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Remote working - a successful working model with pitfalls: A challenge for companies and leaders

Health & Benefits Blog

By Sandra Rüegg | November 29, 2022

Remote working - Curse or blessing? This topic divides the opinions of employees and employers.
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Some can't get enough others absolutely don't want to stay at home – remote working divides the opinions of employees and employers. Since home office became mandatory during the Corona pandemic, a lot has changed in terms of working models. Having the option to work from home is almost considered a "must" by a large proportion of employees in an office job for an employer to even be considered attractive.

Employees state that they can do more work from home and that they also work more concentrated. In addition, stress is reduced because it is easier to reconcile work and private life - if some housekeeping tasks can already be done over lunch, the end of the day can be enjoyed more.

Of course, home office also has its downsides. Social contact with work colleagues decreases and there is a lack of exchange among colleagues. This also brings new challenges for managers. Another issue is wellbeing.

Sickness – disappearing boundries

In the case of absences due to illness, remote working certainly has advantages on the one hand. The absences can be reduced through the resulting flexibility. Those who have not yet fully recovered from the flu may still feel able to work from home for a few hours. However, commuting to the office or a whole day in the office would still be too strenuous. In addition, the cases of consciously "calling in sick" can be reduced. If you no longer must go out into the cold every Monday morning in winter and do your work from the comfort of your own home instead, there is no longer any reason to call in sick under any pretext.

On the other hand, many employees also report that they feel increasingly unwell due to the merging of work and leisure. For some, this leads them to continue working even when they are sick.

Working sick out of false motivation

But how does it happen that employees work from home at all, even if they are actually sick? The main reason – in principle very laudable: the team. Many employees do not want to infect their team colleagues, which is why they stay at home. But they also don't want to be a burden on their colleagues, so they continue to work even if they should be recovering.

In addition, it is also common that sick employees feel pressure to work despite their illness because of the home office option. In the office, everyone can see that you are not well. Working remotely, on the other hand, there are thoughts in the back of the mind like: "What if my supervisor or my team think I'm faking and want to shirk my work? ". Because of feeling guilty towards the employer or team colleagues, people regularly check their emails or answer the phone.

Often, employees who are not fully fit do not perform to their full potential. In the long run, this has an impact on the quality of work and the workload of the team. Employees are hardly aware of the consequences of such behaviour. Moreover, a serious illness can drag on enormously if it is ignored that the body needs a break. Long-term absence is of no benefit neither to the person concerned nor their team.

Insurance coverage: Additional workload for the employer

For the employer an unclear separation between work and illness leads to more effort and costs as well. It is no longer possible to clearly determine when the continued payment of wages begins or is settled. In addition, a daily sickness claim can only be registered if a certificate of incapacity for work is also available. If this is not submitted on time, it takes longer until benefits are actually paid from the insurance.

Supervisors have a duty: clear communication and creating awareness

To get a grip on this problem, it is essential for employers to raise awareness among employees and promote self-reflection. Many people are not aware of the consequences such behaviour can have for their own health, but also for their team and employer. Despite home office flexibility, structures, guidelines, and clearly formulated expectations are needed. Fixed office days contribute to the fact that team colleagues can be found in the office on a regular basis. This also offers the opportunity for personal conversations, which in turn can show early warnings of potential work absences.

The company culture is also of crucial importance. This must be exemplified by the managers. Supervisors need to be close to employees to recognise when someone needs support or even time off. However, this should not be confused with 24/7 control. A lot of tact, empathy, good people skills and trust are the key words. Employees need to know exactly what is expected of them if they feel too sick to work but too healthy to stay in bed. Ideally, such scenarios are discussed in a team meeting, regardless of a specific case, and the expected behaviour is agreed jointly and understandably for all.

Remote working as a competitive advantage

The need for remote working is different for each employee and, used correctly, has a direct influence on their health, motivation, and commitment. Many companies are still in the process of finding out whether the flexibility offered in an initial decision after the pandemic is already the right one and goes hand in hand with the (new) company culture or whether further adjustments are necessary. But one thing is already clear: for companies that manage to successfully meet the expectations of their (key) employees in this regard, home office will become a competitive advantage in recruiting new talent and retaining existing key people.


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