Newest Remote Working Trend: Nobody Wants to Be in the Office on Fridays

The Washington Post reports on a “widely adopted, even codified” trend in recent months: people aren’t coming in to their offices on Friday.

“The drop-off in office work, particularly on Fridays, has led coffee shops to reduce their hours, delis to rethink staffing and bars like Pat’s Tap in Minneapolis to kick off happy hour earlier than ever — starting at 2 p.m.”

Just 30 percent of office workers swiped into work on Fridays in June, the least of any weekday, according to Kastle Systems, which provides building security services for 2,600 buildings nationwide. That’s compared to 41 percent on Mondays, the day with the second-lowest turnout, and 50 percent on Tuesdays, when the biggest share of workers are in the office.

“It’s becoming a bit of cultural norm: You know nobody else is going to the office on Friday, so maybe you’ll work from home, too,” said Peter Cappelli, director of the Center for Human Resources at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “Even before the pandemic, people thought of Friday as a kind of blowoff day. And now there’s a growing expectation that you can work from home to jump-start your weekend….”

Some start-ups and tech firms have begun doing away with Fridays altogether. Crowdfunding platform Kickstarter and online consignment shop ThredUp are among a small but growing number of firms moving to a four-day workweek that runs from Monday to Thursday. Executives at Bolt, a checkout technology company in San Francisco, began experimenting with no-work Fridays last summer and quickly realized they’d hit a winning formula. Employees were more productive than before, and came back to work on Mondays with new enthusiasm. In January, it switched to a four-day workweek for good.
“Managers were onboard, people kept hitting their goals,” Bolt’s head of employee experience tells the Post. “And they come back on Mondays energized and more engaged.”

An adviser at the Society of Human Resource Management tells the Post that employers are trying new inducements to get people to return to offices on Fridays. “If you feed them, they will come. Food trucks, special catered events, ice cream socials, that’s what’s popular right now.” And the Post adds that other employers have also tried wine carts, costume contests and karaoke sing-offs — “all aimed at getting workers to give up their couches for cubicles.”

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Keychron’s Q3 Gives Mechanical Keyboard Fans Everything But the Numpad

An anonymous reader shares a review: In its early pre-pandemic days, Keychron made a name for itself with its series of affordable mechanical keyboards — including a few low-profile ones that remain a rarity to this day. Those boards didn’t necessarily appeal to enthusiasts, but were more than good enough for most mainstream users who wanted a different kind of keyboard. Last year, Keychron upped the ante with the launch of the Q1, an enthusiast-level, fully customizable hotswap keyboard with a 75% layout that had more than a few similarities to the heavily hyped GMMK Pro. Since then, Keychron has expanded this series with the 65% Q2, which received pretty rave reviews at the time and now the Q3.

The QMK-compatible Q3 clearly follows in the footsteps of the Q1 and Q2. It uses the same double-gasket design that should make for a relatively bouncy typing experience (though in my experience, there’s less bounce than I would’ve expected), and the overall design is pretty much the same, with the exception that it’s a tenkeyless (TKL), so you get a full keyboard with standalone arrow keys and a full row of function keys, but without the numpad. The body is made from aluminum and the whole unit weighs in at a hefty 4.5 pounds. In part, that’s because Keychron opted for a steel plate here. You can opt to get a bare-bones version where you supply your own switches and keycaps for $154 (or $164 if you want to get the optional volume knob), or a fully assembled version with keycaps and your choice of Gateron Pro Red, Blue or Brown switches for $174 (or $184 with knob). For the extra $20, I think getting the assembled version is a no-brainer, given that the keycaps and switches will cost you significantly more and even if you want to replace them, you could always reuse them in another project (because who only has one keyboard, right?).

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Two Tech CEOs Wanted Every Worker to Have a Permanent, Publicly-Available Job Performance File

“Two CEOs on a podcast casually proposed a shareable database of worker performance that would follow them between companies, forever, and encouraged listeners to create one,” writes Slashdot reader merauder128 , summarizing a recent article on Vice.

“HR professionals say it’s a terrible idea.”

Vice points out the podcast both the host and guest were CEOs of “data harvesters that package and resell data to other parties.”
Through one lens, it was a mundane musing between two CEOs of data companies talking about how awesome it would be to have more data on something. But in the context of experiments occurring in the tech industry around hiring practices, it was two influential CEOs encouraging other entrepreneurs to create a business that would be an absolute nightmare for workers, a type of credit score for workers that could be a permanent HR file that follows workers from one job to the next, and where a worker who struggles at one job may have trouble getting another….

It is also in line with a growing trend among tech companies that, spurred by work-from-home and hybrid work, are increasingly interested in quantifying employee performance. The most prominent example is Coinbase introducing an app so employees can constantly rate each other’s performances, a scenario even the normally cheery TechCrunch said “sounds rough.”
Over the last several years, there has been a boom in employee management software solutions such as Workday, Lattice, CultureAmp that are used across thousands of companies for performance reviews and other sensitive HR tasks. Technologically speaking, what Youakim and Hoffman are talking about is opening those confidential resources — or some condensed version of them that can be easily digested and analyzed — up to everyone.

None of these HR software companies have indicated that they have any intention of doing this.
The article warns that experts who have studied hiring extensively believe a permanent database database “would allow this complete, random mess to follow workers their entire careers, affecting their job prospects, earning potential, and their broader lives.” And the article summarizes a reaction to the idea from John Hausknecht, a professor of human resources at Cornell University. “It assumes people don’t change, that jobs require similar attributes, that a person’s experience at one company is relevant to another where they will be in a different environment with a different manager and different company culture….

