Workplace flexibility linked to lower risk of cardiovascular disease – Harvard Gazette

Increasing workplace flexibility can reduce employees’ risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a new study led by the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and Penn State University.

In workplaces that implemented interventions designed to reduce conflict between employees’ work and personal/family lives, researchers noted that employees with higher baseline cardiometabolic risk, particularly older workers, reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease by the equivalent of five to 10 years of age-related cardiometabolic changes.

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

“The study illustrates how working conditions are important social determinants of health,” said lead author Lisa Berkman, the Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy and Epidemiology at the Harvard Chan School and director of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies.

“When stressful workplace conditions and work-family conflict were moderated, we saw a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease among more vulnerable employees, without any negative impact on their productivity. “These findings may be particularly relevant for low- and middle-wage workers, who traditionally have less control over their schedules and work demands and are subject to greater health care disparities,” Berkman said.

As part of the Work, Family and Health Network, researchers developed a workplace intervention aimed at improving work-life balance: Supervisors were trained in strategies to show support for employees’ personal and family lives alongside their work performance , and teams of supervisors and employees attended hands-on training sessions to identify new ways to increase workers’ control over their schedules and tasks.

The researchers randomly assigned the intervention to work units and sites within an IT company consisting of 555 participating employees and a long-term care company with 973 participating employees. The IT staff consisted of male and female high- and middle-wage technical workers; long-term care workers are mostly female, low-paid direct caregivers. Other units and sites were not assigned the intervention and therefore worked as usual.

Systolic blood pressure, body mass index, glycated hemoglobin, smoking status, HDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol were recorded at the beginning of the study and again 12 months later on 1,528 employees in the experimental and control groups. The researchers used this information to calculate a cardiometabolic risk score (CRS) for each employee, with higher scores indicating a higher estimated risk of cardiovascular disease within the decade.

The study found that the workplace intervention had no significant overall effects on employee risk outcomes. However, the researchers observed declines in scores specifically among those with higher baseline CRS: Employees at the IT company and the long-term care company saw declines in their scores equivalent to 5.5 and 10.3 years of age-related change, respectively . Age also played a role: Employees over the age of 45 with a higher baseline CRS were more likely to see a reduction than their younger counterparts.

“The intervention was designed to change workplace culture over time with the intention of reducing employees’ work-life conflict and ultimately improving their health,” said co-author Orpheus Buxton, professor of biobehavioral health and director of the Joint Laboratory on Sleep, Health and Society at Penn State. “We now know that such changes can improve employee health and should be implemented more widely.”

Hayami Koga, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, was also a co-author.

Funding for the study came from the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (grants U01HD051217, U01HD051218, U01HD051256, U01HD051276); National Institute on Aging (grant U01AG027669); Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research; National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (grants U01OH008788, U01HD059773); and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (grant R01-HL107240). Additional funding came from the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts, the McKnight Foundation, the William T. Grant Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Administration for Children and Families.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *