Does flexible work make R&D employees happier?

Illustrative photo. Source: pixabay.com
Illustrative photo. Source: pixabay.com

A TTÜ research group sought an answer to the question "Does flexible work make R&D employees happier?"

A study on the working arrangements of research and development (R&D) employees was completed under the leadership of the scientists of Tallinn University of Technology. The study was based on a survey carried out among 153 creative R&D employees − engineers, scientists, product and IT developers. The total of 11 employers (private and public R&D companies, banks, technology and IT companies) were covered by the study.

More and more companies all over the world test flexible working time programmes with the purpose of boosting economic performance of the company or attracting the best specialists in the field.

The survey revealed that men as well as those with higher level of education have much better chances of being offered flexible working time, i.e. there is a higher probability that men get or select jobs with flexitime than women.  “These findings may refer to the fact that men have a better negotiating position in terms of getting a suitable job and agreeing on working conditions, while it is women who might need flexitime more,” the head of the international research group, Professor at the TTÜ Department of Economics and Finance Aaro Hazak says.

It appears from the study that employees that can work flexibly outside the office are much happier. Moreover, the study shows that a distance work option has a positive effect on a creative R&D employee′s satisfaction with his/her work results, i.e. flexibility in choosing to work fully or at least partially from home helps employees to perceive their work results significantly higher.  “It is important that employers understand that different types of employees (i.e. young vs. old, people living alone vs. family persons, men vs. women) have different reasons for using flexible working time, and that positions that include flexible working time options attract certain types of employees and have thus different effects on the work results and personal life in different types of people,” Professor Hazak explains.

The study took into account also the inner circadian rhythms of employees and it appeared that evening type individuals (the so-called “owls”), when affected by work-driven constraints, feel significantly less joy from their daily lives than their morning type colleagues (the so-called “larks”).  This is potentially due to genetic factors, but could also be partially caused by a mismatch between the innate time preferences among owls, and social as well as employer expectations.

The results of our study suggest that flexible working arrangements offered by employers could have a major positive impact both on the happiness (and well-being) of employees as well as their work efficiency.

The international research group led by TTÜ scientists has investigated the factors that affect work efficiency of creative R&D employees since the year 2015. The study focused in particular on the links between flexible working time and place, work outcomes and the employee′s time use, sleepiness, tiredness and happiness.

Additional information about the project:

http://www.ttu.ee/ta2

Contact details: Aaro Hazak, Professor at the Department of Economics and Finance, aaro.hazak@ttu.ee or phone: 620 4057 (Eva Laura Auling, research coordinator of the Department)