Are Friday office drinks a thing of the past?

As employees continue to embrace working from home, Cathy Hendry suspects there will be more developments and initiatives to encourage workers back to the office.

With employees embracing working from home as the new normal, many organisations are now dealing with the challenge of encouraging employees back into the office.

Most employees have found a lot of benefits to working from home and the thought of facing a daily commute into the office can be quite daunting after so long at home.

However, remote working has come at the expense of creating a sense of belonging or connectiveness with fellow co-workers and it is also becoming an issue for new hires as unless there are other employees in the office, they struggle to get the opportunity to collaborate and learn from others.

As a result, some organisations have taken quite a hard line with regards to returning to work and received a fair amount of public backlash (most notably Facebook, Tesla and SpaceX).

It seems that most organisations are opting for a more moderate approach by setting a minimum number of days expected in the office but as a result of this policy an interesting trend is emerging where most employees are opting to not come into office on a Friday.

A recent article in The Washington Post noted that a building security firm in the US found that only 30 percent of workers swiped into work on Fridays in June this year.

The next lowest office attendance is on Mondays where 41 percent of workers are coming into the office, while Tuesdays are typically the busiest day.

Traditionally, Fridays have been viewed as a more relaxed day, with casual dress, team lunches and an early knock off with company work drinks.

With the option to work from home, many employees are opting to forgo the office and get a jump start on their weekend.
The trouble with this trend is it is hard to turn it around. The main reason for coming into the office post pandemic is collaborating with your team, those that are electing to come into the office on a Friday are likely to be faced with sparsely filled desks.

They are probably not going to be inspired to return again the next Friday and there is little chance of a high attendance at any Friday work drinks either.

Given employees have shown they can be just as productive and effective working from home, there needs to be a compelling reason to come into the office.

It is likely that Friday will tend to default to one of the work from home days if given a choice. This is a challenge for organisations and there seems to be no silver bullet or well-established solutions to counteract empty offices on a Friday.

It is likely organisations will go one of two ways, either accept that Fridays are likely to be quiet in the office and things like office drinks are a thing of a past or look at ways to entice workers to come into the office.

Some initiatives that are being trialled include declaring Friday a video free meeting day so employees wanting to collaborate can do so in-person. Others have started shouting lunches or providing tempting morning and afternoon teas. Some articles on the topic are even suggesting this will push organisations to move to a four-day week.  

It will be interesting to see how the flexible working revolution will continue and I suspect there will be more developments and initiatives to encourage workers back to the office.

In the meantime, if you are planning on picking a day to commute to the office and want to avoid the queues, Friday is likely to be the best day. You are also likely to see more of your fellow workers if you pick Tuesday as one of your office days.  
Cathy Hendry is the Managing Director at Strategic Pay.

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