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Wednesday 18 April 2018

Employees who aren’t allowed to work flexibly are twice as likely to experience stress at work 

Employees who do not have an option to work flexibly are twice as likely to experience work-related stress than those with flexible workdays, a survey from VitalityHealth has revealed. 

Britain’s Healthiest Workplace* – an annual survey developed by VitalityHealth and delivered in partnership with the University of Cambridge and RAND Europe, which studies the link between health risks and productivity – revealed that employees who do not have an opportunity to work from home or change their start/end time, lose the equivalent of four days** of productive working time per year due to ill-health related absence and presenteeism.

Additionally, the survey found a direct correlation between how we travel to work and stress. Employees with at least an hour-long commute each way were 10% more likely to develop work-related stress than individuals who commute less than half an hour each way. Meanwhile employees who work irregular hours are 50% more likely to be stressed than employees who have clearer structure to their days.  

While many employers have started to adopt flexible working arrangements, simple work/life changes and increased training, Britain’s Healthiest Workplace has shown that driving employee engagement in these initiatives is critical. For instance, while 78.1% of employees engaging with time management training initiatives found it beneficial (suggesting that it may be driving a reduction in their levels of work-related stress and associated productivity loss), only 3% of employees actually participated in these types of initiatives.

Shaun Subel, Director of Corporate Wellness Strategy at VitalityHealth, commented: “The way we work and its effect on our work/life balance can have an adverse effect on our stress levels and productivity. Productivity levels are put under strain when certain work day structures have limited flexibility, impacting both on the individual and business at large. 

“However, there are simple steps that employers can take to improve this. Providing initiatives such as flexible working arrangements or time management training can help employees to both structure their days more effectively, and access support to mitigate the impacts of work-related stress. By providing employees with the autonomy to determine their own work-life balance, they are able to find a way of working which best enables their personal wellbeing and productivity - for example, by avoiding a stressful commute, or allowing for family commitments. Whilst the changes are simple for many businesses to implement, the benefits reaped for both the employer and employee can be substantial.”

To register for Britain’s Healthiest Workplace 2018 visit the registration page


*The Britain's Healthiest Workplace research process took place between February and August 2017. It looked at a number of lifestyle, mental wellbeing, clinical risk and productivity factors amongst 31,950 employees, together with a broad view of leadership and cultural dimensions and organisational policies, practices and facilities that could directly impact on employee health, across 167 companies. Results based on UK workforce as reported by each company surveyed.

**Figure calculated using employee work impairment as calculated using the Work Productivity and Activity Impairment (WPAI) Scale and an average working year of 260 days – comparing employees with and without flexible working arrangements. Based on data from 31,950 employee participants in Britain’s Healthiest Workplace 2017.

Beyond offering flexible hours there are other ways employers can support their staff in prioritising their health and wellbeing. One way to do this is to incentivise physical activity with rewards and benefits. Vitality's Defaqto 5 Star Rated award-winning health insurance offers a  unique programme that can reward employees for their healthy living, encouraging positive behaviour changes that put their health and wellbeing at the forefront.