Allison Hutton

Employee Health and Wellness: The Benefits of Flexible Working Hours

Discussions about flexible working hours often result in two camps disputing how productive employees can be when they aren’t required to sit at their desks for eight hours a day. Those against flexible work policies suggest that employees who aren’t managed or accounted for onsite tend to waste time. Those in support of the idea believe employees are actually more productive when they’re not being micromanaged, since they can find the rhythm that works best for them.

If you find yourself torn between these two sides, try asking a different question: If you could offer the smokers in your workforce a cost-free (and possibly cost-saving) solution to quitting smoking, would you do it?

Well, “sitting is the new smoking” isn’t just a clever catchphrase — research has shown the potentially devastating effects of sedentary habits. One recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, for example, monitored the activity levels of almost 8,000 45-year-old workers. It found that those who sat for the longest total time (more than 13 hours daily) and for the longest bouts (60 to 90 consecutive minutes) were roughly twice as likely to face the risk of death as those who sat for shorter amounts of time.

Offering flexible working hours lets employees stand up and get away from their desks — literally. Having more flexibility in and control over their schedules means they’ll be more likely keep moving at their own pace. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering implementing a flexible work policy.

Defining Flexible Working Hours

Those unfamiliar with flexible schedules may imagine the office becoming a total free-for-all. The fear that the workplace will become completely void of employees and that no one will be there to interact with each other — or with clients — may lead some to believe that flexibility in the office is a dangerous thing. To understand the benefits, though, you need to know what “flexible working hours” really means.

Typically, the following fall under the umbrella of flexible hours:

  • Compressed workdays or workweeks: These policies usually involve working longer for a given period of time and then having an extended period off, for example working four 10-hour days and having a three-day weekend.
  • Flexible daily hours: Some employers don’t specify a number of hours that employees need to be onsite. Instead, they offer leeway to employees who have family or medical commitments or plans to spend time at the gym or on other wellness activities, among other commitments outside of the workplace.
  • Telecommuting options: Telecommuting offers employees the ability to work from a remote location during some or all workdays. Some employers are open to the idea of eliminating the need for onsite space, employing remote workers exclusively. Others have policies that allow employees to work remotely on given days, under certain circumstances or as long as there are a set number of employees onsite.

Benefits of Flexible Working Hours

Job placement service Workopolis found that job-seeker searches for the terms “work from home” and “remote” tripled over a three-year span. They also found that searches for “virtual positions” have doubled. With the future leaning toward employees seeking flexible schedules, it may be time to consider the options for your workforce.

There are many benefits of offering flexible working hours, including:

  • Better work-life balance for employees juggling many commitments
  • A decrease in employee burnout and, consequently, turnover
  • Increased productivity, since employees work when they’re most alert as opposed to predetermined times during the day

And letting employees loose from their desks gives them more convenience to pursue wellness goals and, more broadly, to get up and move around.

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Collaborate with your employees to understand what needs they’re having trouble meeting and which flexible work options they would be most likely to use. This ensures that you get the most out of any time and money you invest on setting up new programs or policies.

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