“Or, to put it a different way, ‘Just because we can track it, collect it, and ask about it,’ Hausknecht said, ‘doesn’t necessarily mean we should.'”

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Companies Are Having Trouble Enforcing Return-to-Office Policies

NPR reports:
Just last month [Apple] decided to postpone its plan after more than 1,000 current and former employees signed an open letter called the plan inefficient, inflexible and a waste of time. “Stop treating us like school kids who need to be told when to be where and what homework to do,” they wrote. It was yet more evidence of the shift in the balance of power between management and rank and file, as demand for workers has hit record highs in the past year.

Companies are finding it hard to enforce unpopular policies and mandates when they fear their workers could just walk away…. Google maps workers, who are employed by the tech company Cognizant, also decided to fight back. They connected with the Alphabet Workers Union and signed a petition citing COVID fears, the costs of commuting amid $5 gas, and the increase in productivity and morale that employees have experienced while working from home…. “Our first day back to the Bothell office full-time will now be September 6,” the company said in a statement released on Thursday.

Even as some companies seek to bring back some semblance of office life, others are asking: What is the office for anyway?

In an iconic moment, NPR’s reporter also visited a management consulting firm, where their new human resources worker (who started in May) admits that “It’s hard to even fathom going into the office 100%. I don’t think I could do it ever again.”

Saturday the New York Times also reported that some corporate leaders “might find themselves fighting a culture shift beyond their control…. [Non-paywalled version here]

“If the pandemic’s two-plus years of remote work experimentation have taught us anything, it’s that many people can be productive outside the office, and quite a few are happier doing so.”
Even as the pandemic has changed course, there are signs that the work-from-home trend is actually accelerating. One recent survey published in the National Bureau of Economic Research found that employers are now saying they will allow employees to work from home an average of 2.3 days per week, up from 1.5 days in the summer of 2020.

It’s not just the office — it’s also the commute. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that almost all of the major cities with the biggest drops in office occupancy during the pandemic had an average one-way commute of more than 30 minutes; and most cities with the smallest drops had shorter commutes.

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That Big Tech Exodus Out of California? It Didn’t Happen

“Wannabe innovation hubs from coast to coast have been slavering over the prospect that the work-from-home revolution triggered by the COVID pandemic would finally break the stranglehold that California and Silicon Valley have had on high-tech jobs,” writes a business columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

“Here’s the latest picture on this expectation: Not happening.”

That’s the conclusion of some new studies, most recently by Mark Muro and Yang You of the Brookings Institution. They found that although the pandemic brought about some changes in the trend toward the concentration of tech jobs in a handful of metropolitan areas, the largest established hubs as a group “slightly increased their share” of national high-tech employment from 2019 through 2020. (Emphasis theirs….) “[T]he big tech superstar cities aren’t going anywhere,” Muro told me. “There’s a suggestion that we’re on the brink of an entirely different geography. I don’t think recent history or the nature of the technologies point in that direction…. ”

“The California metropolises really do retain their irreplaceable depth and strength,” Muro says. “That’s not to say there won’t be some movement. Early in the period we saw some exiting, especially from the Bay Area, but it turned out that much of it was within California, rather than to Kansas.” This shouldn’t be too surprising. The value of concentrated ecosystems in nurturing innovation has been documented for decades….

The pandemic-driven shift to remote work does seem to have opened entrepreneurs’ eyes at least to the potential for doing away with centralized workforces. In a recent survey of tech startup founders, the share of respondents saying they would prefer to start a firm with an entirely remote workforce from Day One rose to 42.1% in 2021 from only 6% in 2020. Among physical locations where the founders said prefer to launch their businesses, however, San Francisco still dominated, at 28.4%, with New York a distant second….

Unlike service industries such as leisure and tourism, most tech industries experienced barely a hiccup in their long-term growth trends during the pandemic.

The column also questions when, “if ever,” work-from-home jobs will become a significant share of the workforce. “Full-scale work-from-home only applies to about 6% of workers, UC Berkeley economist Enrico Moretti says. That’s triple the 2% level of the pre-pandemic era, but still an exception to the rule.”

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In 10 Years, Will ‘Remote Work’ Simply Be ‘Work’?

Bloomberg reports:
A decade from now, offices shall be used for one thing and one thing only: quality time with colleagues. This seemingly bold prediction comes from Prithwiraj Choudhury, a Harvard Business School professor and expert on remote work. âoeWe will probably in 10 years stop calling this âremote workâ(TM). Weâ(TM)ll just call it work,â he said….

His research showed that a hybrid workforce is more productive, more loyal and less likely to leave. With companies from Twitter Inc. to PwC now giving employees the option to work virtually forever, Choudhury said businesses that donâ(TM)t adapt risk higher attrition… “For employers, itâ(TM)s a win as well because you are not constrained to hiring from the local labor market â” where you have an office… This is a once-in-a-generation moment when people are not going to be forced to live where they donâ(TM)t want to. Some people will find a permanent place to live; some will move around. The digital nomad revolution is going on….”

“We should not care about how many days or hours anyone works. Every job and task should have objective metrics, which are output based, and if an employee can perform those metrics in two days, so be it. I am a firm believer that we should stop counting time. We should give people the flexibility to work when they want to, whichever hours they want to, whichever days they want to, and care only about their work.”

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