The Hottest Work Day Of The Week Is Now...Wednesday?
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The Hottest Work Day Of The Week Is Now…Wednesday?

Hybrid workweeks let people decide which days to go to the office. The one in the middle is their top choice.

By Peter Grant
Thu, May 12, 2022 10:36amGrey Clock 4 min

The pandemic has turned a lot of things upside down. That includes the week.

For years, Mondays sort of haunted the weekend, a looming day when the fun would be over and it was time to get serious again.

But as employers start asking their work-from-home people to come in part of the time, a different day is taking centre stage: It’s Wednesday.

At lunchtime on a recent Wednesday in Midtown Manhattan—a place that still bears plenty of pandemic vacancy—most tables were full at Oceana, Del Frisco’s, Boucherie, Bobby Van’s Steakhouse and other fancy eateries.

Groups who showed up at the Mediterranean restaurant Limani had to wait. “From now on they should make reservations,” advised George Saites, Limani’s manager.

Commuter rail lines in cities like Boston and San Francisco found Wednesday typically the busiest weekday in April. The same is true of hotel occupancy in many big cities, a sign salespeople know that is the day they’re likeliest to find contacts in the office, said Jan Freitag, director of hospitality analytics at CoStar Group Inc.

An average of 46% of U.S. office workers went to work on Wednesdays in March, said Kastle Systems, a security firm that monitors access-card swipes. That trounced Monday’s meagre 35%.

Wednesday used to be rather ho-hum as days go—too far into the week to start anything ambitious, but not close enough to the weekend to start pining for time off.

Nobody talks about the Wednesday-morning blues. There’s no Wednesday the 13th film series. No one says TGIW. Consider its distinctly unglamorous nickname: Hump Day.

So what has made Wednesday Office Day instead?

In a world of hybrid work, many companies that allow employees to split time between the office and their home let them to choose which days to come in. But many firms would like it to be about three.

“Some [companies] are saying Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Some are saying Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Some are saying Wednesday, Thursday, Friday,” said Brian Kropp, chief of human-resources research for advisory firm Gartner.

There’s one common day in these scenarios: “All the natural rhythms of work say that Wednesdays are going to be the day when we’re together,” Mr. Kropp said.

Office landlords and downtown business organizations fretful about the slow pace of tenants’ return are trying to pick up on the Wednesday mojo by holding special events. On a Wednesday morning earlier this month, members of the Chicago Group Alliance greeted returning workers at the Thompson Center office building, cheering marathon-style.

Dozens of office buildings managed by JLL, a real estate services firm, hold themed events every Wednesday. There are Woof Wednesdays for dog owners in a San Francisco building that allows tenants to bring pets. In other cities, there are Wellness Wednesdays with fitness classes on roofs and plazas.

Last week, Wednesday fortuitously fell on May 4, which has been adopted by Star Wars fans for “May the Fourth Be With You” celebrations. Two of JLL’s Washington, D.C., buildings treated tenants to Yoda Soda, Wookiee Cookies and Jabba Juice.

In Florida, Breakwater Hospitality Group is planning to add Whiskey Wednesday and Wine Wednesday events at its restaurants in Fort Lauderdale and Miami’s Brickell business district to capitalize on the trend.

The critical mass of workers on Wednesday can be self-reinforcing, some managers suggest. Employees say they like office socialization, so it makes sense to go in on the day you think the most other people will.

“Wednesday is definitely the anchor,” said Rebecca Tsallis, one of the architects of a hybrid work strategy for North America at Ford Motor Co.

Office workers are still adapting to Wednesday’s new prominence. People working from home on Mondays and Tuesdays no longer feel the “Sunday scaries” as Monday approaches, said Cailin Rogers, principal of Alta Via, a Chicago marketing firm.

Some are even beginning to express frustration about Wednesdays because there isn’t enough room, in the case of businesses that shed space during the pandemic in anticipation of a hybrid work strategy, said Mr. Kropp of Gartner.

The result is a little Wednesday-morning quarterbacking. Mr. Kropp said workers are saying, “Gosh, you tell me to come in and it’s crowded. And then you say because it’s crowded, we’re not supposed to be in a conference room all together….So, why am I coming in again?”

If the rate of return to the office keeps rising, some employers might start encouraging workers to come in on more Mondays and Fridays, according to workplace consultants. Otherwise, employers that have unloaded a lot of space might risk running out of room on Wednesdays.

Allie Brush won’t cause them any problem. Ms. Brush, the client-relations director for a New York architecture and engineering firm, got used to working alone during the pandemic and prefers it for the quiet. She goes to her office on Mondays and Tuesdays, when the place is less crowded.

“I avoid the chaos of Wednesday,” she said.

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: May 11, 2022.


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What’s still keeping American workers out of the office?

