Although working a 9 to 5 schedule used to be the norm, more people than ever before are able to choose the hours they’d like to work, at least to some extent. Personally, I have a flexible working schedule, and I find immensely helpful for balancing work and family life. But do flexible schedules make a tangible difference in people’s lives?
According to the evidence, the answer is yes. A systematic review published by the Cochrane Public Health Group found tangible benefits for workers who have choices about and control over their own schedules.
The researchers searched 12 databases and found 10 studies that evaluated the effects of flexible working arrangements on employee health and well-being.
The review found that workers who were able to schedule their own shifts or had the option for partial or early retirement were healthier and reported a stronger sense of community. They fared better on a wide range of health indicators including systolic blood pressure and heart rate, tiredness, mental health, and sleep quality and alertness.
The studies of other working arrangements – including overtime and fixed-term contracts – found no significant effects on physical, mental or general health.
The review concluded, on the whole, that having flexible schedules is likely to have positive effects on the health and wellbeing of workers. That said, the review only included a small number of studies, and many of them had methodological limitations.
While flexible working schedules appear to make a real difference, researchers need to continue studying the topic to find out for sure.