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Study: Employees with flexible hours work harder, are more satisfied

Study: Employees with flexible hours work harder, are more satisfied

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Workers who are allowed flexible hours by their companies actually work more intensely than coworkers with rigid hours, according to a new study.

If your coworker's office is always empty, doesn't that mean he or she isn't working as hard as you?

As it turns out, it's quite the opposite.

Workers who are allowed flexible hours by their companies actually work more intensely than coworkers with rigid hours, according to a new study.

Better still, it's a win-win situation: those same flex employees also report better satisfaction with their jobs, according to researchers at Cranfield University in the U.K.

Cranfield management professors Clare Kelliher and Deirdre Anderson used a questionnaire to survey more than 2,000 employees at three large multi-national, Britain-based corporations.

Analyzing responses, researchers found that employees who worked remotely one day a week -- thus reducing their required weekly office hours -- reported higher job satisfaction, lower stress and stronger loyalty to their company than employees who didn't have flexible hours.

In 37 random interviews with some of the flex workers, the scientists discovered that flex employees also reported increased work intensity, which amounts to higher productivity and longer hours.

A more intense work schedule is traditionally linked to familial strain and increased stress. But employees with flexible hours -- especially those working remotely -- reported higher job satisfaction, lower stress levels and greater company loyalty, despite the longer total hours.

According to the researchers, the results suggest that an employee is more willing to be flexible with an employer that's flexible with him or her. In return for a flexible schedule and freedom, an employee is more likely to work harder to repay the favor.

It's called the "social exchange theory," a psychological and sociological concept that outlines how individuals can pay each other in voluntary and informal ways.

In other words, reciprocity.

The only downside of what appears to be a win-win situation? Long-term negative effects, which the researchers could occur with intense work over a long period of time.

The research was published in the January issue of the journal Human Relations.

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Andrew Nusca

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Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure