As we continue the series focusing on various work-life issues that we began during National Work & Family Month in October, here’s an article by Annie Toro posted on The Huffington Post, “A Flexible Workplace is a Happier, Healthier Workplace.” Annie is associate executive director for Public Interest Government Relations at the American Psychological Association.

Here’s an excerpt from her post:

One of the most striking changes in U.S. families in the past 30 years is the increasing number of working women and the rate of mothers who work, especially mothers of infants and young children. Recently, California first lady Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress released a provocative report entitled “The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything” on the status of women in the United States and the drastic changes that have taken place in our country as a result of women’s entrance into the work force. The study is aimed at inciting what it calls “a national conversation about what women’s economic power means for our way of life.”

Research tells us there is a positive connection between workplace flexibility and an individual’s work-life balance. For instance, employees who work in environments that provide flexible work hours also tend to experience fewer conflicts within their work, family and personal lives. However, when a workplace does not provide adequate flexibility, women are more likely than men to experience work-family conflicts and health-related distress, some studies show.

Another key factor is employee perception of workplace culture. Many employees do not use such policies, even when they are available, because they are concerned that taking advantage of parental leave or flexible work schedules, for example, may be perceived as a lack of job commitment and could negatively affect their career advancement. Thus, it is imperative that employers not only support the employees by promoting their company’s flexible schedule options, but also create and maintain a culture that encourages use of these policies.

Research shows that employers benefit from offering greater workplace flexibility. When employees receive the flexibility they need, there is less absenteeism and greater job satisfaction. Employees are more motivated to adopt healthier behaviors, sleep better and be involved in employer-promoted health education programs. Additionally, employers have lower health care utilization costs.

Publications, research studies and toolkits on a host of other workforce readiness, flexibility, family economic stability, and work and family balance issues are also available on the Corporate Voices Web site.