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Do you feel better when you have more control at work?

3 min read


“Control at work is good for health,” said Clare Bambra of Durham University in the U.K., commenting on a study that found workers’ physical and mental health improved when they were given more control over their work schedules.

The study’s findings don’t surprise me in the least. Looking back at the jobs I’ve held since I started working as a teenager, I have definitely felt better, both physically and mentally, at the ones where my schedule was less regimented and more under my control. It’s easy to see how my health might actually have changed along with my perception of well-being in those different work environments.

In comparing my current job at SmartBrief with the one I had before coming here, I see a huge contrast. At my last job, I had to arrive no later than 9 a.m.  and leave no earlier than 5 p.m. Even  if I came in at 8 a.m., it was a major to-do for me to leave even a few minutes before 5.

Although lunchtime wasn’t as strictly controlled, it was frowned upon to take it at a different time than my co-workers or to take any longer than 30 minutes, even if most days I ended up eating at my desk in only 5 to 10 minutes. Moreover, my boss tried hard to micromanage how I went about getting my work done, leaving me with little opportunity to do things my own way.

Here at SmartBrief, though, things are different. The focus is on getting the job done and meeting deadlines, not on the order in which I complete my assignments or the exact times I come, go and eat. Although the nature of my work here means I rarely have time to eat away from my desk, I don’t mind because no one glares at me when I head out the door at 1:30 p.m. or later to grab a bite to eat.  Some days I start work early, and on others I stay late.

Today, I’m leaving at 1:30 to go to a doctor’s appointment, and I know that no one will think twice about it because they trust I’ve done my work and done it well. At my previous job, an afternoon appointment would have been the cause of at least 24 hours of serious stress for me.

Do you feel better when you have more control at work? If you are an employer who gives employees some control, do you reap benefits from doing so? If you withhold control, do you see problems as a result?

Image credit, Mac99 via iStock