To hybrid or not to hybrid? To mandate or not mandate? To commute or not to commute?
These are just a few of the questions that have been plaguing companies and employees alike since the pandemic helped remote work and hybrid schedules become more commonplace. By and large, those first two questions have been answered.
Hybrid work: While companies will always have remote employees and roles that require 5 days in the office, the vast majority of teams will operate on some kind of hybrid working schedule. In fact, just 6 out of 158 U.S. CEOs said they'll prioritize bringing workers back to the office full-time in 2024, according to a new survey released by the Conference Board.
Mandates: We know now that mandates don't positively impact business outcomes and do negatively impact employees. New research from the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh found that office mandates may not help companies’ financial performances, but they can make workers less satisfied with their jobs and work-life balance.
But what about that third question? What days are the best days to come into the office? Here's a few pointers to help you decide.
What to Consider when Planning Your Trips to the Office
There are lots of things to consider when planning your work-week. Are you a working parent that needs to head into the office for focus work? Are you someone who feels energized by working around other people? Are you the type of person that gets more out of team meetings when physically present?
Some people are motivated by WHO will be in the office and WHEN, some people are motivated by WHAT and WHERE they need to get done and others are more motivated by HOW and WHY they work.
Let's explore the who, what, when, where and why of office days.
Who Will be in Office?
Generally speaking, the backbone of the physical workplace is the people in it. Your job as a workplace leader is to make getting together as easy as possible. When you do, office attendance handles itself.
Consider this: 84% of employees would be motivated by the promise of socializing with coworkers, according to research from Microsoft. What’s more, employees also report that they would go to the office more frequently if they knew their direct team members would be there (73%) or if their work friends were there (74%)
There’s nothing worse than commuting into the office just to find a sea of empty desks. Consider planning your in-office days around collaboration. Take a look at who will be around and on which days and build your schedule from there.
What Kind of Work Needs to be Done?
There are certain types of work that are just more conducive to being in person. By the same token, there are tasks that are better completed at home. Understanding what kind of work you have on your plate can be helpful when deciding whether or not to make the trek into the office.
Maybe on Tuesday you have a few internal team meetings and you know you have to chat with some of the sales reps about a functional project your working on together. In this case, the office makes tons of sense as you'll be able to have impromptu conversations with sales and see your team in-person.
Maybe Wednesday your day is jam-packed with customer calls via video conferencing, meaning you'd be holed up in a meeting room all day. On this occasion, maybe it makes more sense to stay home, opting for the office on a day where you can interact with your coworkers more often.
Additionally, part of the "what" when it comes to the office has to do with what's happening on-site. Social office events can be a real driver for people to make the commute. Especially when you consider that:
- 74% of male workers and 66% of females crave more meaningful bonds with colleagues (Nectar)
- 75% of people make their friends through work (YouGov)
- 52% of people want more connections at work (BetterUp)
While the office's main function is work, it also functions as a social hub for people. When you consider that the average worker spends 81,396 hours at work over a lifetime, the decrease in office time as of late and the increase in loneliness makes sense.
Where is the Best Work Done?
Some people work best in a noisy environment. Others work best when they can easily grab their manager or a team member for a quick brainstorm.
For some, working from home just isn't the heads-down, productive nirvana that it is for others. Maybe you live in an apartment with 4 other people and you're distracted there. Maybe you are a mom of 3 and need the office not only for focus work but for some adult interaction.
There is no hard and fast rule here, rather it falls on the individual to not only determine their preferences but to communicate them to their managers. Keeping communication lines open around what works and what doesn't is critical to helping everyone understand how best to support different types of working preferences.
When Do People Tend to Come into the Office?
Obviously there is a lot to consider when planning your week. So what days tend to be the highest-traffic days in workplaces across the country?
In 2023, Tuesday moved into the top spot with 25% of weekly bookings falling on this day. Wednesday remains the second most popular day of the week which is now closely followed by Thursday. This preference is reflected in space and desk bookings as well.
As teams embrace a more regular cadence of in-office work, they are opting for the middle of the week as their dedicated collaboration days. One thing is for sure: Mondays and Fridays are not popular. In fact, according to one of New York’s most prominent landlords, Friday office work might just be dead forever.
It's also worth remembering that there will always be peaks and troughs in office attendance. For example, during the holiday season the majority of companies see considerably fewer people in the office due to travel, time off or (sometimes) bad weather conditions.
These pits and peaks are normal but can also help individuals decide if they want to head into the office during these periods. An empty office, for some, means plenty of focus time and minimal distractions.
Why is the Office Beneficial?
Historically, the office played a big role in networking with peers and finding mentorship from more senior team members. The office can be exceptionally beneficial for new professionals and new employees.
And, as it turns out, one of the core drivers for coming into the office is getting face time with executives. In our latest report, Employee motivators: How to get People Back in Office, we found that when asked to choose between free parking or the opportunity for one-on-one time with a manager or executive, 40% said face time was more important to them.
This becomes even more pronounced with younger generations. In fact, according to Microsoft, 78% of Gen Z and Millennials are looking to connect with senior leadership in the office and 80% come in to get time with their direct managers. As younger generations enter the workforce, they'll be looking toward office time to network with colleagues and to partake in informal learning. The same logic applies to incoming team members.
But it's not just new employees or are younger professionals that can benefit from the office. Water-cooler conversations were mentioned a lot in the early days of lockdown, that loss of spontaneous interactions between colleagues in the kitchen, chance encounters as you make your way to the coffee machine. These touchpoints are important pieces of building workplace communities.
Making Hybrid Work, Work
When more people are working from the office, there are a host of benefits not just for company culture but for the entire team. Every person has different reasons for making the trip but we know that these in-office days can be invaluable for people who may need some extra support or just need a productive space to get things done.
Not to mention, connecting with colleagues in positive ways, where psychological safety is high, prompts the release of oxytocin and vasopressin, which in turn counteract the effects of stress.
Whatever your reason for heading into the office, we can all agree that there is something special about being in an office surrounded by people with similar goals and missions. Curious to learn more about how you can better incentivize your teams to get together in person? Check out how Robin reimagined commuter benefits and increased office attendance by 40%.