Encouraging people to work from home doesn’t just appeal to employees; it could help build trust and increase productivity, according to an MIT study.

The Executive Education program at MIT Sloan School of Management piloted a flex time scheme in which a team of 35 employees were encouraged to work remotely at least two days per week, were able to work hours that suited them, and weren’t expected to be connected 24/7.

They were expected to make it into the office at least one day a week.

The power of flexibility

Following the six-month trial, 100% of employees said they would recommend working remotely.

Staff reported feeling less stressed, with reduction in commute time having a big impact on stress levels.

Associate Dean of the Executive Education program at MIT, Peter Hirst, discussed the outcomes of the pilot in an article for Harvard Business Review.

He noted that by reducing the number of days staff needed to commute a core area of stress was eliminated.

“That benefit should reap results in healthier and happier employees who take fewer unplanned sick days,” he said.

The scheme also found flex time increased worker productivity and therefore led to financial gain.

It’s a matter of trust

Not only did flexible working increase employee’s happiness, health and productivity, it also increased trust.

“We trust our people to be professionals and understand what needs to be done, regardless of where they work,” Hirst emphasised.

Traditional work practices requiring specific and strict working hours can indicate a lack of trust in employees.

Allowing flexible working shows trust in staff, with MIT finding 62% of employees felt an improved level of trust and respect from their employers.

It doesn’t just work at MIT

The results achieved by MIT have been replicated in other reports, with the Society for Human Resource Management reporting that more than 80% of flexible working arrangements were successful.

They also reported increased productivity in some workers who began working flex time, as well as a decrease in sickness.

Flexible working is now being seen as a necessity that companies need to embrace. 60% of employers say that flexible working is the key to staying competitive in a report from Powwownow.

More than three quarters of employers believe flexible working leads to a better work-life balance.

“Flexible working is becoming a necessity within our working lives,” Jason Downes, Managing Director at Powwownow said. “Companies really need to embrace this is order to remain competitive.”

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