In the last decade or so, the Internet has changed the way people work and the environments in which they work. While many companies and businesses have opted for more modern, creative and collaborative workspaces, they still support a rigid work schedule.
However, according to a study released in January by University of Minnesota professor Phyllis Moen, the traditional office workday is outdated and less conducive to productivity or employee satisfaction. “We have routines, rules and regulations that were developed in the middle of last century, but work has gotten more intense, more demanding, and we need to redesign them for the 21st century,” says Moen, a professor of sociology.
Her yearlong study, which used a control group to validate the impact of the work-life changes, found that tech employees who were given the flexibility to set their own hours and work from whatever venue suited their personal needs on a given day (home, office, coffee shop) experienced lower levels of burnout, perceived stress and psychological distress, as well as greater job satisfaction.
Cassi Hansen, director of talent acquisition, culture and engagement for the Bloomington-based software development firm The Nerdery, says the company has offered employees flexible hours and schedules for longer than the five years she has been with the company, and it’s a “key benefit in job satisfaction and employee engagement.”
According to Hansen, in a recent company engagement survey, the highest valued work-life benefit was that the company was genuinely supportive of flexible work schedules. It attracts new employees and keeps a lot of people at the company, explains Hansen, because they know they have the flexibility to manage their personal and family lives.
Moen explains that schedule flexibility helps employees maximize their time, and when their time is maximized, “they are more productive, happier, have higher job satisfaction and lower levels of burnout and depressive symptoms,” says Moen. Organizational changes that lower burnout and stress ultimately benefit employers because they reduce absenteeism, turnover and health problems, adds Moen. And for employers who can’t break that command-and-control mindset, improved productivity is an obvious end in itself.