Companies' Friday compromise

As Capitol Hill weighs a shortened workweek, many companies are already unofficially carrying one out, The Wall Street Journal reported March 27. 

"Companies have largely ceded Fridays to the work-from-home camp as a compromise," wrote Vanessa Fuhrmans, deputy bureau chief of careers and workplace at the Journal. But there haven't been major repercussions in terms of productivity, she reports. 

In early 2021, as people adjusted to remote work, their Friday work continued into the evening hours. However, a recent analysis of 75,000 workers at 816 North American companies found that the average employee signs off at 4:03 p.m. on Fridays — one hour earlier than the rest of the week.  

The evidence that remote workers are clocking out early on Fridays shows up in other areas of society. ClassPass, which gives members access to salons, spas and gyms, reports that Fridays are the busiest days for appointments. Restaurants used to be busiest on Fridays at lunch, but work luncheons have died down, shifting the surge to Saturday brunch. Although Friday mornings are among the least congested times for traffic, since fewer people are commuting into the office, roads are jam-packed on Friday afternoons as people head to nonwork activities. 

The Journal spoke with Luke Liou, founder and CEO of interactive learning platform Albert, who switched to an official Friday half-day policy in 2022. Within 20 months of the new schedule, staff churn was whittled to one-fifth of its previous figure. And the lost productivity on Friday afternoons — the least productive time of the week regardless, Mr. Liou reasons — is made up in other places. Employees are less likely to take appointments during other workdays and have more time to recharge over the weekend, alleviating burnout and improving focus throughout the week. 

Unofficial early Fridays — the majority of them — aren't proof that employees are "goofing off" when working from home, Nicholas Bloom, PhD, told the Journal. Dr. Bloom, an economist at Stanford University who researches work-life balance, referenced a recent study he conducted of more than 1,600 professionals at a large tech firm. Half of the employees worked in office while half worked remotely twice a week.

Over a six-month period, employees worked about two hours less on a remote workday than they did in the office. However, they made this time up with an additional 1.5 hours on other weekdays; took 15% fewer absences; and had the same performance scores and promotion rates as fully in-person employees. 

"There’s no evidence that being in the office on Fridays improves productivity," Dr. Bloom said. "There’s plenty of evidence it really annoys people."

Read the full report in The Wall Street Journal here

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