This May Be the Single Most Important Job Perk to Ask for, After Health Insurance

Despite all the advice you've heard about the most desirable job benefits, there's one that will improve your health and lower your risk for depression.

telecommutingiStock/kupicoo

Obviously, when you’re looking for a great job, salary and healthcare benefits come first. A survey conducted by the employee review platform Glassdoor found that the top-rated benefit among employees was health insurance, with 40 percent of those surveyed rating it their number-one priority. The second most desirable benefit was paid vacations, earning 37 percent of people’s vote for most important perk. But there’s more to a dream career than salary, health insurance, and time off. In fact, there’s one employee perk that more and more people are looking for these days, one that could have a positive impact on your health and well being.

It’s telecommuting, even part-time. A recent study led by Rachel Henke, PhD, of Truven Health Analytics, found that having the option of working remotely, even for just a few hours a month, could lower your risk of depression.

The new study, published online in the American Journal of Health Promotion, aimed to investigate the influence of telecommuting on employee health. It involved detailed analysis of employee demographic data, medical claims, health risk assessment data, and remote connectivity hours of employees aged 18 to 64. The researchers evaluated people who telecommuted up to eight hours per month, along with those who had significantly more telecommuting hours—some over 73 hours per month, as well as those who did not telecommute at all.

The people who didn’t telecommute were actually found to be at greater risk of obesity, physical inactivity, and alcohol abuse, and tobacco use than the groups who were able to telecommute even part time.

Perhaps the most significant finding of this study is the fact that people who telecommuted just eight hours per month were less likely to experience depression than those who didn’t telecommute at all. This suggests that working remotely for just few hours each month can have a significant impact on maintaining good mental health and well-being, possibly because it gives employees a feeling of control and flexibility, and allows them to spend more time in a less-stressful environment.

Henke’s results are important because, while there have been studies that highlight a relationship between telecommuting and increased employee performance, this is the first to show a link between telecommuting and better employee health.

Next time you’re on the job hunt, consider telecommuting a top priority—even if it’s just one day a month. And if you’re stuck in a nine-to-five office gig, use these strategies to de-stess your work day.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest

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