It’s no secret that our attitudes towards employment have changed significantly over the last few years.

Data published in 2022 reveals that 58% of professionals in the U.S. now work from home at least one day per week, with 35% working remotely on a full-time basis. These statistics illustrate just how popular alternative work structures have become among both employees and staff alike.

Though many organizations may have pivoted towards flexible work in response to recent world events, the fact that so many have continued to support such arrangements suggests the benefits may be greater than first imagined. This is reflected in research by Forbes revealing up to 80% of flexible staff feel like these types of schedules allow them to take better care of their mental health.

Various metrics important to business success like engagement, motivation, and productivity have all been closely linked to employee well-being, with happier employees contributing to a more effective workforce.

So, can flexible work really reduce anxiety and stress? And can offering staff more freedom within their roles help businesses to optimize their operations?

What is flexible work?

It’s important to note that remote work and flexible work don’t always mean the same thing. If remote work is mandated by a company, employees aren’t afforded the same freedom that’s associated with flexible work. This distinction can affect related employee well-being metrics.

Flexible work can be broadly defined as any employment structure that offers an alternative to traditional 9-5 office-based schedules. A few examples of flexible work in action include:

  • Employee-controlled hybrid work – Staff can choose to split their hours between a central office and a remote work location such as their home or a flexible workspace.
  • Flexi-time – Staff are allowed to adjust their start and end times provided they fulfill a predetermined number of contracted hours.
  • Job sharing – Multiple employees split the workload of one role amongst themselves.
  • Compressed hours – Staff work full-time hours compressed over a shorter period of time, for example, a four day week of 10-hour shifts rather than five 8-hour shifts.
  • Annualized hours – Employees must work a set number of hours per year, though these hours can be completed at any time.

The idea behind flexible work is that by allowing employees to better manage their personal work-life-balance, they’ll be less likely to experience feelings of burnout, stress, and anxiety. 

Assisting employees in this way can be equally beneficial to both business owners and their workforce, with studies suggesting that burned-out staff may be 63% more likely to take sick days, and over 2.5x more likely to be actively looking for alternative employment options.

A man using AI technology in a coworking space.

How flexible work improves employee wellbeing  

It’s no surprise that most people react positively to being provided more freedom within their roles. Fostering a culture of trust and support is key to the development of a high-performing workforce, in fact, almost 80% of employees become more engaged when given autonomy at work.

Numerous studies have highlighted clear connections between flexible work and measurable improvements in employee wellbeing. From increased engagement and productivity metrics, to reduced levels of absenteeism, below is a summary of these findings in a little more detail.

Decreased stress 

Flexible work can help to reduce stress levels by allowing staff to work on projects at a time that best suits their needs. 44% of employees claim that their workload is a major cause of employment-related stress, so by providing staff the freedom to approach tasks at their own pace, businesses can help teams to manage their workloads around personal commitments.

Additionally, 50% of surveyed professionals said that commuting to work during traditional office hours contributes to elevated stress levels. Staff working in flexible arrangements can avoid this issue, while also being able to create their own pre-work routines. This can mean more time dedicated to wellness activities, family commitments and preparing for work tasks.

Lower risk of burnout

Research shows that 76% of employees experience burnout on a somewhat regular basis, with heavy workloads, a perceived lack of autonomy and poor employer relationships seen to increase this risk. Many aspects of flexible work can help to address each of these issues.

Job sharing and employee-controlled schedules allow teams to better manage workloads within a reasonable timeframe, while allowing staff to work flexible hours provides them with more autonomy over their professional lives. These pursuits also foster a sense of trust and respect between workers and employers, facilitating a more positive workplace environment.

Improved engagement

Employees that are more engaged with their work tend to be happier within their roles, with factors like a poor work-life-balance and repetitive daily routines seen as common causes of unhappiness at work. Data reveals 79% of employees feel flexible schedules have a positive impact on their work-life-balance, with 55% finding this style of work to reduce stress levels.

Research shows that when employees are more engaged in their work, and are afforded more time to pursue personal wellness activities, they’re less likely to experience elevated stress levels. Only 30% of staff claiming to be engaged at work report high levels of daily stress, compared to 41% and 56% of not engaged and actively disengaged employees.

Less absenteeism

The average U.S. adult in full-time employment takes 2.5 days of unplanned sick leave each year, but it’s estimated that workers experiencing poor mental health take around 12 days. The World Health Organization considers some of the most common risks to mental health at work to include excessive workloads, inflexible hours, and a lack of professional autonomy.

When staff are offered flexible schedules, most of these common risks can be appropriately addressed, measurably improving both employee wellness and productivity. Several studies support these claims, with 43% of flexible workers claiming these schedules improve their productivity, with this engagement contributing to a possible 41% reduction in absenteeism.

A view of two people on their way to work.

Reduced anxiety 

Finally, offering employees the chance to work within flexible arrangements has been shown to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. According to Dr. Paul Daidone, Medical Director at True Self Recovery, “By allowing staff to adapt their routines around their own mental health requirements, people are able to devote more time towards frequent self-care and wellness activities. This, in turn, promotes a more positive professional culture.”

Jennifer Worley, LMFT at First Light Recovery adds, “Strict deadlines and the pressure to perform within rigid timeframes can cause a significant increase in feelings of anxiety, as can a perceived lack of control with regards to a person’s daily routine.” However, flexible workers are able to address these issues as they see fit, with 66% of those involved in one flexible work trial believing more flexibility can improve mental health.


With flexible work becoming more commonplace across multiple industries, more employees and businesses are beginning to understand the benefits that these arrangements can bring. From measurable improvements in engagement and productivity, to reductions in stress and absenteeism, offering staff more freedom may be the key to creating a healthier workplace.

Of course, flexible work requires a great deal of trust and respect between employees and their employers, but when implemented intelligently all parties enjoy improvements to their professional lives. For workers wanting to alleviate feelings of stress and anxiety, flexible work environments may represent a realistic and achievable solution.