The pandemic has changed the way people work and live, and some of these changes may be permanent. One of them is the decline of the traditional five-day workweek, especially for office workers who can do their jobs remotely.
According to Steven Roth, the billionaire chairman of Vornado, one of New York City’s biggest commercial landlords, Fridays are “dead forever” for offices and Mondays are “touch and go”. He made this prediction in June 2023, based on his observation of the low occupancy rates of his properties.
His view is supported by Nick Bloom, a Stanford economics professor and the head of WFH Research, a group that has been studying remote work data since before the pandemic. Bloom tweeted on Friday that “Friday has become the day to #wfh” and that it “looks like [Steven Roth] was right”.
The rise of coordinated hybrid work
Bloom told Fortune that he was surprised by Roth’s prediction, but he agreed that Friday is increasingly becoming a preferred day to work from home. He attributed this trend to the “bigger push towards coordinated hybrid”, where firms encourage employees to come in on the same days for in-person socializing and collaboration.
Bloom said that it makes sense to coordinate with one’s coworkers, and that the consensus seems to be “that includes coordinating to be home on Friday”. He added that this is the best way to achieve “organized hybrid”, which he considers the gold standard working arrangement.
Bloom’s research shows that there is now a “three-part week”, where Mondays through Thursdays are one thing, the weekend is another, and then there’s Friday. He said that Friday is different from the weekend because people still work, but they do it from home.
The challenges of back-to-work mandates
While Fridays may still have a chance to revive as an office day, some major corporations have already put their foot down about returning to the office. For years, many high-profile companies have faced fierce resistance from employees who prefer to work remotely.
Amazon instituted a three-day minimum for in-person work back in February 2023. The policy faced its latest snafu earlier this week when some employees got a disciplinary email even though they had been complying with the new rules.
Google also has a policy of a mandatory three days in the office, and will reportedly only consider full-time remote work in exceptional circumstances. Meanwhile, Salesforce upped the ante even further, with an obligatory four days in-person for some teams.
Based on Bloom’s research, one might suspect that the lone work-from-home day for these employees might naturally be Friday. However, some experts warn that forcing employees to return to the office could backfire, as it could lower morale, productivity, and retention.
The future of work is flexible
The pandemic has shown that remote work is not only possible, but also beneficial for many workers and employers. According to a survey by PwC, 83% of employers say the shift to remote work has been successful for their company, and 55% of employees say they would prefer to work remotely at least three days a week even after the pandemic.
However, not everyone wants to work from home all the time. Some workers miss the social interaction, the structure, and the amenities of the office. Some also face challenges such as distractions, isolation, or lack of space at home. Therefore, a hybrid model that allows workers to choose where and when they work may be the best solution.
The future of work is flexible, and Fridays may be the first casualty of this shift. As more workers opt to stay home on Fridays, offices may become ghost towns on that day. However, this does not mean that offices are obsolete. Rather, they may need to adapt to the changing needs and preferences of their occupants.