or learn to meditate, or only check emails twice a day,” Moen says in the release. “But individual coping strategies alone won’t solve the problem. Our study makes clear that organizational initiates, including programs that promote greater flexibility and control for workers as well as greater supervisor support, are needed.”