Flextime – Flexwork
Americans are severely rest deprived. Combine 24-7 electronic availability with fast changing (or disappearing) jobs plus kids and elderly parents, and Americans are regularly slipping to around 6 and a half hours of sleep a night. Those are levels at which weight gain, increased cardiovascular disease, more flues, colds, and other infections and depression become more likely.
It does not have to be this way. Flexible work – looking at results rather than hours in the office – may aid workplace productivity and social cohesion – and make people more rested.
If Results Are the Only Things That Count
Best Buy recently tried new work arrangements for their “Results Only Work Environment” project. Reported by Drs. Kelly and Moen in the December issue of Journal of Health and Social Behavior, they gave more than 600 headquarter employees the option of working when and where they decided. They did not have to ask supervisors about their chosen workplaces and times beforehand.
The end effect – they got to decide where, when, and how they worked – but only if the job results were satisfactory.
Their personal results were:
Better job satisfaction.
More work-family balance
Better self reported health
Less feeling of burn-out
Last but not least – 52 minutes more sleep each work night.
Why Flexible Workplaces Work
When you control where and how you work people feel more in control.
They like that – a lot.
Those employees also feel more motivated. If the end result is what matters rather than merely appearing at the office, people are incentivized to get the job done.
Controlling time also becomes a major benefit. If work can get done flexibly, family affairs can be tended to – especially uncontrollable emergencies like illnesses of children or parents. People can get to see each other more often rather than quickly run away to work and school.
They also get more time to control their rest – sleep and active rest – and further their body’s regeneration.
Burn out is not only a psychological entity. Without sufficient rest and physical activity, body regeneration does not properly progress. People age faster than they should – and feel it.
Sadly, even in an age of cloud computing and continual internet access, flexible workplaces will face an uphill slog.
Economic Uncertainty and Work Flexibility
Many things these days are uncertain – politics; international economics; the state of health care; credit and banking; health insurance.
With so much uncertainty, people want to stick near the office – if only to preserve their jobs.
Uncertainty also tends to decrease reform and progressive actions – even if industry needs greater and more continuous innovation than ever to globally compete.
And many jobs – including mine, as a private practice physician – still need regular schedules in order to proceed. Patients can and will be scheduled flexibly – but regular work hours make the process much simpler and more effective.
So flexible work environments face at least temporary roadblocks. If editors at the Economist are correct, workplaces will soon be more regular, more formal, and more tense.
It’s rather like the situation with health as opposed to our national obsession with health care. National health can really improve if you look at the truly important outcomes – like overall survival and job productivity rather than how much money gets spent. Once you consider health versus health care, far, far cheaper ways of improving our personal and collective health become possible.
Let’s hope similarly new ideas will engage industrial and commercial industry.
Not everyone has to appear in the same office every day five days a week from 8-5. In many cases, they, their families, and the business, will be better off if their work, workplaces, and time are more flexibly scheduled.
And everyone can become more rested, too.
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