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Flexible working & employee mental health

There are many benefits of flexible working for both employees and employers, many of which we have covered in our blogs and content throughout our website.  One area we have have not covered to date is the positive effect that flexible working can have on the mental health of employees.  So this month we asked Natalie Wilson to write guest blog for us addressing the topic of mental heath at work and considering how flexible working can help reduce stress and support the mental health of employees.

How flexible working can benefit employees mental health

Over the past few years, flexible working has become a hot topic in the workplace. Whilst the practical side of flexible working is an argument in itself, the mental health benefits are becoming more well known. With around 1 in 6 workers experiencing some form of stress, depression or anxiety within the workplace every week, mental health at work is becoming a growing issue.  

 Mental health and work are intertwined issues and finding the healthy balance between the two is something which has recently become more of an issue, thanks to the growing awareness around the subject.  

Is Work Really That Stressful?  

Depending on your working environment, yes. Most of us have experienced workplace stress at one point or another in our working lives, in fact The 2018 UK Workplace Stress Survey by Perkbox found that only 9% said they had never experienced stress at work. Whether this is due to looming deadlines or the anxiety of having a never-ending to-do list, workplace stress can quickly feel 10 times worse when paired with personal issues or health problems.  

Would flexible working make a difference to stress levels? 

A 4-day work week trial in New Zealand showed that flexible working helped reduce employee stress levels. 45% of staff said they were stressed from their five-day week, but that decreased to 38% when working a four-day week. Perhaps more significantly, work-life balance was improved. When working a standard five-day week, 54% of staff felt they had a handle on their work-life balance. This jumped to 78% after the two month experiment of working four days.

97% of people have also said a job with flexibility would bring a huge improvement or positive impact on their overall quality of life. The same survey also found that commute-stress had an effect on their answers and that if these were lessened, then they would feel better in regards to their mental health.  

Findings From The UK Mental Health Charity ‘Mind’ 

The UK mental health charity Mind has said that because flexible working gives employees better control over the hours which they work, this consequently promotes a healthier work/life balance.  It provides the choice and opportunity to avoid the commuting during rush hour and the freedom to attend medical or personal appointments without taking holidays or unpaid time off to do so.  All of these point toward better mental health and an improved ability to cope with any mental health problems.  

Generally, flexible working can help people to better balance the demands of the workplace and their personal lives much more effectively. It is said that those who have flexible working available to them have improved levels of wellbeing and are much more satisfied with the work they do.  

Mental Health Impacts 

Flexible working has far more than just practical benefits. Research has shown that by giving staff control over start times, you can boost mental wellbeing.

Staff were found to have more energy and were more focused when they had flexible working to fall back on, and thus noticed big improvements in their mental health.  

Employee Production and Motivation 

A motivated workforce means more motivated and productive employees. In a study, 61% of Londoners said that their productivity is often limited by their personal issues at least some of the time. This shows that having a flexible approach to working times is positive.

A further 72% of worldwide workforces reported an increase in employee productivity levels when they switched to flexible working hours.  

 For staff members who suffer from serious mental health problems, flexible working can often be a lifesaver. Suffering from a mental illness can be challenging and tiring enough, but pair this with the demands of a nine-to-five structured job, and the consequences can be huge.

Mental health illnesses don’t lend themselves to a structured timetable, so introducing things alongside flexible working, such as allowing employees to take part in phone calls from home, can make a huge difference to their motivation.  

 If flexible working hours sounds like something which may benefit you or your business, introduce it as an idea in your business

The demand for flexible working is growing with PowWowNow’s survey showing 81% of employees say flexible working is desirable in a job.  However there is still a stigma around asking for flexibility. Capability Jane found that 60% of candidates are concerned about bringing up the discussion of flexible working hours at an interview.

This is why Capability Jane is dedicated to matching the best candidates and employers. We have all kinds of flexible senior roles like part-time Finance Director jobs, all the way through to flexible Senior Sales roles.

Author: Natalie Wilson

Natalie is a freelance writer for many different business publications. With a range of knowledge in the business and insurance sector, she is an avid researcher and writer in the field. Having worked with a number of different businesses, including IAS, Natalie is now a freelance writer looking to specialise in the topic. You can connect with her on Twitter @NatWilson976