More employers are changing working patterns in a bid to reduce increasing levels of long-term absence among their staff, according to new research.
A study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that after a small fall last year, absence rates are back to those of three years ago, at an average of 7.6 days a year per employee.
Most working time lost is accounted for by short-term absences of up to seven days.
Employers are looking at issues such as the working day or flexible options, said the report.
Dr Jill Miller, research adviser at the CIPD, said most employees believe flexible working helps them achieve a better work-life balance.
"Changing demographics, including more people with caring responsibilities and the abolition of the default retirement age, means more people are looking to work untraditional hours."
Helen Dickinson of SimplyHealth, which helped with the research, added: "Getting flexible working right can lead to higher motivation levels, better productivity and increased flexibility."
Dr Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: "This survey demonstrates yet again the increasing pressures which are being placed on individuals by their employers, with a considerable rise in stress related absence.
"Nurses are facing the huge challenge of delivering care day in, day out, at a time of increased demand and scant resource.
"Workload increases have been shown to be the major source of stress. When this is coupled with a rapid pace of change and job insecurity, it is no wonder that many nurses are being driven towards burnout as they strive to keep care standards high without proper time or resources.
"Nurses forcing themselves to work when they are unwell, often due to the application of punitive sickness absence policies, can jeopardise patient care."