A new study released today finds that workplace flexibility increases employees' job satisfaction, reduces their levels of burnout and stress and increases their productivity. The study marks the first time that a randomized controlled trial has measured the effects of workplace flexibility arrangements at a US-based company.

The 12-month study was conducted by professors from the University of Minnesota and the MIT Sloan School of Management at a Fortune 500 company with more than 700 employees.

The study's organizers splits the company's IT department into 2 groups: the test group learned about and implemented best practices to improve their sense of control over their work and personal lives, while the control group received no training and continued to follow the company's standard policies.

The practices for the test group ranged from changing hours, working from home, attending fewer meetings, using instant messaging more often and planning for periods of increased work.

The conclusion of the study was clear, according to its organizers, Erin Kelly, professor of work and organization studies at MIT, and Phyllis Moen, chair of sociology at the University of Minnesota. Employees in the test group said they felt they had more control over their hours, more support from management and more time to spend with their families. They also reported higher job satisfaction as well as lower levels of stress, burnout and psychological distress, which measures depressive symptoms below the threshold of clinical depression.

The study's conclusions may help to change perceptions of workplace flexibility arrangements, which are stigmatized by both employees and managers, says Kelly. Employees fear that asking for flexibility will hurt their career, while managers fear that flexibility will hurt productivity. Workplace flexibility benefits businesses and employees, says Moen. Employees who have a choice about when, where and how much they work feel better about their jobs and are more efficient.