Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Compare cell phone plans using Wirefly's innovative plan comparison tool ×
Businesses Medicine Science

'Flexible' Working Can Keep You Stressed Out For Longer, Lead to Illness (theguardian.com) 151

schwit1 sends news about the effects of flexible working schedules on the people who try them. Research has found that many employees fall into a "grazing" pattern for work — constantly being interrupted while working, and continuing to keep up with work emails when not — which results in having elevated stress levels for a longer period of time. This can make such workers more susceptible to illness, and it shows distinct biological consequences to having a poor work-life balance. Flexible working policies can also raise the risk of poor working conditions, and create resentment among colleagues ... The findings are a blow to advocates of more sophisticated measures for enabling people to achieve a work-life balance in rich economies that tend to overwork some people while underutilising millions of others. With an estimated 10m working days lost to work-related stress in the UK last year, finding a good balance between the demands of home and the job now dominates concerns about the impact of work on health.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

'Flexible' Working Can Keep You Stressed Out For Longer, Lead to Illness

Comments Filter:
  • by djb ( 19374 ) on Saturday January 02, 2016 @03:36PM (#51227529) Homepage

    I had a flexi-remote working job for two years and it was the best gig I ever had. Yes I'd reply to emails at all hours of the day, but I also worked an average 6 hours a day and found it easy to maintain a life/work balance. I ended up moving to Barcelona for six months and had my dream life for a while traveling around the world and working from wherever I happened to be that day.

    If you have a job that you enjoy, a good boss and co-workers then it's great. But you have to be someone who can copy with blurred lines in your life and the idea that working/non-working isn't a binary distinction.

    It's the same with being on-call in an IT-support gig. Some people are happy to carry a pager and responded to it now and then, others for some reason that I don't understand get really stressed by it and feel on edge the whole time the pager is on their belt.

    • It's the same with being on-call in an IT-support gig. Some people are happy to carry a pager and responded to it now and then, others for some reason that I don't understand get really stressed by it and feel on edge the whole time the pager is on their belt.

      Some folks, including the ones I'm going to get roasted by for my comment here, are deathly afraid that they will do too much work. Honestagawd - I knew a person early on in my career who wouldn't take a dump over lunch because he wanted to save it for company time. That kind of person will bd stressed if they accidentally work until 5:01 p.m.

      I've worked lots of extra hours, and it didn't bother me a bit unless I just got too physically tired and started making mistakes. So very seldom stressful. A lot o

      • by quintessencesluglord ( 652360 ) on Saturday January 02, 2016 @05:02PM (#51227809)

        I think it is more in line with commensurate compensation, and by large extent that is set by the culture of management.

        I too have worked long hours to a point my paycheck was 1/3 of total labor costs (no joke) for a few months, but that was done with the expressed understanding that it would be temporary, and that management would do (and had the capability to make happen) everything in their power to correct the situation.

        I've also worked in places where any demand for anything not specified in my agreement, well, they could fuck right off. Management had done everything in their power to earn my contempt, and I could hardly hold back my smile when I was let go.

        The difference being I know when I'm being exploited, and I know when management is taking my needs into account. The "flexible' aspect doesn't reside exclusively with the employee. It also resides with management.

      • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Saturday January 02, 2016 @08:01PM (#51228489)
        You make a very good point. My current job vs my last job is a perfect comparison that makes your point (or a good complementary one). I was unemployed when I got my last job, so I took a wage below what I believed (and still believe) to be my value to the company because I did not have the resume to prove I could do what I said I could do. I worked my ass off to prove I was as good as I claimed expecting that I would get a commensurate raise. I discovered that the owners of that company had a philosophy of paying the least they could get away with (which came back to bite them later when they lost customers as a result and could no longer afford even my discounted rate).

        I was once again unemployed when I got my current job. Once again I took below my value to the company to get the job. Once again I busted my ass to prove my ability. This company saw my value and gave me that raise. Not only that, they saw that I could be more valuable to the company in the future and based that raise on where they expected me to be in six months, not where I was at the time of the raise. I will continue to bust my ass for this company, while the last six months at my last company (after I realized that they were not going to pay me for the effort) I spent doing what they paid me for and no more.
      • I suspect that for many of us, it's not that we don't want to put in more time or effort, it's that the company fails to get the best out of us. I used to happily work overtime, and flexible time. Then my manager started to jerk me around. So now I put in a standard 8 hour day, and I use the rest of my time for my own things (hobbies, up-skilling, find another job). That's the deal. They can get more out of me if they want, for free, but they don't want. Meanwhile my manager works however she wants. I also
      • I've seen the exact opposite. Where the people who had key skills worked 40 hours a week and were retained while those who worked 60-70 hours a week but who lacked key skills were let go.

        And in many cases, no one had any control over whether they obtained a key skill or not. It was almost random.

