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Workplace Flexibility Can Boost Healthy Behaviors

Giving workers some leeway promotes positive lifestyle changes, study finds

FRIDAY, Dec. 14 (HealthDay News) A flexible work environment promotes healthier lifestyle habits for employees, a new U.S. study finds.

"People who believe they have flexibility in their work lives have healthier lifestyles. Individuals who perceive an increase in their flexibility are more likely to start some positive lifestyle changes," lead author Joseph G. Grzywacz, of Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., said in a prepared statement.

Publishing in the Dec. 11 issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Grzywacz and his colleagues analyzed data gathered from employees of a major multinational pharmaceutical company known for its commitment to workplace flexibility, including compressed work weeks, flextime, job sharing, and remote or telework.

The study included people with a wide variety of jobs and responsibilities, including warehouse and production workers, administrative support staff, and executives.

The researchers examined whether lifestyle behaviors differed between employees with different levels of perceived workplace flexibility and whether changes in workplace flexibility over a one-year period resulted in changes in health behaviors such as frequency of physical activity, participation in stress management and health education programs, healthy sleep habits, and overall lifestyle.

"Overall, the results showed that nearly all the health behaviors 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."

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about healthy living.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, news release, Dec. 10, 2007

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