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Inside 'Wednesday plus one' office culture
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In the newsletter a few months ago there was discussion of how firms were likely to give an additional push in the autumn to get workers back into the office more.
Why? Well there’s a lingering feeling amongst leaders that workplace culture doesn’t feel the same. That workers who once seemed motivated now seem semi-detached and disengaged. The persistence of higher resignation rates gives a data point to suggest that we’re not as enamoured with our organisations as we used to be. With a recession on the horizon this is reason for alarm bells to be sounding.
Additionally several workplace news stories of the last few weeks offer support to this theory. The Google CEO Sundar Pichai got into a spat with employees last week after getting misty eyed remembering when their relationship was characterised by scrappiness rather than entitlement. His ‘what happened to us?’ act didn’t go down brilliantly with his employees. (I guess tough talk is difficult when you have the worst CEO pay gap in the world) New workplace research (funded by Microsoft) that reported that 85% of leaders say they aren’t confident that their workers are productive remotely. (Conversely 9 out 10 workers feel they are).
One of the challenges of the moment of work is that, while bosses are demanding that their team members come into the office, promising collaboration, connection and creativity, the experience of the office is coming up short.
The long and short of it is that without co-ordination the office doesn’t work.
For many workers going into the office for four days or three uncoordinated days is a frustrating experience. They find they don’t see anyone, and they spend a day in the office doing video calls. It seems pointless.
Of course the truth is that open plan offices always struggled to routinely deliver such things. As this article last week reminds us, open plan offices are associated with higher stress, lower satisfaction and lower productivity. Frankly, we could never get our work done in noisy, shared floors and has always driven us mad. The article cites another study that says that open plan offices are associated with worse moods, amen to that.
So what’s the solution? Fewer days in the office that have some degree of co-ordination to them.
This week’s podcast explores two approaches to that challenge. Firstly we hear from John Sills, who tells us how his firm The Foundation are trying out a culture of ‘Wednesday plus one’, then John Readman who tells us how Modo25 have become the latest firm to try the four-day week - with some learnings along the way.
The principle of ‘Wednesday plus one’ is a clear articulation that we’ve given a very clear ‘workplace why’. It’s clear that this is day is going to look different to other days. It’s not just going to be Zoom calls with colleagues who are at home.
Maybe the alternative is what John Readman from Modo25 has set about. Yes, we’ll be in the office together but you’ll also get another day off to indulge your real life. John gives us some of the honest detail. His objective was to get the same amount of work done in less time, he equates it to the feeling of a bank holiday week, where you work with a little more urgency knowing that there’s a long weekend as the reward. He makes it clear that that the four day life is more intense than normal work, and that there’s a naughty step - it can be taken away if team members don’t get the job done. The four day experience for Modo25 is not just an easy option.
The coverage of the four day week trial that was published this week omitted to mention that 32 of the 73 firms in the trial didn’t report data at the halfway point. So, yes, it’s great that 86% of the reporting firms say they will keep the new way of working at the end of the study, but it might be too early to declare it a full success yet. John gives us an honest take on why it might be worth fighting for.
Spain has announced an intention to create a ‘digital nomad’ scheme to attract non-EU remote workers (if you’re tempted you should know that dozens of other countries, from Croatia to Malaysia, offer the same)
Cost of living crisis: half of all workers haven’t had a payrise in a year
Some interesting evidence that changes to work are having butterfly effect ripples across the rest of society: people are eating much much earlier in restaurants as they’re not caught up at their desks