Workers are 30 per cent less likely to call in sick if they know their absence will cause difficulties for colleagues, claims a new study. Researchers from the University of Aberdeen and the University of Bath in the UK show how our relationships with work colleagues plays an equally significant role in our decision-making. The findings come from a study of absence rates among optometrists in the north-east of Scotland, which showed that workplace absence rates dropped by 30 per cent in situations where a fellow employee was expected to pick up the burden created by their colleague’s absence.
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Researchers looked at the absence records of over 60 optometrists in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, some of whom worked alone, and some as part of a team of two. It found that those working in teams of two, who would be expected to pick up extra appointments because of their colleague’s absence but without extra pay, were significantly less likely to call in sick than those working alone.
The study suggest that people working as part of a team do care about each other, and cooperate in a way that lowers absence rates compared to lone workers who do not share the same concerns. “Economists have traditionally modelled human behaviour by assuming people maximise their personal satisfaction subject to some form of constraint, whether it be money or otherwise,” said Alexandros Zangelidis from the University of Aberdeen.
“They tended to say relatively little about the effect of relationships between family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues,” said Zangelidis. “Such neglect reflected perhaps not an ignorance of the importance of such interactions, but rather an awareness of how difficult it is to model theoretically, and measure empirically, such phenomena,” he added. The study was published in the Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organisation.