David Smith: Does flexible working reduce stress?

Employers should be encouraged to adopt a strategic approach to addressing rising levels of stress. Research may point to flexible working as a useful tool that employers can use to reduce stress, but it is important they do not regard it as a standalone solution for this type of issue that will cure all cases.

Flexible working gives staff the opportunity to arrange work around the aspects of their personal lives that are important to them, such as caring for children or elders, or sometimes both. Here the solution can help to alleviate stress relating to these demands and pressures.

However, in addition to flexible working, employers should address stress levels with an approach that can encompass and engage all staff. Support mechanisms such as employee assistance programmes (EAPs) can offer staff a trusted and secure framework within which to seek support and find a solution for their issues.

No one solution will address the needs of all employees, so it is imperative that organisations position resources, such as EAPs, at the core of their health and wellbeing agenda. Adopting flexible working and a comprehensive health and wellbeing culture in this way will have long-term advantages for the employee, as well as the business, which can see reduced stress and absence levels and an increasing level of productivity and engagement.

– David Smith, chairman of the UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA)

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