At a time when restaurants, planes and concert arenas are packed to the rafters, office buildings remain half full. Thinly populated cubicles and hallways are straining downtown economies and, bosses say, fragmenting corporate cultures as workers lose a sense of engagement.

Yet workers say high costs, caregiving duties, long commutes and days still scheduled full of Zooms are keeping them at home at least part of the time, along with a lingering sense that they’re able to do their jobs competently from anywhere. More than a dozen workers interviewed by The Wall Street Journal say they can’t envision returning to a five-day office routine, even if they’re missing career development or winding up on the company layoff list.

Managers say they will renew the push to get employees back into offices later this year. The share of companies planning to keep office attendance voluntary, rather than mandatory, is dropping, according to a survey released in May of more than 200 corporate real-estate executives conducted by property-services firm CBRE, one of the largest managers of U.S. office space.

A battle of wills could be ahead. The gap between what employees and bosses want remains wide, with bosses expecting in-person collaboration and workers loath to forgo flexibility, according to monthly surveys of worker sentiment maintained by Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford University economist who studies remote work.

Escalating expenses

One reason workers say they’re reluctant to return is money. Some who have lost remote-work privileges said they are spending hundreds, or in some cases thousands, of dollars each month on meals, commutes and child care.

One supercommuter who treks to her Manhattan job from her home in Philadelphia negotiated a two-day-a-week limit to her New York office time this year. Otherwise, she said she could easily spend $10,000 a year on Amtrak tickets if she commuted five days a week.

Christos Berger, a 25-year-old mortgage-loan assistant who lives outside Washington, D.C., estimates she spends $2,100 on child care and $450 on gas monthly now that she is working up to three days a week in the office.

Berger and her husband juggled parenting duties when they were fully remote. The cost of office life has her contemplating a big ask: clearance to work from home full time.

“Companies are pushing you to be available at night, be available on weekends,” she said, adding that she feels employers aren’t taking into account parents’ need for family time.

Rachel Cottam, a 31-year-old head of content for a tech company, works full time from her home near Salt Lake City, making the occasional out-of-town trip to headquarters. She used to be a high-school teacher, spending weekdays in the classroom. Back then, she and her husband spent $100 a week on child care and $70 a week on gas. Now they save that money. She even let her car insurance company know she no longer commutes and they knocked $5 a month off the bill.

Friends who have been recalled to offices tell Cottam about the added cost of coffee, lunch and beauty supplies. They also talk about the emotional cost they feel from losing work flexibility.

“For them, it feels like this great ‘future of work’ they’ve been gifted is suddenly ripped away,” she said.

Parent trade-offs

If pandemic-era flexible schedules go away, a huge number of parents will drop out of the workforce, workers say.

When Meghan Skornia, a 36-year-old urban planner and married mother of an 18-month-old son, was looking for a new job last year, she weeded out job openings with strict in-office policies. Were she given such mandates, she said, she would consider becoming an independent consultant.

The firm in Portland, Ore., where Skornia now works requests one day a week in the office, but doesn’t dictate which day. The arrangement lets her spend time with her son and juggle her job duties, she said. “If I were in the office five days a week, I wouldn’t really ever see my son, except for weekends.”

Emotional labor

For some, coming into the office means donning a mask to fit in.

Kenneth Thomas, 42, said he left his investment-firm job in the summer of 2021 when the company insisted that workers return to the office full time. Thomas, who describes himself as a 6-foot-2 Black man, said managing how he was perceived—not slipping into slang or inadvertently appearing threatening through body language—made the office workday exhausting. He said that other professionals of colour have told him they feel similarly isolated at work.

“When I was working from home, it freed up so much of my mental bandwidth,” he said. His current job, treasurer of a green-energy company, allows him to work remotely two or three days a week.

Lost productivity

The longer the commute, the less likely workers are to return to offices.

Ryan Koch, a Berkeley, Calif., resident, went to his San Francisco office two days a week as required late last year, but then he let his attendance slide, because commuting to an office felt pointless. “I’m doing the same video calls that I can be doing at home,” he said.

Koch, who works in sales, said his nonattendance wasn’t noted so long as his numbers were good. When Koch and other colleagues were unable to meet sales quotas in recent weeks, they were laid off. Ignoring the in-office requirement probably didn’t help, he said, adding he hopes to land a new hybrid role where he goes in one or two days.

Jess Goodwin, a 36-year-old media-marketing professional, turned down an offer to go from freelance to full time earlier this year because the role required office time and no change in pay.

Goodwin said a manager “made it really clear that this is what they’re mandating right now and it could change in the future to ‘you have to be back in five days a week.’”

Goodwin, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., calculated that subway commutes to Midtown Manhattan would consume more than 150 hours annually, in addition to time spent getting ready for work.

Goodwin’s holding out for a better offer. She said she would consider a hybrid position if it came with a generous package and good commute, adding: “And I would also probably need something in my contract being like, ‘We’re not going to increase the number of days you have to come in.’”


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