        The 70 year old guy that supported the obsolete system was retained. The 35 year old guy who had solid skills but who could be replaced by an indian was let go. The daughter of the senior director who was prett

    • by cyberchondriac ( 456626 ) on Saturday January 02, 2016 @04:21PM (#51227691) Journal

      >

      It's the same with being on-call in an IT-support gig. Some people are happy to carry a pager and responded to it now and then, others for some reason that I don't understand get really stressed by it and feel on edge the whole time the pager is on their belt.

      When it's in addition to your normal workday hours, and you have a week where you don't know what you're doing at night or over the weekend because you can't really make plans or go out to dinner or have too many beers, because some system might go down or need a restart or whatever, so you need to be home to VPN in, or lug around a work laptop w/ a cellular connection, that can work on the nerves. Especially so in a rotating schedule where some of the systems we may have to troubleshoot aren't really our own (our group is broken into logical specialties but the on-call thing is general). Worse, in my group's case anyway, we're expected to actively check our cellphone email (not a pager) regularly during that time, so we have to constantly be edgy.

      • by Asgard ( 60200 )

        The digital 'leash' is bad enough, but being responsible for actively checking something is what makes go from on-call to just 'work'. On-call should be based on some sort of active push/handoff, not actively watching for something. And making the push be every email that comes in to a distribution that is not used solely for notifications of this nature doesn't count.

    • My biggest concern about being on call isn't so much the on call part, but the reliability of the underlying systems I'd be expected to support. I can deal with logging in outside of normal hours once a month or so to reboot some frozen service, but I would go insane if I had to spend all night every night manually running a really troublesome system.

      Also, if I would be expected to respond immediately rather than waiting an hour if I choose that would be hugely more stressful. I'm not taking the work phone

    • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Saturday January 02, 2016 @05:52PM (#51227989)

      It's the same with being on-call in an IT-support gig. Some people are happy to carry a pager and responded to it now and then, others for some reason that I don't understand get really stressed by it and feel on edge the whole time the pager is on their belt.

      The problem is that there is an expectation of interruption, if there is a possibility of interruption.

      It's the same reason that approximately 50% of us can't work in an "open plan" office as effectively as if we had offices, and why approximately 15% of us can't think as deeply or profoundly about a problem when there is the risk of an interruption. It doesn't matter if it's the kids, or it's the wife, or it's a phone call, or it the "bong" from an incoming email or text message, or it's the vibration of your cell phone.

      Being constantly "on guard" for an interruption means you have to divide your attention between monitoring the sources of potential interrupt for the interruption happening, and the thing you actually want to be or should be doing.

      Almost all advertising in fact *relies* on the concept of attention economics, and interruptively stealing attention away from other pursuits in order to engage the target with the advertiser.

      See also: Continous Partial Attention

      • You're always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

      • by djb ( 19374 )

        The problem is that there is an expectation of interruption, if there is a possibility of interruption.

        ...

        Being constantly "on guard" for an interruption means you have to divide your attention between monitoring the sources of potential interrupt for the interruption happening, and the thing you actually want to be or should be doing.

        I think the problem is that you care too much about the risk of interruption. Better just not to care about the fact that it might happen and that you might have to change your plans later on. It's much better to just live your life and adapt to things as they come along. What's the point about getting stressed that about a minor risk that you might have to spend 10 minutes replying to an email at 10pm in the pub once every now and then.

        I once spent two months on 4 hours notice to fly from London to Kansas

        • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Sunday January 03, 2016 @12:19AM (#51229175)

          I think the problem is that you care too much about the risk of interruption.

          I think the problem is that you don't understand that some people's brains are not wired in such a way that they can shut that sort of thing off.

          These are the same people who make sure your product actually *works*, instead of just building a prototype or saying "Oh well; we'll fix it in the next release". People who are detail oriented can't simply shut that crap off.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Saturday January 02, 2016 @03:42PM (#51227541)

    It usually means "I want to be lazy, not do any planning, not do my job and you'll be at my beck and call to iron out my blunders".

    And yes, that's going to stress you into a burn-out.

    • by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday January 02, 2016 @04:01PM (#51227611)

      And being told to "flex" your hours which means work overtime today (unpaid because you are salaried) and just work fewer hours tomorrow.

      Oops. Not tomorrow. Here's another important thing that requires overtime. You can take 2x time off the day after.

      Rinse and repeat.

      I've had too many managers who think that making everything a "crisis" is an effective means of management.

      • There's an easy fix for this. Admittedly, it has to come from the government.

        Simply enact a law that requires companies to hold reserves for the overtime hours still to be paid. Because if people are laid off, they have to get a financial compensation and to ensure you're able to pay, you have to stash money. Dead money you can't invest in anything, lying around. In government bonds with a crappy interest rate, just for good measure.

        You can bet your ass that your overtime hours have to be gone before long.

      • Rinse and repeat.

        You let managers get away with that? Not all managers are dicks. Maybe shop around for a nicer job?

