Could 'time’ help boost happiness in the workplace?

Consider giving the gift of time this Christmas

Juggling work and home-life is often difficult, but throw Christmas into the mix and this challenge is taken to a whole new level. At times like this, it could pay for employers to gift to staff a half-day or simply a few hours of free time to use as they see fit – from Christmas shopping to catching the school nativity. If corporate finances won’t permit this, perhaps allow employees to give up a small amount of salary in return for extra leave, or the ability to make up the time elsewhere.

Meanwhile, it's interesting to note that people who spend money to buy themselves more free time are happier, according to a recent survey. This might have implications for the workplace, in terms of the type of reward and benefit packages offered – for example, childcare and eldercare support, concierge services, having lunches delivered to work – but also in terms of the working environment and flexibility offered. Many employers claims to offer flexibility but how many are truly happy with the idea of their employees at a variety of levels choosing to work from home or alter their hours to suit their lifestyles?

The study, by psychologists in the US, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands, found that people report greater happiness if they used €34 ($40) to buy themselves more free time by, for example, paying for someone to do the chores at home – rather than spending the money on material goods.

Significantly for employers, the study went on to conclude that stress over lack of time causes lower wellbeing and contributes to anxiety and insomnia. Yet it also added that even the very wealthy are often reluctant to pay people to do the jobs they dislike.

Considering that mental ill health accounts for almost 20% of the burden of disease in the World Health Organisation (WHO) European Region1 and mental health problems affect one in four people at some time in life, anything that can be done to help lessen know stress indicators – by both country health systems and employers - can only be a good thing.

More than 6,000 adults, including 800 millionaires, were asked questions about how much money they spent on buying time. The researchers found that fewer than a third of individuals spent money to buy themselves time each month. Those who did reported greater life satisfaction than the others.

The findings were published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences2.