Links between different office types, remote work and sickness absence before and after the coronavirus pandemic

As hybrid work is becoming more common and office spaces are being developed, new information is needed on the effects of remote work and different workspace designs on well-being. In this project, we examine the relations between remote work, the experience of the work environment, well-being at work and sickness absence in different office types. The project provides information to support the development of workspaces and remote work in knowledge work.




Activity-based offices are modern and space-efficient work environments in which employees can use different workspaces suitable for different purposes. Typically, there are no personal workstations and workspace is changed as needed. Moving from one's own room to an activity-based office is a common trend in Finland, for example, in expert organizations.

There has been very little research on the impact of modern office design, such as activity-based offices, on well-being at work and sickness absence. The increase of remote work and flexible working are also closely related to the popularity of activity-based, but previous studies have not examined office design and remote working together. In previous studies, the effects of changes in a work environment on well-being have not been followed up  over several years.

These issues are all the more topical as both remote work and office design are undergoing a major transformation as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The project aims to:

  • examine the relations between short sickness absence and remote work in organizations that have moved from different workspaces to an activity-based office
  • compare different workspace solutions in terms of short sickness absence and the amount of remote work, the experiences of the work environment and well-being at work
  • examine the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on remote work, short sickness absence and their relations
    explore how experiences of workspaces are linked to self-assessed work ability and well-being at work

Data and methods

The relations between remote work and sickness absence are examined by utilizing data from employers' own working time monitoring and HR systems accumulated over several years. The data will be used to investigate the development of remote work and short sickness absence for the period from before the coronavirus pandemic until the end of 2023. 

Particular attention will be paid to the effects of moving to an activity-based office on the amount and relationships of remote work and sickness absence. In addition, information is collected through surveys and documents concerning workspace design in order to obtain more detailed information about the conditions of the work environment and the perceived well-being at work, work ability and health. Five workplaces will participate in the project.

Results and impact

The project provides information to support the development of workspaces and remote work. Results will be available in 2024.

The results will be published in international scientific journals and communicated in various seminars, events, newspaper interviews and articles as well as in social media.

Our experts

Annu Haapakangas

Annu Haapakangas

Principal investigator, Chief researcher

Annu.Haapakangas [at]
+358 30 474 7521

Research group

Annina Ropponen, Elina Tulenheimo-Eklund, Suvi Hirvonen, Virpi Ruohomäki, Kari Reijula, Maria Hirvonen and Jaakko Airaksinen.


The Finnish Work Environment Fund, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and the participating organisations.