What will become of Fridays?
ALSO: a leader of commercial estate explains why we need to go remote first
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What’s becoming dawningly clear over the course of our first weeks of widespread hybrid working is that some early unexpected trends are emerging. (Yes, yes, I know that lots of people have been working this way for years, but with the scale of the current adoption unforeseen effects are starting to develop).
While some companies (like Lloyds Bank in today’s first podcast) are not mandating fixed days in the office, plenty of other firms are getting into clear rhythms of Monday, Tuesday, Thursday (like Apple) or the fairly ubiquitous TW&T. One thing common to all of these solutions is that Friday isn’t in the office.
(Postscript: Leesman published data suggesting demand for Fridays is down 75%)
What does this mean for our workplaces? For starters there’s huge opportunities for firms to think about how they use Fridays to enhance some of their CSR goals. One charity in the UK has already stepped into this space. CodeYourFuture is a non-profit that was founded with an empathy towards the barriers faced by under-represented groups when it comes to achieving social mobility. Specifically the challenges of refugees getting out of poverty by finding decently paid jobs. The charity has a program of training disadvantaged individuals so they can become qualified for jobs in tech.
To become skilled for a career in tech can be prohibitively expensive if you’re below the poverty line, a twelve week course for an entry level coding job can cost around £3000. CodeYourFuture offer their trainees free courses spread over longer periods of time - an adaptation which allows their students to continue bringing money to their family by continuing part-time work while they study.
Sophie Ewen is the Head of Outreach at the organisation, she explained to me, ‘We teach the same things as paid-for bootcamps, but our courses are spread over more time to overcome some of the barriers people often have to stop them studying’.
To keep their costs down the charity has shown genius agility by using unused office space to house their classes - and right now that means tapping into the Fridays that employers aren’t using. They’ve already benefitted from the generosity of a number of firms: Clear Channel, Ticketmaster, Zoopla, and currently they are being kindly hosted by Cititec, a recruitment firm in East London. They use the offices on Friday (and frequently on Saturdays) to keep their costs down.
I asked Sophie what this Friday office space means to them. ‘We’ve looked at the cost of getting our own office, but to put it in context it costs us £5000 to train someone. Even a tiny office would cost us what it takes to train another student - it just doesn’t make sense’.
While some firms might think helping organisations like CodeYourFuture is a simple way to use a redundant set of meeting rooms on the least popular day of the week, in fact for the most enlightened companies the partnership goes way further. Companies like Capgemini are using the association to turbocharge their Diversity & Inclusion initiatives. Sophie explained, ‘a lot of candidates don’t get jobs because their accents might seem strong at an interview or because of elements of unconscious bias’. When companies work with a charity like CodeYourFuture and are exposed to real diversity it brings much greater understanding - and respect - straight into the heart of their organisation.
We’re just at the outset of working out what our relationship with the office looks like, but there’s no doubt that more firms will be looking to create an impact with their unused Fridays. Maybe you could lead the charge at your work?
How you can help CodeYourFuture:
hit your diversity goals by hiring one of their brilliant graduates (40% female, 78% BAME, 71% refugee or asylum-seeker background, 75% below the poverty line)
The question of ‘what becomes of Fridays’ is maybe not fully resolved by us putting our unused workplaces to better use. Derek Thomson in The Atlantic goes further suggesting that we’re moving inexorably to an altered relationship with Fridays and Mondays. For example, Airbnb report that travel days are changing, with workers completing their three days in the office and using Mondays and Fridays as bookends to their office work-week. The implication is that we’ve only just seen the first evolutions of how we work, don’t surprised if there’s more to come.
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The second half of the discussion is especially strong. I ask Caleb to give the stump pitch for the office and his answer is stunning. He also shares a stark warning that 'bad culture is a bigger threat to the office than the pandemic'.
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