One week a month

When the pandemic started, we didn’t know how long it would last. People figured out how to work from home with the assumption that eventually they would resume office life much as it had been before.

But with many people still working from home nine months in, this looks increasingly unlikely. Vaccines or not (and wow for quickly produced vaccines!) the world of work has probably changed permanently. We have learned that much information work does not need to be done in an office, at set times, for 40 hours a week. There are huge benefits to seeing each other in person — that is true. But this is not an either/or situation. Forty hours a week in an office is probably overkill. When people can work in person sometimes, and remotely sometimes, they will have the best of both worlds. They’ll do deep collaboration on in-person days, and deep individual work on the remote ones.

So this begs the question: what should the new hybrid situation look like? Google floated the idea of a 3-day/2-day workweek split, which could work. But I’d suggest that for many kinds of work, a different model — in the office one week a month, and remotely three weeks a month — might have some more transformative upsides.

Here’s why. First, if you’re getting people together for a week a month, teams could probably just rent temporary conference space (in a hotel, a conference center, or in new co-working type spaces that will spring up to accommodate this). Many organizations, particularly smaller ones, wouldn’t necessarily need to own a headquarters. Those that did could get by with much smaller ones, since most of the time in them would be spent in group activities, rather than at individual work stations. Money that isn’t going into maintaining huge gleaming office spaces can go to salaries and operations. This is likely a more efficient use of capital!

Second, if you’re getting together for a week a month, you can hire from just about anywhere. People would fly in for the week, and stay at a hotel or AirBnB type set-up. This would expand the talent pool in all kinds of ways. It’s hard to believe that all the best people for any kind of work live within an hour of any particular organization’s headquarters, or could easily move their families there. By changing the in-person requirement, you can separate the question of where people live from where they work, and not require people to have the same answer for both.

Having people be in the office a few days per week can help people achieve the productivity and work/life balance benefits of working from home. But reworking this to be a few concentrated days per month opens up more possibilities.

Photo: Flying over Chicago…

6 thoughts on “One week a month

  1. During the pandemic my lawyer husband switched jobs. His new company is in San Diego. We live in suburban New York. Post pandemic he will be doing exactly this–spending a week a month in San Diego and 3 weeks working from our bedroom. This allowed him to take a job across the country without changing our children’s schools, or my job and without an expensive cross country move away from a community that we love. As a physician with an established practice (where I very much need to do much of my work in person) this has allowed for our two career marriage to work better than ever!

    1. @Gillian – exactly – this was the reason his new firm was able to hire him. I’m guessing he won’t be sorry about visiting San Diego for a week a month during the winters!

      1. @Laura I think he is looking forward to San Diego in February. I may have to find an excuse to tag along! Plus as you know those frequent flier miles come in handy when traveling with a lage family.

  2. I can see personal conflicts with the 1 week a month – what if there is a huge family thing that week? Then it’s 2 months until you see you work mates. I was doing the 3 days in /2 days home before the pandemic and really liked it. Hope to resume that or something like it. Seems like the more opportunities you have to be together, the less missing one matters.

    1. @Cindy – that could be an issue, though I imagine that there would be an understanding that people should work as hard as possible to avoid conflicts during that one week a month, as the other three would allow for a lot more flexibility.

  3. Ohh, I would love this kind of 3 weeks/1 week schedule, but it’s a no-go budget-wise for my company because they don’t want to pay for travel expenses that often. I am super grateful and happy they are fine with me working remotely (it was a hard sell before COVID) but at best I could wrangle trips to the mothership twice a year. I didn’t want to press the issue, because I didn’t want to make it seem like I’m not effective working remotely. They’ve loosened up their remote work policy due to COVID (even after restrictions are lifted) but I’m wondering if that’ll make travel even less likely bc more people will be remote.

    In my ideal world, if I lived in the same town my office is in, I’d do 4 days at home/1 day in the office. Maybe it’s just the COVID talking, but I do miss seeing my coworkers in person. It’s been 15 months now since I last saw them!

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