Can Virtual Offices Promote Better Health Behavior and Well-Being?

Can a flexible workplace really improve your health behavior and well-being? University of Minnesota sociology professors Erin Kelly and Phyllis Moen think so. The duo conducted a study and the findings should be encouraging for virtual office users.

“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.”

Introduced at the Best Buy headquarters in Richfield, Minn. in 2005, the workplace initiative—dubbed the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE)—redirected the focus of employees and managers toward measurable results and away from when and where work was completed. 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.

Consider some of the study findings:

  • Employees reported getting almost an extra hour (52 minutes) of sleep on nights before work.

  • Employees 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.

  • Employees had a sense of schedule control and reduced their work-family conflict. This improved their sleep quality, energy levels, self-reported health, and sense of personal mastery while decreasing their emotional exhaustion and psychological distress.

You can get many of these same benefits from virtual office use. Think about it for a minute. You can get an extra hour of sleep—or more—because you aren’t spending so much time getting dressed up for work and then driving there. You are less obligated to work when sick—but you can still get some work done from a virtual office while you recover so you lose less productivity. With a virtual office, you also have the freedom to workshift and go to the doctor, which can speed up your recover. In terms of reducing family conflict, virtual offices and workshifting helps you balance work with life.

Indeed, flexible work arrangements, including the virtual offices, consistently offer benefits for workers in many industries. Have you considered how a virtual office could help your business drive greater productivity and have happier, healthier employees?


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