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Firms try to lure workers back into offices Fridays amid low turnout

Fewer than a third of the US’ white collar workforce show up to the office on Fridays, a new study has revealed as firms dream up lavish perks to try and lure them back.

The statistics, tabulated by New York property management company Kastle Systems, illustrates the persisting popularity of the hybrid work model well into the pandemic, particularly towards the end of the workweek.

Just 30 per cent of staff are showing up on Fridays, according to swipe card data.Tuesday and Wednesday are the busiest days of the week for offices, with half of workers showing up on both days.

On Monday, just 41 per cent will show up, while Thursdays see 46 per cent of workers come into the office – even though the COVID pandemic began close to two-and-a-half years ago.

The phenomenon has left employers at a loss as to how to fill seats as turnout dwindles – with many high-profile companies now enlisting services such as food trucks and wine carts to incentivize staffers to stop working from home.

Online Optimism, a marketing firm with offices in New Orleans, Washington DC and Georgia has laid on a 4pm Friday happy hour for workers who come in.

The only rule is that staff are not allowed to drink shots. 

Online Optimism, which does not have any requirements for in-office work, reports that as many as 80 percent of its 25 employees show up on days when there’s free food.

‘Honestly, the best socializing happens on Friday,’ CEO Flynn Zaiger told the Post.’Why not have a beer or two? If people are going to be a little less productive one day of the week, I’d rather it be Friday than Monday.’ 

Less than a third of the US’ white collar workforce show up to the office on Fridays, a new study has revealed – and a slew of firms are responding by instilling a variety of over-the-top perks to lure back the wayward workers

Other reported fringe benefits include costume contests and karaoke sing-offs, all organized with one goal in mind – get workers off the couch and back to their desks.

However, according to the statistics compiled by Kastle, which provides building security services for 2,600 buildings across the US, that may be no simple task.

Many employers have embraced the new work climate, with high-profile companies such as New York-based CitiGroup declaring Fridays ‘Zoom-free,’ and accounting giant KPMG implementing a similar ‘no-camera Fridays’ policy.

The company, also headquartered in the Big Apple, also lets employees clock out for the weekend at 3 pm during the summertime – a practice that is becoming increasingly commonplace, human resource professionals say.

Many feel the trend is now here to stay.  

‘It’s becoming a bit of cultural norm,’ Peter Cappelli, director of the Center for Human Resources at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, told the Washington Post Friday of the recent movement toward remote work.  

‘You know nobody else is going to the office on Friday, so maybe you’ll work from home, too,’ Cappelli said.

Meanwhile, some companies have even begun to nix Fridays altogether, with Crowdfunding platform Kickstarter and online consignment shop ThredUp, based in New York and the Bay Area, respectively, bucksays among a small but growing number of firms moving to a four-day workweek, from Monday to Thursday.

Executives at Bolt, a technology company in San Francisco that seeks to streamline customers’ checkout process while shopping on the internet, started experimenting with no-work Fridays last summer.

But earlier this year, it was forced to lay off a third of its 1,000 staff after profits slumped.

Bolt is continuing with the four day work-week experiment regardless.  

Some firms are experimenting with in-office happy hours to try and lure staff back into work on a Friday 

‘Even before the pandemic, people thought of Friday as a kind of blowoff day,’ Cappelli told The Post.’And now there’s a growing expectation that you can work from home to jump-start your weekend.’

Other companies, however, have been slower to embrace the hybrid routine – and are now brainstorming ways to bring back remote workers to the fold, as they continue to pay astronomical rent for these office spaces amid – in many cases – decreased productivity.

Those firms – which sport offices in cities across the globe including New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, and Washington, DC – have elected to implement practices such as early happy hours, catered events, and even company-paid food trucks to address the diminished attendance on Fridays. 

Julie Schweber, an adviser at the Society of Human Resource Management, says the logic behind the policies is simple – ‘If you feed them, they will come.’ 

She told The Post Friday: ‘Employers recognize that it’s tougher to get people to come back in, so they’re asking, “What can we do?”‘

‘The answer is basically: If you feed them, they will come.Food trucks, special catered events, ice cream socials, that’s what’s popular right now.’

And popular it is.

Others have rustled up food trucks, with one HR expert saying: ‘If you feed them, they will come’ 

Those rapidly changing standards have fast spread across the country, with restaurants in areas usually trafficked by office workers forced to adapt with closures and earlier happy hours to accommodate the new climate.

The desire to work from home on Fridays is pretty clear-cut, Johnny Taylor, chief executive of the Society for Human Resource Management, told The Post.

‘When you ask employees when they want to work from home, everyone wants Fridays,’ Taylor, who began experimenting with hybrid work at his company in 2015, said.  

He said that his early experiments with remote work, particularly remote Fridays, were a failure, with staffers ignoring their work towards the end of the week as early as lunchtime on Thursday, causing a drop in productivity.

Now however, he insists that times have changed, with office workers now accustom to the nuances of teleworking. 

‘Fridays from home have become institutionalized,’ said Taylor, who now allows remote work on both Mondays and Fridays.’There’s really no turning back.’

The latest monthly Survey of Working Arrangements and Attitudes survey shows that most organizations currently subscribe to a hybrid work model – with  56.1 percent offering fewer than three days of remote work a week and 16% are offering two.

 Roughly 30 percent, however are not offering any, the org found – whereas about ten allow for one day.

Meanwhile, a majority of employees also say they want to work remotely for three or more days – with 15.6 percent prefering three; 9.3 percent choosing four; and 31.2 percent asking for the full five days.

Workplace experts, meanwhile, have warned that employers may risk losing more staffers if they mandate a full in-person work week.

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