Fridays at work are not what they used to be, but good planning and employee buy-in can bring working Fridays back.
In the post pandemic world, Fridays float in a no man’s land. Not quite a regular workday and not quite a weekend. This creates a whole new set of workplace dilemmas which could be bad for business.
“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 day when the more formal dress code might give way to casual wear,” Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, a workplace design consultancy, says.
“In any way 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 pyjamas and shorts. There was nothing exciting about leaving work a little early to get home, because many of us were already doing that.”
Trim says these changes 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 drew the short straw? Can you ask a client for a Friday call, or is that intrusive?
“Can you tell your boss that you work from home on Fridays, 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 in to work on the day it might be a ghost town?”
Trim says 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.
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What to make of Fridays?
“We must 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?”
Trim notes that it is possible to create a hybrid schedule where the Friday-at-home privilege rotates within or across teams. However, 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 will find in the office.
“Another option is to just declare Fridays part of the weekend, embracing the four-day workweek. There is now plenty of evidence that a shorter workweek preserves productivity and boosts employee well-being.”
But a four-day work week is not always feasible for organisation in a five-day work world. Trim says that is exactly why some four-day-workweek employers end up with a staggered schedule: even if your own employees work only four days, you may have to offer Friday hours to clients.
However, Trim says there is a third way. “If you are not prepared to turn Fridays into a weekend, there is 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 is different from a four-day workweek because it is not a day off by default. Instead, Fridays become the day when employees tackle focused work, since they will not be interrupted by emails, texts and phone calls, she says.
“There is 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 grey zone.”