Office Workers
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Flexible hours can make employees ill because they find it harder to switch off from their work, experts have said.

Working away from the office or part-time can create an 'always on' culture that keeps stress hormones persistently high, they claim.

Their arrangements can also irritate colleagues who feel flexible workers have a cushier work-life balance and so could leave them isolated socially.

The findings counter previously held beliefs that flexible hours enabled employees to have a healthier working life.

Last June, the government extended the right to request flexible hours to all workers, as long as they have been in a job for six months.

It had previously been reserved for carers and those looking after children.

Nick Clegg, who pushed through the new laws, said at the time: 'It's about time we brought working practices bang up to date with the needs and choices of our modern families.'

But the policies to boost work-life balance may in fact be counterproductive.

Professor Gail Kinman, a health psychologist at the University of Bedfordshire, told The Guardian: 'If you keep picking at work, worrying about it, your systems never really go down to baseline so you don't recover properly.

'You might sleep, but you don't sleep properly, the effectiveness of your immune system reduces. There are studies that suggest people want a quick way to relax, which is when they tend to drink alcohol and might turn to comfort food.'

Professor Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, added: 'There's pretty good evidence that there's a link between psychological circumstances at work and heart disease.'

Another contributing factor to stress, psychologists say, is the rise in technology that means emails can be sent and received at all hours of the day.

This can lead to employees constantly thinking about work as they feel a need to regularly check-up on their mail.

Bodies such as the Trades Union Congress still support flexible working but say there is a growing recognition such policies only work when employees are granted greater independence and the arrangements are not weighed too heavily on the side of their company.