HYBRID WORKING may be the future but that raises the question of how it will actually be organised. Will companies let their employees choose which days they come in to the office, and which days they are at home? And what about working hours? If employees do get a choice, they clearly need a strategy to maximise their visibility and minimise the stress. So this columnist has a few tips about which days you should opt to work from home.
Monday: Too obvious. You might as well say, “I’ve been drinking all weekend and I’m too hung over to come in.” In the 18th and early 19th centuries, when people were paid on Saturdays, absenteeism on the first official day of the working week was so common it was known as “Saint Monday”, because it felt almost like a second sabbath.
From the working point of view, Mondays are usually a day when some sort of team meeting is held and the priorities are set for the rest of the week. It would seem best to head in to the office on that day and postpone the time for solitary working until later in the week. Showing your enthusiasm to the boss by turning up on the first day of the week is probably a good idea as well.
Tuesday: Some people might not like the pattern created by spending Tuesdays at home, as it breaks the working week into two unequal chunks. Not Bartleby, who used to work from home that day before the pandemic struck, completing the column (taking out the typos, axing the non sequiturs and polishing the puns). Still, besides breaking up the week, home working on Tuesday also seems likely to be a day few others might choose. And then there is nothing more satisfying than looking out of the window and watching everyone else heading off to work, while you sit in your slippers, sipping a coffee.
Wednesday: Remote working on this day would appeal to Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie’s detective who was fond of symmetry and order. Two days of working in the office, a day at home, two more days in the office and then a two-day weekend. It doesn’t fit with The Economist’s schedule (Wednesday is deadline day). It is nevertheless a good one to pick. Ignore the “Wednesday’s child is full of woe” propaganda. Companies will probably be happy to allow employees to choose this day, as Mondays and Fridays will be the most popular options.
Thursday: Although it breaks up the working week in a similar way, this seems a less satisfactory remote working day than Tuesday. That is because, having avoided the commute on Thursday, you will have to go through the process all over again on a Friday. There is something to be said for this option, however, as it means you can start thinking about the weekend on Wednesday night.
Friday: Like Monday, this is too suspicious a choice. Colleagues will smile knowingly and use their fingers as inverted commas when you say you are “working from home” on Fridays. Managers will take to calling you at various moments in the day to listen out for tell-tale signs of the beach or golf course.
There is no need to risk experiencing this managerial suspicion. Slackers have long learned that Fridays tend to be more relaxed at the office; colleagues may disappear for long lunches (or early drinks) and no one will ask too many questions if you are not at your desk after 3pm. So if you genuinely want to bunk off work, go in on Fridays and sneak in your leisure time on a different day. And if you are a diligent employee who wants to maintain a reputation for hard work, don’t choose Friday for remote working.
Of course, many companies may allow two days of remote working, which leads to another ten possible combinations. To avoid suspicion, don’t pick Monday/Friday or Thursday/Friday as your remote combination. Tuesday and Thursday might be a good selection, as it means you will be at the office (and thus visible) every other day.
And then there is the possibility of flexible hours. Early risers may relish the chance to start the day at 8am, finish by 4pm and have the rest of the day to themselves. But in many companies the boss is up at the crack of dawn, so the early bird may be landed with all the work. Start at noon, and finish at 8pm, and you may find there is nobody around to bother you after 6pm, and you can safely have dinner and watch Netflix. The rules are changing and so is the potential to exploit them. To flourish in the era of remote working, employees will need the cunning of Machiavelli and the tactical brilliance of Napoleon.
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This article appeared in the Business section of the print edition under the headline “Timing is everything”