The psychological benefits of a flexible working environment

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Whether it’s working from a café in the morning, in a breakout area or from a home workspace, having the freedom and the tools to shift from your usual working environment can make a real difference.

Following a study by Officeworks, looking into the flexible working habits of Australian employees and employers, Psychologist and Founder of The Positivity Institute, Dr Suzy Green, has highlighted the psychological benefits a flexible working environment can bring.

From the 1,000 employees surveyed 34 percent would like to work away from their usual workplace at least once a week, but only 49 percent receive this freedom.

“A significant body of psychological research supports the benefits of embracing flexible work practices, not just flexi-time but also flexi-place working environments. Given an increasing interest in workplace wellbeing, it’s really positive that the majority of people who do have the freedom to work flexibly reported a significant number of psychological benefits. These include less stress and burnout, less commute time and more comfort, productivity and greater levels of work-life balance and overall happiness – a massive win for both workers and bosses alike.”

40% of Australian small businesses believe workers are less productive if they are not offered the opportunity to switch up their working locations, yet only 53% offer this flexibility

“In the past, a commonly held belief was that working flexibly reduced productivity; however the Officeworks survey results show the opposite. It is very promising to see both employers and employees sharing a similar view overall, but it appears not enough small businesses are offering this way of working.

There’s an abundance of scientific research to show the positive impact of flexible work practices on loyalty. It may be time to explore any commonly held negative beliefs about working flexibly in your workplace and do a little myth busting if needed.”

Some of the key barriers or obstacles to working flexibly identified were the need to meet face-to-face with customers and colleagues

“With advancements in technology and an increased uptake in virtual communication, this barrier is likely to be overcome in the not too distant future as people become more comfortable to interact electronically. While the concept of a completely virtual office – where people interact through “avatars” – is still a work in progress, it may assist in overcoming some of the concerns around reduced non-verbal communication.”

Companies offering employees the opportunity to work flexibly are supporting their staff’s overall psychological well-being

“Other research in this field has identified ‘autonomy’ (i.e. freedom, self-direction, self- determination) as a key psychological need, much like we have physical needs for food, water and air. So if an organisation can support staff ‘autonomy’ around how and where they work, they are literally feeding employees – psychological speaking – and enhancing their overall well-being. It is also important to provide workers with the relevant tools to work from anywhere. It could be installing the programs they need on a home computer, supplying a new laptop or even as simple as providing portable hard drives to make transferring work easier.”

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