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Only Tue to Thu? The three-day week is already a reality in offices

On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, the offices in the Lloyd's Building, the striking office tower designed by architect Richard Rogers in the City of London, are full again.

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Only Tue to Thu? The three-day week is already a reality in offices

On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, the offices in the Lloyd's Building, the striking office tower designed by architect Richard Rogers in the City of London, are full again. But that's not enough for John Neal, CEO of the insurance marketplace. "We also have to get Monday back," he told the Financial Times in early March.

Neal would like to see the brokers and underwriters who sell and write specialty insurance in the trading rooms in Lloyd's tower back on site four days a week. During the peak phase of the pandemic, the question was repeatedly raised as to whether the conclusion of insurance and reinsurance in the special segment actually still had to take place face to face in the traditional "boxes".

Neal is convinced that this discussion is over. Personal qualifications remain important. But by no means everything has to be done in direct contact. Lloyd's is therefore working on aligning the striking building, which has pipes, elevators and cables running along the outer walls and which has been a listed building since 2011, with the hybrid working environment as well as possible.

Other board members are also urging employees to come back to the office more often. Whether in the tech sector, for example Tesla, in financial groups like J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Citadel or gastronomy - for example Starbucks.

But people's day-to-day work looks different today. Because the pattern of coming into the office three days a week, Tuesday to Thursday, but working from home Monday and Friday, is by no means unique to Lloyd's, the City of London or the UK.

Data from Freespace, a provider of technology solutions for the efficient use of office space, shows the same pattern in Germany, the UK and the US. Many employees have long since returned to the offices. However, the utilization is significantly lower than at the beginning of 2020.

In the US and UK, the differences between the off-peak days and the middle of the week are particularly pronounced. On Fridays, British offices are on average only about 40 percent occupied from Tuesday to Thursday, in the United States less than a third. In Germany, the difference is somewhat less pronounced, but is still around half.

“That fits with other data, such as commuter journeys,” says Pawel Adrjan, economist and head of Europe research at Indeed, a platform for job postings. Among other things, he refers to figures from the transport operator Transport for London, which show fewer trips on Mondays and Fridays than in the middle of the week.

The attendance times indicate questions of coordination. "After all, you don't want to be in the office when your colleagues aren't there," explains Adrjan. Over time, patterns emerge within companies that work for most colleagues.

It has been three years since, in the early days of the Covid pandemic, large parts of the working population moved to their desks at home for weeks from one day to the next. They were mostly no less efficient there than in the office. In many companies, a comprehensive discussion about the importance of the office and its correct use has therefore begun even after the end of the lockdowns and the end of the home working obligation.

Many companies now allow a range of workplace models. The desk at home has become much more important, as current data from Great Britain shows. While around 12 per cent of Britons worked all or part of their home life before Covid, the figure is now 40 per cent - just nine percentage points less than in the days of the strictest lockdown rules in spring 2020.

According to Office for National Statistics data covering the period from September 2022 to January 2023, 16 percent of employees work exclusively from home, 28 percent in a hybrid model that includes both office and home work days.

Younger people are more likely to have a permanent job with their employer than older people. In the group of 16 to 24 year olds it is almost 80 percent. There are also clear differences depending on the type of employment, with the hybrid variants being most common in occupations with a higher proportion of administration and management.

Cevat Giray Aksoy, economist at the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), is convinced that working from home will remain permanent. He also co-founded the Global Survey of Working Arrangements, an initiative that collects experiences and assessments of the new working arrangements.

Their surveys in 27 countries worldwide show that the perception of working from home has improved significantly since the pandemic. "Therefore, those who work from home are now seen far less often as idlers and slackers than before the pandemic," conclude Aksoy and his colleagues in a comprehensive analysis. Those who get the opportunity are therefore less hesitant than before to take advantage of the opportunity to work from home.

Anyone looking for a new job often has the hybrid job models on offer in mind right from the start. The Indeed platform currently records the use of the search term “hybrid” 186 percent more frequently than a year ago, says Adrjan. “Work from home” and “remote” are even more important.

He interprets the fact that some companies are again questioning the working model as a negotiating tactic in a somewhat weaker labor market. With job cuts at a number of large corporations around the world and lingering fears of a recession, boards skeptical about hybrid working may seek to reverse the trend.

But interest among job seekers remains very high, says Adrjan. "Hybrid offers can therefore be a smart approach to attracting applicants, especially in companies that are struggling to fill vacancies."

"Everything on shares" is the daily stock exchange shot from the WELT business editorial team. Every morning from 5 a.m. with the financial journalists from WELT. For stock market experts and beginners. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Amazon Music and Deezer. Or directly via RSS feed.

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