As the remote vs. hybrid vs. in-person work debate continues, a new survey suggests health outcomes may have a role to play in swaying employers and job seekers alike.
While remote work can have harmful effects on the brain and body and in-person work can reduce leisure time and make caregiving trickier, somewhere in the middle may be the sweet spot—at least when assessing health metrics.
A recent study published by the International Workplace Group (IWG), a company that provides businesses with hybrid workplace solutions, found that hybrid workers are sleeping and exercising for longer, dedicating more time to establish healthy eating habits, and reporting spending more time on their health and well-being.
The 2,000 hybrid workers in the U.K. who were studied reported getting more sleep compared to before the pandemic, amounting to an extra 71 hours in bed in the morning per year. The survey found hybrid workers squeezed in 4.7 hours of exercise per week as opposed to an average of 3.4 prior to the pandemic.
Seventy percent of hybrid workers reported having more time each day to prepare a healthy breakfast, and over half find more time to cook intentionally nutrient-rich meals throughout the workweek.
“There is no doubt that hybrid working has facilitated some major health benefits,” says Dr. Sara Kayat, an NHS GP who partnered with IWG on the study, in a statement. “A balanced diet, physical activity and good quality sleep are the bedrocks of a healthy lifestyle, and this data suggests that each is more widespread due to the extra time afforded by a hybrid working model.”
Albeit not necessarily intentional, 27% of hybrid workers reported losing weight since the start of the pandemic, and the majority of respondents say it was due to more time spent exercising and crafting nutritious meals.
The ability to prioritize sleep, exercise, and healthy eating has in turn positively affected hybrid workers’ mental health. Two-thirds of the respondents report good mental health because of the hybrid switch; 81% have more personal time to spend with others or on their health and well-being.
“Offering hybrid working is such an important and easy way for businesses to put their employees first by freeing up their time and giving them greater control over their schedules,” says Mark Dixon, the CEO of IWG, in a statement.
Still, experts say doing hybrid well takes coordination. If you sparsely go in-person, the benefits of doing so happen when socialization and teamwork are prioritized.
“So it’s not the nightmare of 2021 where you’re in the office, I’m at home; I’m in the office, you’re at home,” says Nick Bloom, a Stanford economics professor on the podcast McKinsey Global Institute’s Forward Thinking podcast, whose quote previously appeared in Fortune. “It’s where everyone comes in on the same anchor days, and everyone stays at home on the same home days,” which can help bolster productivity and comradery while valuing worker flexibility.
This survey comes as employees have pushed back on full-time in-office mandates.