Tallinn University of Technology

A study on the working arrangements of research and development (R&D) employees was completed under the leadership of the economists and medical researchers of Tallinn University of Technology. The study was based on a survey carried out among 153 creative R&D employees − engineers, scientists, product and IT developers. The total of 11 employers (private and public R&D companies, banks, technology and IT companies) were covered by the study.

The head of the international research group, Professor at the TTÜ Department of Economics and Finance Aaro Hazak said, "One of the goals of the study was to find out the links between the time spent at workplace, work outcomes and tiredness. It appeared that the greater the share of working time spent by the creative R&D employee at the workplace, the more tired the employee feels and the lower are his/her work results. Furthermore, the employees who have a distance work option perceive their work results significantly higher than those who have to do their work by sitting at a desk at the workplace."

In case of flexible working time and place arrangements, a creative employee can start working when he/she is in a creative mood, whereas sitting at a desk at work seems to make creative employees more tired and lead to decreased productivity due to stress caused by the obligation to get work done at the workplace, in a spatial and temporal "cage". The research results should provide stimuli for employers as well as employees to consider whether sitting at a desk at work is the best way to carry out creative research and development. Providing flexible working time and the distance work option would be beneficial for the employer as well, since it improves work efficiency of creative R&D employees.

Also, the employees who are provided flexibility in the timing and place of work feel much more seldom that their sleep is disturbed by work. At the same time the study showed that the average duration of the working day of creative R&D employees is as long as 10 hours and those who have longer working days perceive their work results significantly higher. Therefore, flexible working time also requires a high degree of self-discipline from the employee in a rather unexpected form – not for forcing oneself to start working without the supervisor′s control, but for forcing oneself to complete a creative work without overstraining oneself.

In the current project-based society more and more people are employed under fixed-term employment contracts. This applies also to creative R&D employees either for the purposes of implementation of a specific development work, participation in a grant project or carrying out an applied research. However, the study revealed that the happiness of those working with fixed-term contracts is significantly lower – both in terms of current happiness and potential happiness looking forward.

"Fixed-term employment contracts increase anxiety, tiredness and sleepiness and reduce productivity," Professor Hazak concludes.

The international research group led by TTÜ scientists has investigated the factors that affect the outcome of work of creative R&D employees since the year 2015. The study focused in particular on the links between flexible working time and place, work efficiency and the employee's time use, sleepiness, tiredness and happiness.

Kersti Vähi, TTÜ Research Administration Office