Remember how streaming changed everything, and now no one watches the same show on the same day? Well, the growing megatrend of hybrid work has taken this whole asynchronous thing one giant step further. Now the days themselves are being scrambled.
As Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess might ask, “What is a Monday?”
Two years after COVID emptied office buildings, this spring, workers are finally poised to retake their cubicles. Weirdly, much will feel the same — almost as if we’d just been a way for a very long, long weekend. The petty gossip, the printer’s “toner low” message, the Sweetgreen parade.
But the work week itself? As Corey Adams, a regional vice president of Robert Half, the global staffing giant, said, that will be “different for every single person.”
With some employees working from home Mondays and Fridays, others in the office every day but Wednesday, and a few grinding the Monday-Tuesday commute, we’re at the point when one person’s “Don’t Bother Me It’s Monday” is another’s “Hump Day” and a third’s “Thank God It’s Friday.”
Corporate America has yet to settle on an official hybrid workweek, so it’s too soon for Monday to declare any sort of PR victory. But it is possible that the popularity of the Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday in-office combo will allow Monday to shed its position as the week’s “least favorite” (according to a 2021 YouGov poll).
But life is a zero-sum game. Monday’s win has to be someone’s loss. Or, as Art Markman a professor of psychology at the University of Texas Austin, and author of “Bring Your Brain to Work,” put it: “There will still be demonized days.
“Those will be your commute days,” he said.
Even though many people are looking forward to seeing colleagues and working with them in person, the time lost to commuting, and the mental energy to get ready for a day at an office, will give WFW days — as in “work from work” — a bad rap, he said.
Pre-pandemic, the Monday-to-Friday in-office routine felt as basic as gravity — handed down from God. In a win for workers, the pandemic seems to have killed that off, at least for the moment. But of course not all is smooth between management and labor.
Now the fight is over which days people have to come in, and who gets to choose, said Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford University economics professor.
The challenge, he said, is that 70 percent of employees say they want to choose the days they come in, and 76 percent say on the days they go in they want their colleagues to go in, too.
“But you can’t have both,” he said. “I feel that coordination will win.”
But which days?
Jackie Dunn, a senior manager at Simply Business, a business-insurance firm in Boston, detailed the pros and cons.
“Monday is an obvious no-go,” she said. “You’re still coming to terms with the fact that the weekend is over and you have to work for a living until you’re at least 65 years old.”
Tuesday, she added, " is also a no-go because you’ve wasted so much time on Monday feeling sorry for yourself that you have to tackle all of the work you put off.”
Wednesday, she decreed, is the “most acceptable” day to go in. “Everyone’s in a decent mood because we’re half way through the week. You’ve caught up on your tasks, so you can spend some time grabbing coffee with your favorite co-worker and partake in some gossip.”
Thursday? Again no. “The in-office socialization of Wednesday took a lot out of you and you need to recover,” she said “It’s a true socialization hangover.”
And don’t get her started on Friday: “We’re kidding, right? This isn’t even an option.”
As academics conduct scholarly research on the new work landscape, perhaps the best data on the days’ shifting vibes are to be found at restaurants.
From his spot behind one of his four Al’s Cafes sandwich shops, which cater mainly to the business crowd, here’s what proprietor Alan Costello knows:
“Tuesday is Monday now,” he said, “and Thursday is Friday.”
And yet, perhaps because the hybrid experiment is still in early days, the revolution can only go so far.
Consider the situation at the South End offices of ad agency Connelly Partners, where Thursday social hours were a tradition.
“It was magical,” Scott Madden, chief strategy officer, said wistfully.
But the firm’s hybrid work plans mandated that employees come in on Mondays and Tuesdays (to get a jump on joint projects). That prompted many employees to make Wednesdays their floating in-office day — and along the way killed the Thursday happy hour.
So why not just move happy hour to Tuesday? Yeah, right. Let’s just say it felt simpler to shift things once again and bring everyone in on Thursdays.
“Tuesday,” Madden said, “still feels like a serious day.”
Beth Teitell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell.