Correlation found between happiness and flexible hours

By Megan Morgan and Jordan Dziendziel

A recent Brigham Young U. study found that sending employees home can be a win-win situation: the employee is happier, more productive and able to work longer hours.

Jeff Hill, Janet Erickson and Erin Holmes of the College of Family Life studied 24,436 IBM employees in 75 countries. According to a news release, 25 percent of employees reported that work interfered with personal and family life.

The study shows that under traditional working conditions, an employee can work happily for 38 hours, whereas an employee with flextime (workplace flexibility) can work up to 57 hours without sacrificing valuable personal and family time.

Holmes said she can personally attest to the results of the study.

“The implication of our research has helped me be more thoughtful about how I construct my day,” Holmes said in an e-mail. “Knowing that I can still be a good productive scholar (maybe even a more productive scholar) when I take advantage of the flexibility in an academic career helps reduce the work-life stress I feel.”

As the primary provider for her family and mother of three, Holmes said it takes more scheduling and planning on her part, but working from home also gives her opportunities to build close relationships with her children and still grow in her academic career. Holmes saw the study as an opportunity to share the results of blending family and work responsibilities with others.

According to the study, an employee with workplace flexibility can work the same number of hours, interspersing hours of quality family time each day. For example, in the evening, the flexible worker could be at home with family during the dinner hour and continue to work for several hours from home after the children are in bed.

According to Hill, the advantages of flextime are becoming more prominent since the recession.

“A down economy may actually give impetus to flexibility because most options save money or are cost-neutral,” Hill said. “Flexible work options are associated with higher job satisfaction, boosting morale when it may be suffering in a down economy.”

Hill said he hopes the study will demonstrate clearly that flextime and telecommuting can be beneficial to not only the individual, but the company as well.

“Employers can continue to pay staff members wages without increasing office space needs when staff members work via satellite or home office,” Holmes said. “That means employers can get more bang for their buck because their employees who telecommute are more likely to be productive and happy employees, and the employer has reduced costs for office space, additional parking on-site, etc.”

Hill attributed most of the editing of the manuscript for the article titled, “Workplace Flexibility, Work Hours, and Work-Life Conflict: Finding an Extra Day or Two,” to Sarah June Carroll, a senior who will graduate this summer. The study will be published in the June issue of the Journal of Family Psychology.

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