About a million and one surveys have asked workers if, after the pandemic is over, they'd like to return to the office. An approximately equivalent number have asked bosses to weigh in on how they think things will shake out. And while the details and methodologies may differ a bit, the overall picture that's emerged is remarkably consistent.
People miss the office, but in moderation. They want to go back, but not every day, and they definitely don't want to entirely lose the freedom to control their own schedule that they've gained during the pandemic.
Which sounds like the dream of a happy medium -- we'll all work from home more, still get our fix of office conviviality, and save time and energy on commuting. What could go wrong? A new report from consultancy Advanced Workplace Associates may have found a hitch in the plan. Everyone wants to work from home a bit more and everyone, it seems, has the same days in mind.
The problem of the "Swiss cheese" workweek
"Analysis by global consultancy Advanced Workplace Associates claims that people want to work from home on the same days -- Mondays and Fridays -- so that their 2-3 days in the office are all bunched together and workplace utilization could resemble a Swiss cheese," reports Workplace Insight.
"This bunching threatens to undermine many of the benefits of a part-time working-from-home revolution prompted by the changes that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought," the article goes on to say.
If we're all working in the office on the same (though fewer) days, midweek commutes will be just as crowded, as will midweek offices, forcing companies to retain the same real estate footprint. It also means that both firms and the earth will miss out on potential energy savings when companies end up heating and cooling nearly deserted offices on the days adjoining the weekend.
A heads-up for bosses
This is, of course, only one report, but even a cursory knowledge of human nature suggests it might be on to something. It's no shocker that people might want to extend that weekend feeling by a couple of days (though the experience of some firms' experimenting with four-day workweeks suggests they'd get more refreshment from a midweek break).
That's a heads-up to bosses to be on the lookout for this potential problem before employees start returning to work. When designing your plans, think through how to spread out or concentrate your team's work-from-home days in a way that's best for your company.
Could sending everyone home the same days help you cut your utility bills or create an opportunity to designate a day for meeting-free deep work? Alternately, do you want to spread people out so you can go back to a smaller space? Does your business require certain coverage that would be complicated by a deserted office some days?
These are all questions you need to think through now, so that your return to a more flexible schedule doesn't turn into a cycle of deserted Fridays and wildly overcrowded Wednesdays. Because without intervention it's pretty clear that most of your team is going to choose to stay home the same two days of the week.