Fixed days at the office: a false good idea?

Future of work
November 9, 2022
Published by

It's been a year and a half since we created Deskare, and after having exchanged with hundreds of HRDs, one sentence still makes us wonder.

"With us it's simple, we have fixed days of presence"

"Ah it's not complicated, we ask everyone to come back to the office on Tuesday."

"No need for organization, we know everyone is there on Wednesday."

When you hear this, you can't help but be a little surprised. Defining fixed days of attendance would be a simple way to organize hybrid work. In a way, forcing people to come back on the same day would simplify everything, so much so that it would become a simple model to copy for many companies that are racking their brains on what hybrid model to adopt.

This rule often comes from a good intention: to make employees come back on site at least for a certain number of days (usually two or three), to reinforce collaboration and create informal moments of life, necessary to the company culture.

That's why, after these many exchanges, we believe that this model is not the right one.

The big mess of remote work policy

In fact, we observe that these fixed days are perceived more as a constraint than anything else by employees. Why is this?

One of the main advantages of the hybrid model, which alternates between on-site presence for collaboration and remote work for concentration and "deep" work, is that it offers employees greater flexibility in their choice of working conditions. It also allows for a better balance between work and personal life, thanks in particular to the ability to adapt one's schedule to the constraints of one's week (which vary frequently).

Imposing fixed days of presence at the office in your remote work charter quickly gives the impression of only doing half the job: offering employees the appearance of flexibility while still controlling their schedule.

Doing what everyone else is doing has a price

Second point, which some companies have understood after the fact: when the employer defines fixed days of presence, starting from a good feeling, he generally thinks of the days that are most convenient for the employees to come to the office. Of course, imposing Fridays does not look good. Tuesdays and Thursdays are therefore very often preferred, or even Mondays.

The problem with this approach is that these are already the preferred days for the rest of the working population. In short, remote work promises to save time and the mental burden of commuting. Instead, fixed face-to-face days succeed in plunging employees back into the worst of the busy days: this is how we self-perpetuate vicious circles where transport is saturated on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and employees are even more tired than before of their journeys.

Read more on this subject: the Banque des territoires article on the impact of remote work on public transport flows

Fixed days in the classroom, compatible with the optimization of office space?

Finally, the introduction of fixed days of presence for the entire company eliminates the possibility of optimizing office space. Flex-office optimization is based on the assumption that 100% employee presence on site rarely, if ever, occurs (between vacations, travel, sick leave, remote work...). This difference between actual presence and office capacity provides opportunities for optimizing floor space by calculating an optimized expansion rate with varying degrees of ambition. The aim of work environment departments (or general resources, Workplace Managers...) is to smooth out the on-site presence curve. This can only be achieved by offering employees flexibility in the choice of their days of presence, so that everyone's imperatives and preferences can be easily coordinated to ensure that the office fills up at the right times.

On the contrary, with fixed days, it is the assurance of obtaining a "dromedary" curve: clearly identified peaks of presence, which often pose problems (squatting in meeting rooms, kitchens...) but which are assumed in the name of "physical reunion".

Let's face it: coming to see the entire company on one day while having to work on a kitchen table because of the influx of people does more harm to the company culture than seeing part of the company spread out over each day, working under optimal conditions each time.

Even better: employees who are satisfied with their work experience when they come to the office, based on their expectations (quiet versus noise, events, availability of offices and meeting rooms) will be more likely to come back often and of their own accord than if it is imposed in poor conditions.

Read also : Our white paper on the new expectations of employees in the office

Yes to attendance days, but flexible

Of course, there is no question of questioning the principle of a minimum number of days in the office that many companies have adopted. This minimum can take several forms: imposed or suggested, fixed for the company or variable according to the teams, one day or four... All formats are possible and to be defined according to the company's culture.

On the other hand, the pernicious thing about defining fixed days of presence is that it gives top management the impression of having granted flexibility via remote work, which in fact is not perceived as such by employees. It can even produce the opposite effect, if the fixed days are, by chance of the calendar, Monday or Friday: employees can then perceive a kind of mistrust on the part of management towards remote work, which would be perceived as an extended weekend, which runs completely counter to the objectives of management by trust that remote work implies.

Fixed days in the office can give employees the impression that flexibility is only apparent: the employer's efforts towards their employees are nullified by this rigidity.

And companies are not wrong: in a study reposted by Stanford University researcher Nick Bloom, conducted on more than 1,000 decision-makers in 13 countries, fixed days in the office would only be the 4th most common hybrid work model by 2025, far behind more flexible approaches.

Chart about different hybrid work models today and in 2025
The fixed-day model of remote work would represent only 11% of the companies surveyed, compared with 25% for an employee-choice model.

Obviously, giving employees the choice in their days of attendance implies several things:

  • Be 100% comfortable with the remote work policy adopted, validated with the CSE, after consultation with employees: this may seem instinctive, but it's an essential prerequisite, especially for top management.
  • Embrace the philosophy of "flexibility within a framework" (which is very dear to us at Deskare): accept that once the framework is defined, employees are free to organize their schedule according to their imperatives and those of their teams
  • Adopt a simple remote work and flex office solution, which will guarantee both visibility of everyone's schedules ("who's coming when?") and the assurance of availability of resources required by employees (offices, rooms, lockers, parking, etc.) via the possibility of reserving these resources in advance.

If these three conditions are met, the company will be able to grant real flexibility to its employees, while optimizing its surfaces and reinforcing the company culture through quality physical moments together.

How do we get there?

‍Wecan help you with at least one of these three points, thanks to the remote work and flex-office software we've co-constructed with +100 HR Directors and Workplace Managers. It's designed to be simple, integrated with company tools and deployed quickly.

to learn more about it, make an appointment here with a member of our team!