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A Case of ‘the Mondays’
In the great Return to Office tug-of-war, the battle over Monday has loomed for many months. Now, experts say, an increasing number of firms are making a decision: they are demanding that employees begin the workweek in the office.
The rationale, according to leaders, is that employees should start the week collaborating. Companies also want to limit overuse of four-day weekends. But at some firms, the edict is running headfirst into employee demands for flexible hybrid-work schedules. “People in general are not responding well to increased rigidity,” says Cindy Comisky, a Korn Ferry executive senior partner specializing in human resources executives.
More and more leaders believe that their organizations are falling behind if their employees aren’t in the office at least some of the time. Productivity grew smartly through 2021, but has either stagnated or fallen ever since, even as many leaders threaten to dock bonuses or fire workers who don’t return to the office. There’s also some evidence that full-time remote-work setups could be stymieing the development of certain employees, younger workers in particular.
At the beginning of the year, the average occupancy rate in many major metropolitan areas reached 50%, a post-pandemic milestone, where it has hovered ever since. Until recently, many firms haven’t pushed employees to work in-office on Mondays. Only 24% of employers require it, according to a recent survey by Scoop, an hybrid-scheduling software firm. By contrast, 72% of the firms Scoop surveyed require employees at the office on Tuesdays, 69% on Wednesdays, and 58% on Thursdays. Only 7% require in-office work on Fridays.
One measure of the tougher stance: according to Kastle Systems, which tracks security swipes at offices in major cities, occupancy has risen on Mondays by almost one-third in about a year.
Experts say the attempt to reclaim Monday as an in-office workday can make sense. “You have the team meeting and get everyone accustomed to being held accountable for actions during the week,” says Greg Button, president of Korn Ferry’s Global Healthcare Services practice. The policy also could deter employees who might extend a weekend getaway through Monday by forcing them to use a vacation day.
In some cases, the nature of the work itself may require employees to be in the office on Mondays. One field-safety firm, for example, has traditionally run its payroll on Mondays, says Brittney Molitor, an executive senior partner in Korn Ferry’s Human Resources Center of Excellence. That means its payroll team needs to come in—even if most of its remaining employees are in the field. “It’s ironic that the company has thousands of employees who almost never work at the office, but for this group the decision makes sense,” she says.
But organizations run the risk of aggravating employees if they don’t organize Mondays or other specifically designated in-office days around team-focused work, group meetings, or other collaborative projects. While the Great Resignation may have ended, there are still more than 9 million open jobs across the country, and acute shortages of qualified workers in multiple fields. At the beginning of the year, one of Comisky’s clients demanded that employees work in the office on at least three days a week, including Monday. Comiskey says the company failed to clearly explain why Monday had to be an in-office day. “It doesn’t seem to be going very well,” she says.
Experts say if firms do impose in-office Mondays, they should measure the effects on productivity. They should compare that data with the effects of the Monday rule on employee retention and/or the firm’s ability to attract new recruits.
The firm also has to back up the Monday rule with action, says Ron Porter, a senior client partner in Korn Ferry’s Human Resources Center of Expertise. Managers might have to go so far as to cite an absence for a direct report who works remotely on a Monday. “This rule does have to have weight behind it,” Porter says.
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