Can increasing workplace flexibility lower heart disease risk?

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New York, Nov 9 (IANS) Increasing workplace flexibility may lower employees’ risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a new study.

The study led by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Pennsylvania State University showed that workplaces that implemented interventions designed to reduce conflict between employees’ work and their personal/family lives helped reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease equivalent to between five and 10 years of age-related cardiometabolic changes.

The study, published in The American Journal of Public Health, is among the first to assess whether changes to the work environment can affect cardiometabolic risk.

“The study illustrates how working conditions are important social determinants of health,” said co-lead author Lisa Berkman, Professor of Public Policy and of Epidemiology at Harvard.

“When stressful workplace conditions and work-family conflict were mitigated, we saw a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease among more vulnerable employees, without any negative impact on their productivity.

“These findings could be particularly consequential for low and middle-wage workers who traditionally have less control over their schedules and job demands and are subject to greater health inequities,” Berkman said.

For the study, the researchers designed a workplace intervention meant to increase work-life balance. Supervisors were trained on strategies to show support for employees’ personal and family lives alongside their job performances, and teams (supervisors and employees) attended hands-on training to identify new ways to increase employees’ control over their schedules and tasks.

The researchers randomly assigned the intervention to work units/sites within two companies: an IT company, with 555 participating employees, and a long-term care company, with 973 participating employees.

While the intervention did not have any significant overall effects on employees’ cardiometabolic risk score (CRS),it helped patients with increased risk, the researchers said.

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