        That is actually quite inline with workplace trends. A large portion of people leave their job not because their hate their job but they hate their manager.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 02, 2016 @03:43PM (#51227547)
    I work flexible hours, and I'm the happiest and most stress-free I've ever been. Didn't realize it until lately when I started experiencing stress again in my personal life. What a change! Don't let work dictate when your working hours are if you can help it. And especially don't *be* flexible about when work can schedule your hours if you can't set your own. The not-knowing of next week's schedule is what will cause your a constant tremor of worry, but being able to say "Oh, something came up, boss, I'll finish Wednesday's hours on Saturday" is like removing the weight of the world.
    • This right here. The article makes it sound like flexible times are stress, but I would define stress as having to settle mortgage documents but not being able to leave work to do it. Having to go to the bank / post office for something important but unable because I'm clocked in till 5pm. Having to go to the supermarket during the bloody peak hour of the day, and drive to work stuck in peak hour.

      That last one is a real kicker for me. If I work 30min longer every day due to my flexible work hours and my bos

  • FTFA:

    Working away from the office or part-time can isolate employees from social networks and career opportunities while fostering a “grazing” instinct that keeps dangerous stress hormones at persistently high levels, they said.

    I don't see part-time work as a problem, as long as you are free to say that you don't work during those hours/days. On Wednesdays, I'm off. That means I don't respond to emails and of course don't come in to meetings or some such.

    As for working away from the office, it's fine as long as I'm not actually working at home. Often, I'll just go to the local university library and work there for a day. Excellent wifi and absolute silence.

  • If you job is keeping you stressed 24/7, then maybe you are doing a poor job? The way to deal with the stress of being fulling responsible for something, is to do such a good job that their is no need to worry about it.

  • Flexible tasks though really help from being burnt out on any one thing

    I can spend my time just about any work day either doing some website work, teaching a workshop, exploring new stuff that is job related or could be job related, answering phone calls, doing individual support for one or two people at a time, dealing with emails and our online ticketing system, etc.

    My two coworkers and I split things up as we see them as being "fair". But when one of us gets tired with doing a particular thing, or deali

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The conclusions made on the article are fundamentally flawed from an English perspective, because looking at a Dutch company.

    Historically harsh Calvinistic work ethics prescribe a strict work-life separation and that's one of the more blatant causes of stress, anxiety, irritation and frustration in a Dutch-only workspace. Rather than flexibility, isolation and alienation at work, so common in such environments, are the problem. People stress themselves due to lack of normal social interaction even when sitt

  • A flexible work schedule literally cannot mean less stress if that is a goal.

    It's vastly less stressful to drive outside of core rush hour times.

    Work is less stressful if you have more flexibility as to when it can get done, or you can do it at home without interruption. As for being "outside of social circles", how many slashdot readers would KILL for the chance to work at least one step removed from a typically politicized company org structure? That part is amazing!

    The other reason why flexible working

  • I just had a creative gig and, for me, creativity doesn't happen only between 8am and 5pm. And it may strike for a few minutes or ten hours. Maybe I wake up at 3am with a flash of inspiration and I'm back to sleep by 3:30. Or nothing clicked until 4pm and I worked until 2am. I did the job for a flat rate with a couple check-in points to be sure I was producing what they wanted but how I managed my time was my business because I was working alone.

    On the flip side, most of my career has required that I be

  • You're telling us this, on the very first day of the New Year, here, in a country that is either way too loud We're number one!!,or too obnoxious Did I mention, We're number wan!to stop for a moment and consider that there is no other country that ignores vacation.

  • I'm doing the flexible work schedule thing myself, right now, to an extent. (Essentially, I work for a company that would ideally like me to stay in the office from 9-6PM every Monday through Friday -- but I've always pushed back against that, since so much of the I.T. support and maintenance I do can be done just as well from a computer at home over the VPN. I live 50+ miles from the office and the commute can really start to wear you down after a while.)

    I have a great boss who is understanding, but other

    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      > they require some discipline on YOUR part as the employee

      It's not important so I'll post this as an AC. However, I think you'll find many people have (and perhaps legitimately so) forgotten that part. They've forgotten that they have an obligation to the employer just as much as the employer has an obligation to the employee. It's called "earning a paycheck" and not 'collecting a paycheck" in an ideal world. Just because some employers have neglected their end of the bargain does not mean one is entitl

  • So. What I get on a tablet is the beta interface? I thought this had died long ago...
  • ...constantly being interrupted is the real problem. I work a normal schedule and constant interruptions are my number one source of stress. It is understandable that working a flexible schedule would amplify the source of the real problem. Best solution: get rid of phones, instant messaging, email and let people work from home. If somebody needs you to do something for them, utilize a ticketing system and require all work requests to route through that. This goes beyond IT support and covers general office

Success is something I will dress for when I get there, and not until.

Working...