The majority (65%) of SME workers say they are less likely to take sick leave when working from home.

Among those who felt unwell but didn’t take sick leave, 32 percent could not financially afford to take time off work, and 25 percent were too busy to do to take time off.

The research conducted by Opinium also found that 21 percent did not want to let their colleagues down, and 20 percent felt pressured to work through it. So, what does the reluctancy to take sick leave say about current employee wellbeing policies?

These findings may suggest severe lack of benefits in place to cater for employee wellbeing, as 72 percent of SMEs do not offer wellbeing days.


A lack of sick leave culture: what does it say about the company?

“As a business, your attitudes, behaviour, and beliefs will all ultimately present to people what you truly think about employee wellbeing. If people are feeling unseen and pressured to work through illness, that’s really not a good sign. Now is not the time to ignore your culture and the true ripple effect it has on your people,” says Lizzie Benton, Company Culture Coach & Founder at Liberty Mind.

“After two years of momentous life changes, employees across the UK are considering whether where they work is adding to their life or taking something away. That’s why it’s important to put your people first when making decisions that impact them both personally and professionally. Creating a positive healthy company culture is ongoing work and it’s a choice that will benefit your business in the long run,” adds Ms Benton.


Flexible working

It was also found that only half of companies offer flexible working, despite overwhelming majority (67%) stating WFH supports work-life balance and overall wellbeing

However, when employees are working from home, it was found that over half (54%) of SME employees work overtime, and almost half (44%) struggle to be ‘seen’ by their employer.


Working from home and productivity

It also uncovered workers are under pressure to appear more productive when WFH, with 42 percent of respondents feeling the need to prove productive and justify output when working at home.

This comes with continuing to work overtime and in turn suffering from work related stress in the last three months.

While balancing a company culture across a hybrid working structure is no easy task, SME leaders must address any toxic traits in their existing culture, like overworking, if they hope to maintain a healthy and productive workforce.

“The benefits for mental and physical wellbeing that come from a flexible approach to work patterns have been widely discussed but are still so important. Flexible working can positively impact physical, mental and financial wellbeing,” says UK Generale Manager, Breathe, Rachel King.

“That said, working from home has proven effective for many people, but crucially not for all. It’s often the case that people find themselves working longer hours and taking less sick leave, under pressure to be seen as super productive when working remotely. Employers should look for ways to tackle the ‘always-on’ ethos and habits that have crept into remote working culture. Focusing on creating a culture that supports flexible working as standard can benefit teams and improve productivity if handled intentionally,” adds Ms King.








Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.