Deadlines are looming at work. Your boss is breathing down your neck. One of your coworkers is doing his best to torpedo your project. Meanwhile, you haven’t spent quality time with your children in weeks, and you can’t remember the last time you went on a date with your spouse.

Sound familiar? All of us have been in this situation at some point, and the result can be rising stress levels that lead to both mental and physical health problems.

You’ll likely need many tricks and tools to deal with such stressful situations. However, during this Stress Awareness Month, it would be wise to consider adding work flexibility to your anti-stress arsenal.

Whether it means shifting your work hours to avoid a brutal commute, telecommuting occasionally, or altering your schedule to better manage family caregiving responsibilities, flexibility can be a key to reducing stress in your life. The Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College notes several studies that prove this point.

“A study of more than 19,000 employees at nine distinct companies … showed that stress and burnout was lower among workers engaged in all types of workplace flexibility arrangements,” the Sloan Center site says. “Similarly, a study of employees in a large multinational company found that greater levels of flexibility were associated with better health: that is, with less self-reported stress and strain, and better physical health.”

If you’re feeling stressed, here are some specific ways that work flex can help you have a happier, healthier, more balanced, less stressful life:

Flexibility gives you more control.

It’s difficult for most people to juggle all of the personal and professional demands they face every day. When they have no control over their schedules, that struggle only becomes harder. Work flexibility allows you to more effectively manage your time, which generally makes you a happier employee who has better work-life balance.

With control comes predictability.

Some workers approach the door to the office every day with trepidation, bordering on dread. They have no idea what new craziness awaits them once they settle into their cubicles, but they know it could include anything from drive-by questions that have nothing to do with their projects to inane conversations with colleagues that suck away time. When you have the flexibility to work from home, for example, that dynamic changes. You’re in control, which means you can more easily adapt to anything unexpected. And that predictability relieves stress.

You can leave office politics behind.

Politics are an unavoidable part of office life. You may think you can remain above the fray, but something or someone will always conspire to drag you into the mess. And the guaranteed byproduct of those Machiavellian office schemes is stress. If you have the flexibility of working from home, it’s much easier to avoid the politics and stick to business. Imagine the relief that will bring!

Productivity rises along with flexibility.

Studies show that workers who have flexible work options are not only living happier, more balanced lives, but also tend to be more productive in their jobs. When you’re meeting deadlines, exceeding project expectations, and generally excelling in your work, your job-related stress is sure to diminish.

Deadlines become more manageable.

Another benefit of a more flexible schedule is the ability to alter it when you need to hit a deadline—whether it’s related to life at work or life at home. When an urgent project comes in at the last minute today, and you want to attend a mid-afternoon concert at school tomorrow, there’s no need to stress out. Just extend your workday now to finish your tasks, and leave early tomorrow to enjoy the show. It’s another case in which flexibility not only reduces scheduling stress, but also leads to better business and family outcomes.

As you take time to become more aware of your stress this month, you should also vow to do something about it. If you don’t already enjoy flexibility at work, build your case for flex and present it to your boss. Yes, that conversation may be stressful in the moment, but if it results in greater flex, you’ll be rewarded with a much more balanced and stress-free future.

Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com 

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