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A recent study published in JAMA Network Open suggests that offering employees job flexibility and security can significantly reduce anxiety and psychological distress in the workplace. The study, which included over 18,000 adults working full-time in the US, found that allowing employees to adjust their work schedules to accommodate personal and family priorities, as well as providing advance notice of work hours, was associated with lower odds of experiencing anxiety and severe psychological distress.

Lead author Monica Wang and her team analyzed data from the 2021 National Health Institute Survey and focused on factors such as work absenteeism, mental health, and access to mental health care. They found that 3% of participants were experiencing serious psychological distress, while over 30% reported anxiety symptoms a few times a year and 12% felt anxious daily. The majority of participants were receiving mental health counseling, but there was a significant percentage who were not seeking therapy.

Greater job flexibility and security were linked to a 26% and 25% lower likelihood of experiencing serious psychological distress and anxiety. The ability to adjust work hours, work remotely, and have control over schedules can help employees balance work and personal life commitments, reducing stress and anxiety. Job security can also lead to higher work satisfaction, decreased job-related stress, and financial security, resulting in lower absenteeism and improved mental health.

However, job insecurity and unemployment have been linked to the onset of depressive symptoms, as well as increased psychological distress and absenteeism. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated job insecurity, with 4.2 million fewer jobs in October 2021 compared to February 2020. Low-wage jobs accounted for the majority of jobs lost during this period, highlighting the need for employers to prioritize job flexibility and security to support employee mental well-being.

The authors of the study suggest that organizations can implement various approaches to enhance job flexibility and security, such as expanding flexible work schedules, offering remote or hybrid work options, providing tenure-based benefits, and investing in training programs. These initiatives can help employees better balance work and personal life commitments, reduce burnout and psychological distress, and promote better mental health.

Overall, the study emphasizes the importance of creating a supportive work environment that prioritizes employee well-being. By offering job flexibility and security, employers can help their employees manage competing demands, reduce stress and anxiety, and ultimately improve mental health outcomes. Investing in these initiatives can lead to higher work satisfaction, decreased absenteeism, and a healthier, more productive workforce.

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