Health risks reduced due to flexible working: Fact or myth?

We live in a world where every individual is in competition with his or her peers, be it within their personal or professional life. In a situation where everyone is gunning for that corner office and competition levels are sky high to perform better than one’s colleagues, can flexible working reduce the number of work-related health issues that are continuously increasing?

In the UK particularly, there has been a sharp spike in these figures. The Labour Force Survey for 2014/15 noted a total of 440,000 cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety within the working population in the UK – a prevalence rate of 1380 per 100,000 workers. The survey estimated an approximate 9.9 million days were lost in 2014/15 due to work-related health issues, making it an extremely worrying statistic. In fact, Britons are believed to work some of the longest hours in Europe, a statistic that surveys have linked to health issues such as stress, sleep problems, reduced productivity and the taking of sick leave.

Changing the traditional work space

It is due to these figures that a shift has been noticed in the way traditional work spaces function today. With organisations under constant pressure to produce goods and services of the right quality, at the right time, as and when customers want them, without causing an increase in health issue statistics, new ways of working have to be found to make the best use of staff and available resources. Flexible patterns of work are being adopted by more and more organisations to address these pressures by maximising the available labour and improving customer service.

According to Richard Morris, UK CEO of Regus, “The fixed-office, fixed-hours working day is beneficial to neither mind nor body…The bigger issue is to tackle the commuting/9 to 5 model and to allow more flexibility into the working day. The working culture must develop in order for real health benefits to register.” What this essentially means is that a better balance needs to be maintained between one’s work and home life.

Improving the work- life balance

Today, it is common for individuals to have many competing responsibilities in their life that cause scheduling conflicts with their work life. Examples here include care commitments involving children or sick or elderly relatives, educational commitments that limit availability during certain times of the week/month/year, duties or interests outside of work, needing a greater sense of well-being and reduced stress levels.

It is primarily to address the issue of a better work-life balance that companies and the UK government have begun encouraging working from home, teleworking, flexible hours, part-time contracts, time off to look after children and, more recently, experimenting with shutting down emails out of working hours or shortening the working day.

To answer the question “Are health risks reduced due to flexible working?” research seems to suggest that it does. A survey of over 3000 UK workers indicated flexible working hours to be the ideal remedy to health risks associated with regular office work environments.

Over 50% of the workers surveyed said that they were more mindful and able to assess their levels of well-being better as a result of flexible work.

70% believed working closer to home, eradicating a potentially long commute, helped improve their health.

And, a majority indicated that they were more prone to going to the gym more often on account of working from home.

Modern technology has made it possible for most roles to be able to accommodate some sort of flexible working arrangement. Within this framework, working from home seems to be the most popular and beneficial form of flexible working and doesn’t show any signs of disappearing any time soon. Currently, there are 4.2 million people in the UK who solely work from home and constant advances in technology continue to ensure an increase in the number of those preferring to opt for flexible working for a more well-rounded life.

To know more about flexible working and work from home opportunities, please contact the Arise network. Arise is a leading provider of virtual business solutions. We provide a virtual platform that connects primarily work-at-home service professionals running small call centre businesses to Fortune 500 and other large companies. To know more about us, get in touch today.