4 Stats That Show How Flexible Work Options Contribute to Mental Well-being

Sara Sutton Fell
Thrive Global
Published in
4 min readFeb 21, 2017


Remote work and other flexible work options are clearly growing in popularity and use. And while flexible work options benefit a company’s bottom line through improved productivity, better recruitment and retention, more sustainable business practices, and reduced operating costs, it’s often overlooked that working flexibility can hugely impact a person’s mental well-being.

It turns out, flexible work — meaning work options like telecommuting, flexible scheduling, part-time professional roles, and freelance jobs — actually plays a very direct role in people’s well-being, and their decision-making when it comes to work.

Companies should take note: recently, the New York Times reported that “flexible scheduling and work-from-home opportunities play a major role in an employee’s decision to take or leave a job.”

But how, exactly, do flexible work options contribute to overall well-being?

Here are four stats that help to tell the larger story about the connection between flexible work and mental well-being:

1. Money, work, and family responsibilities are the top three stressors in the United States.

The American Psychological Association has been tracking “Stress in America” since 2007, and in 2015, they found that, “Money and work remain the top two sources of very or somewhat significant stress, but this year, for the first time, family responsibilities emerged as the third most common stressor (54 percent).”

It’s no coincidence that there is a strong connection between these three sources of stress because, for millions of people, they are intertwined with one another. People work to make money which supports their families. But they feel a constant pull between work and family responsibilities, which leads to stress — stress that can be reduced by offering flexible work options, as you’ll see in the next statistic.

2. 87 percent of professionals think having a flexible job would lower their stress and 97 percent say a job with flexibility would have a positive impact on their overall quality of life.

A survey of over 3,100 professionals found that lowered stress and improved quality of life were two of the main benefits people expect to experience if they’re able to work more flexibly.

But of course people are going to say that flexible work options would make them feel less stressed and would improve their quality of life, right? Why should that ultimately matter to businesses?

It matters a great deal when, as Arianna Huffington has pointed out, 70 percent of companies say stress is a top problem for their companies.

3. 89 percent of companies report better retention simply by offering flexible work options.

There seems to be a fairly obvious connection when the vast majority of companies say employee stress is one of their top problems, and the vast majority of professionals say flexible work options would lower their stress and improve their quality of life. And interestingly enough, companies may see the positive effects of flexible work arrangements well before workers start using them.

That’s right — the act of implementing a flexible work program, before anyone even takes part, is enough to inspire employees to stay put, according to a survey by the Society of Human Resource Managers.

This may be because employees who have access to flexible work options feel more empowered to structure their work days in ways that better support work-life balance and well-being, which is discussed in the next statistic.

4. All other things being equal, workers with flexible work options report an overall increase in their own well-being.

A 2016 study published in American Sociological Review featured 867 employees at a Fortune 500 company, randomly divided into two groups.

One group was kept to a traditional business hours schedule, working in the office. The second group was given some control over when and where they completed their work, being able to shift their start and end times, and work from home.

The employees who were given more control over their workdays self-reported several positive benefits to their mental well-being, including lowered stress, less psychological distress, less burnout, and increased job satisfaction.

But what about the cost to their actual work output? There was none. Employees in the flexible group worked just as many hours and completed the same quality of work as those in the non-flexible group.

So, let’s look at what we know about work and well-being:

  • Money, work, and family responsibilities cause stress for millions of U.S. workers today.
  • Flexible work options go a long way to curb that stress and promote mental well-being in the workplace.
  • Implementing flexible work options has no negative effects on productivity or work quality — in fact, in most cases, business report higher levels of productivity (and other benefits mentioned at the beginning like reduced operating costs and more sustainable business practices).

It seems that, when it comes to mental well-being and work, both workers and businesses benefit greatly by the implementation of well-crafted, thoughtful flexible work programs.



Sara Sutton Fell
Thrive Global

Sara Sutton Fell is the CEO and Founder of FlexJobs, Remote.co and 1 Million for Work Flexibility. She is also the founder of the TRaD* Works Forum.