December 30th, 2011

A recent University of Minnesota study found that flexible workplaces are not only conducive to employee health, but also to measurable productivity. The study was conducted at Best Buy headquarters in Richfield where a test initiative directed workers to focus on results and allowed them to change when and where they performed work based on their own needs.

The change of pace – which proved beneficial for both employer and employee – is not expected to be written into law in the form of new employee rights anytime soon. However, it is interesting to see how employees and companies can thrive when an added level of mutual respect is promoted in the workplace.

Researchers reviewed data related to 608 employees in the Best Buy office. After a new flexible workplace program was implemented in 2005, researchers noticed an uptick in healthy behaviors among the employees in the program compared to those outside of it.

The program was titled Results Only Work Environment and it allowed workers to change where and when they worked as often as they liked, based on their own needs and responsibilities. They did not need ask permission to make changes to their schedules; rather, they were simply directed to achieve results on their assignments in whatever way best suited them.

Among the findings were:

• Employees reported getting almost one extra hour of sleep on work nights.

• Employees better managed their health. They were more likely to see doctors and stay home from work sick when it was necessary.

• Work-family conflicts were reduced, which improved quality of sleep, energy levels and emotional and psychological health.

Researchers concluded that when employers measure results, rather than hours worked in the office, a healthier workplace is fostered and employees take better care of themselves.

Source: University of Minnesota, “U of M study suggests flexible workplaces promote better health behavior and well-being,” Dec. 6, 2011.