Hybrid work routines, which allow employees to combine days in the office with days working from home, have been shown to reduce short-term absences, according to human resources company Securex.
The company carried out a survey of almost 16,000 workers whose contracts allowed them to telework between 1 January 2019 and 30 June 2021. Over this period, among those who worked from home for a majority of the time (over 64% of working hours), their short-term absences due to illness dropped by 28% compared to 2019.
For those who teleworked less often (just 16% of working hours), their short-term absences were reduced by 10%. Among those who didn't telework at all, short-term illnesses rose by 6.6%, Belga News Agency reported.
"We have long suspected a link between teleworking and a reduction in short-term absence. Now, this is shown by the figures," project coordinator at Securex Heidi Verlinden stated. "This shows that the typical issues with working from home – such as back or shoulder pain, isolation, and familial conflict – in fact don't have a significant impact on short-term absence."
The real causes of short-term absence
The statistics indicate that the primary factors for short-term absence are illnesses that circulate in the workplace. Verlinden explains that by working from home, external contacts are limited which reduces the chance of contracting infectious illnesses such as flu or a cold. "Furthermore, telework gives the chance to continue working even with certain health problems, such as a common cold or broken limb."
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Despite the apparent short-term advantages to being flexible with office hours and work schedules, many companies have made clear that they would like employees to return to workplace for reasons of company cohesion and perceived efficiency improvements. Indeed, many staff themselves have expressed their desire to at least spend some time in the company of colleagues rather than working only remotely.
Yet Verlinden warns against employers imposing too strict office hours on staff, cautioning that this can lead to longer-term absence. She advises companies to develop "well thought-out teleworking policies in order to prevent long-term absence."
Moreover, the reduction in short-term absences found in the survey brought employers an average €1,500 saving per employee – all the more reason to put professional wellbeing at the heart of company policy.