What Really Happens When a Co-Worker Takes Extended Leave?
Perspectives From 538 Employees
Productivity Implications for Employer Leave Strategies
Several states and municipalities appear poised to adopt paid leave laws that cover most employees. To help employers design leave policies that sustain productivity with minimal impact to staff workloads, morale, and personnel costs, IBI surveyed U.S. employees about their experiences with co-workers’ extended leaves.
The survey results indicate that while expansions of paid leave greatly benefit employees who need time off, increased stressors on co-workers who cover absent workers’ responsibilities may impose challenges to employers.
- Three in four employees worked as part of a team or work group. Among these employees, three in five experienced a co-worker’s extended absence (two weeks or more) for a health, bonding, or family leave reason in the previous 12 months.
- Nearly half of employees who experienced a co-worker’s extended absence reported at least one associated personal or business consequence. One in five reported more than one consequence. The most common consequences were personal, such as increased stress or difficulty completing one’s own work.
- More than half of employees who experienced a co-worker’s extended absence reported that staff took on the absent employee's responsibilities. One in three reported that staff put in more overtime or spent more time at work than usual. Obtaining extra help such as the use of temporary replacements or outsourcing work was reported infrequently.
- Adaptations such as having staff spend more time at work or perform an absent worker’s responsibilities were significantly associated with greater personal consequences. More time at work and outsourcing were significantly associated with greater productivity consequences. These outcomes may undermine other company priorities such as retention and emotional well-being.