More than two-thirds of U.S. workers feel a constant strain between meeting the demands of their work schedules and tending to their personal lives. However, a new study shows that a little extra flexibility on the part of employers can go a long way in reducing this stress.
Sociologists from the University of Minnesota found work environments that allow their employees increased schedule flexibility and supervisor support are able to also minimize workers' struggles with balancing work and family time.
"This study has major practical value in helping organizations imagine similar ways to resolve their employees' chronic sense of being pulled in two directions by obligations at work and at home," study researcher Phyllis Moen said in a statement.
The study, "Changing Work and Work-Family Conflict: Evidence from the Work, Family, and Health Network," was published online this week by the American Sociological Review and will appear in the journal's June issue. Using approximately 700 employees from a Fortune 500 company's information technology department, the randomized field trial split the sample into two groups: The first group was given control over where and when they worked, along with an increase in support from their supervisors on personal and family issues. The second group worked within their normal conditions.
The research, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that, over the course of six months, the employees with the modified work environments not only experienced a reduction in the tension between their work and family life, but also felt that they were more in control of their schedule and had enough time to tend of all of their responsibilities.
"This study gave us the chance to look very carefully at how modifying the workplace can effectively address work-family stresses," said researcher Erin Kelly in the statement. "The purpose was to help employees work more effectively and more sanely, so they can get their work done well but also address their personal and family needs."
Earlier this year, the National Workplace Flexibility Study revealed that flexibility can also do wonders for team morale and performance. Over the course of the research, managerial concerns that the flexibility would be used inappropriately by employees decreased by 23 percent as they realized the benefits it provided the team and workplace as a whole.
But despite the mounting evidence supporting the benefits of workplace flexibility, the 2014 National Study of Employers from the Families and Work Institute found that there is less support of such a model by American employers today than there was in 2008. The data may show that allowing employees to control more of their work schedule ultimately benefits everyone involved, but employers must be willing to deviate from the traditional workday format to witness this increase in workers' health, happiness and productivity.