Happy Friday: Are offices emptying a day early?

For decades we have been looking at ways to ease Fridays in the office – from drink trolleys to half days in summer. Now people are wondering – do we need Fridays at all?

It started with the Friday afternoon drinks trolley. Then there were dress down Fridays. Then summer Fridays became a thing, along with work from home Fridays, and now there is the four-day week that increasing numbers of companies have started to adopt. Even without any formalised arrangements, there have always been the people who use their annual leave to book off every single Friday for three months.

Fridays have always been the day off of choice because we all love an extended weekend. But the post pandemic rise of hybrid working has pushed that further. It has changed our expectations and our understanding of what it means to work productively, so now many are asking – do we even need Fridays anymore?

Flexi-Fridays

IWG data shows that businesses globally are shifting to two or three days in the office each week. In the UK, IWG workspace data shows that office attendance is 23% higher across Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday than on Mondays and Fridays. Kastle Systems, which provides building security services for 2,600 buildings across the US, told the Washington Post that just 30% of workers swiped into work on Fridays in June, the least of any weekday. So, does this matter? Should employers worry that their desks are empty before the working week has officially ended, or could it be viewed as a positive thing?

Of course, desks are not empty necessarily. People are just sitting at different desks – one at home perhaps, or at a flexspace closer to where they live. The rise of hybrid working has been proven in repeated surveys to make employees happier and more productive.

A report by Catalyst found that employees with access to remote work options are 63% more likely to say they feel innovative, and 75% more likely to feel engaged in their work. These findings were backed up by IWG research, which found that nearly a third of respondents (31%) said they felt that productivity is enhanced by the hybrid model. So, Fridays at home are not about slacking, they could just be about making life easier and work better.

The 4pm meeting

Employers are clearly divided on whether Friday is a key working day, or one in which to give employees more freedom. Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group reportedly banned staff from working from home on Fridays because it had become an “unproductive day of the week”. And there are always those anecdotal tales of managers scheduling repeated 4pm meetings every Friday just to check that people haven’t logged off early (there are Reddit threads devoted to this behaviour).

On the flip side, you get companies like Sony who offer their staff Summer Fridays to “allow team members to take a half day to prioritise their wellbeing”. Fintech start-up Bolt has gone one further and joined the increasing number of companies to have scrapped Friday working altogether and embraced the four-day week. Founder Ryan Breslow said the move “speaks to a shift in people’s working styles”, adding, “Work will fill the space you give to it. My bet is that we’re going to become vastly more efficient from Monday to Thursday.

The small things

Of course, a slower Friday – whatever form it takes – is not an option for all companies and 24-hour businesses, but what is obvious is that employees love flexibility and a clear and meaningful respect for their home life. A Friday without a commute, a Friday spent at home, in joggers, and with the ability to do a 20-minute YouTube HIIT session if you want to, is a simple gift that employers can offer their staff, and it costs nothing.

In fact, it’s better than that; it can save you money. Research from Global Workspace Analytics shows that the adoption of hybrid working and the use of flexible office space means companies are saving on those traditional fixed overhead costs such as rent, heating, and support staff – adding up to an average of more than £8,000 per employee. Flexible terms also entice the best staff to your company – 72% of office workers would prefer long-term flexibility over where they are based to a 10% pay rise, according to IWG stats.

The fact is, that for the majority of people, now that they have experienced the benefits of hybrid working, it is difficult to go back to how it was before. The thought of having to sit at a particular desk for a particular number of days and hours sounds archaic now that we think about it. And how productive are those 4pm Friday meetings anyway?

If the freedom of flexible working appeals to you, check out our office Spaces near where you live.

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