POSTED: April 27 2018
Be flexible and reduce staff stress

Be flexible and reduce staff stress

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

The importance of flexible working and developing a supportive culture have again been underlined by new research confirming that employees who do not have an option to work flexibly are twice as likely to experience work-related stress than those with flexible workdays.

Britain’s Healthiest Workplace* – an annual survey developed by health insurer, VitalityHealth in partnership with the University of Cambridge and RAND Europe, which studies the link between health risks and productivity has 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 link 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.

“The way we work and its effect on our work/life balance can have an adverse effect on our stress levels and productivity.”  commented Shaun Subel, Director of Corporate Wellness Strategy at VitalityHealth.

Shaun added  “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.”



*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 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.


You can register for Britain’s Healthiest Workplace 2018 here.

You can see the Vitality press release in full here.