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Workplace Flexibility Improves Employees' Heart Health

Researchers report in the American Journal of Public Health that when their office used interventions to reduce work-family conflicts, older workers' heart health risk factors decreased significantly

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A kinder, more thoughtful workplace can lead to better heart health in older employees, according to a new study.

Researchers report in the 8 November issue of the American Journal of Public Health that when their office used interventions to reduce work-family conflicts, older workers' heart health risk factors decreased significantly.

Their heart risk factors, in particular, mirrored those of people 5 to 10 years younger when their workplace culture provided them with greater flexibility and support.

"The study demonstrates how working conditions are important social determinants of health," said co-lead researcher and Harvard Centre for Population and Development Studies director Lisa Berkman.

Researchers collaborated with two companies for the study: an IT company with 555 participants and a long-term care company with 973 participants.

The researchers educated company executives on how to support employees' personal and family lives. Supervisory and employee teams also participated in hands-on trainings to identify new ways to give employees more control over their schedules and workflow.

Researchers discovered that workplace changes had no significant effect on all employees' heart health risk factors. However, there were significant improvements for workers who entered the study with a high risk of heart disease.

Researchers discovered that those who worked at the IT firm saw a reduction in their heart risk scores equivalent to 5.5 years of age-related changes. Employees at the long-term care company saw a reduction equivalent to 10.3 years, which was even more striking. Age was also a factor. Employees over the age of 45 with higher heart risk scores were more likely to improve than younger workers.



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