In the post pandemic world, Fridays float in no man’s land, not quite a regular workday, and not quite a weekend – creating a whole new set of workplace dilemmas which could be bad for business according to.
We may have returned to the office, but so many workers are still at home on Fridays. It used to be the day the boss might invite the team to leave work a little early, or the more formal dress code might give way to casual ware.
But Friday was still another day at the office.
Then Covid turned the work world upside down, and Fridays lost their bit of magic.
There was nothing special about a casual dress code, once we were living full-time in PJs and shorts, and nothing exciting about leaving work a little early to get home, because many of us were already doing that.
The changes have created a dilemma in working culture and a puzzling new work etiquette to navigate.
Can you set up a hybrid schedule where different members of the team come into the office on different days, or will the Friday staffers always feel like they’ve drawn the short straw? Can you ask a client for a Friday call, or is that intrusive?
Can you tell your boss that you’re working Fridays from home, or will that make you seem like a slacker? Can you close the office altogether on Fridays, or do you need to leave the doors open for the handful of employees who prefer going into work on the day it might be a ghost town?
All this confusion is bad for business, bad for teams and bad for employees who need to know how to plan their days and weeks.
We need to decide what to make of Fridays in this new world of work: Are they part of the workweek? A new, permanent three-day weekend? Or something in between?
It is possible to create a hybrid schedule in which the Friday-at-home privilege rotates within or across teams. But that has its own problems in having to choreograph who gets which Fridays at home, and the unpredictability of employees never quite knowing who they’ll find in the office.
Another option is to just declare Fridays part of the weekend, embracing the four-day workweek. There’s now plenty of evidence that a shorter workweek preserves productivity and boosts employee well-being.
But it isn’t always feasible to be a four-day-a-week organisation in a five-day world. That’s exactly why some four-day-workweek employers end up with a staggered schedule: Even if your own employees work only four days, you may need to offer Friday hours to clients.
There is a third way.
If you’re not prepared to turn Fridays into a weekend, there’s there’s another way: keep Friday in the notional workweek, but run it on different rules.
Picture Fridays where the office is closed, phones are off, texting is on hold and emails can wait until Monday. But it’s different from a four-day workweek because it isn’t a day off by default. Instead, Fridays become the day when employees tackle focused work, since they won’t be interrupted by emails, texts and phone calls.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the Friday dilemma, but what is universal is the challenge of planning a workweek when one-fifth of our workweek is now in a gray zone.
Linda Trim is the Director at Giant Leap.