A new study has found that a flexible workspace – one that allows employees to choose when and where to work - can improve employee’s sleep, allow workers to better manage their health, and increased their sense of schedule control.

Sociology professors Erin Kelly and Phyllis Moen of the University of Minnesota found that time flexibility in a workplace promotes a healthy well-being for employees.

"Our study shows that moving from viewing time at the office as a sign of productivity, to emphasizing actual results can create a work environment that fosters healthy behavior and well-being," says Moen.

"This has important policy implications, suggesting that initiatives creating broad access to time flexibility encourage employees to take better care of themselves."

The researchers collected longitudinal data from 608 employees of a white-collar organization before and after a flexible workplace initiative was carried out to examine the changes in health behaviors and outcomes between initiative participating employees and does who did not participate.

They used the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) initiative first introduced in 2005 at the Best Buy headquarters in Richfield, Minn.

The authors explained that under ROWE, “employees were allowed to routinely change when and where they worked based on their individual needs and job responsibilities without seeking permission from a manager or even notifying one.” The study can be found in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

The researchers’ key finds are outlined below.

· Employees participating in the flexible workplace initiative reported getting almost an extra hour (52 minutes) of sleep on nights before work.

· Employees participating in the flexible workplace initiative managed their health differently: They were less likely to feel obligated to work when sick and more likely to go to a doctor when necessary, even when busy.

· The flexible workplace initiative increased employees' sense of schedule control and reduced their work-family conflict which, in turn, improved their sleep quality, energy levels, self-reported health, and sense of personal mastery while decreasing employees' emotional exhaustion and psychological distress.

Kelly explained that narrow flexibility in the workplace grants “some” accommodations for family needs but doesn’t exactly encourage an employee’ health and well-being.

"Narrower flexibility policies allow some 'accommodations' for family needs, but are less likely to promote employee health and well-being or to be available to all employees," says Kelly.