A new study has found that increasing workplace flexibility could lower employees’ risk of cardiovascular diseases. Researchers observed a reduction in cardiometabolic risk when employees have more control over time.
The study, led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Penn State University, showed that when workplaces focused on reducing conflict between employees’ work and personal lives, employees, especially older ones, experienced lesser risk for cardiovascular risk, a press statement explained.
Published in the journal, The American Journal of Public Health, this is one of the first studies to examine whether changes to the work environment can impact cardiometabolic risk, the university’s press statement elaborated. According to the researchers, the study shows how working conditions are important social determinants of health.
“When stressful workplace conditions and work-family conflict were mitigated, we saw a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease among more vulnerable employees, without any negative impact on their productivity,” co-lead author Lisa Berkman said in the statement. The findings could be particularly important for low- and middle-wage workers who traditionally have less control over their time, tasks and job demands and experience greater health inequities, Berkman added.
The researchers observed a reduction in the cardiovascular risk score equivalent to 5.5 and 10.3 years of age-related changes among employees of an IT company and a long-term care company, respectively. Furthermore, the findings also indicated that this was more dominant among employees older than 45 years compared to their younger counterparts.
Previous research has also attempted to understand how employees’ health is associated with their workplace environment. For instance, a 2017 study, published in the journal Work and Occupations, showed that employees with higher levels of autonomy in their work have better overall well-being as well as reported higher levels of job satisfaction.
The positive effects linked to informal flexibility and working at home indicate schedule control is highly valued and important to employees "enjoying" work, study author Daniel Wheatley said in the University of Birmingham’s press release. These findings add to the new study and suggest that workplace flexibility is an important aspect of employees’ health and well-being.