Hybrid work has changed our office habits. Bosses need to take note

To make hybrid work more meaningful, office policy should change with the season, says Robin.
Written by Jada Jones, Associate Editor
Woman working on laptop.
Image: Morsa Images/Getty Images

Employers and employees have been engaged in an ongoing power struggle over return-to-office policies in 2022, with research suggesting that US hybrid workers went to the office a little over one day a week during the first half of the year.

But now that the year is coming to an end and economic uncertainty threatens the job market, workers are changing their hybrid-working habits. According to workplace technology specialist Robin's Q3 2022 Hybrid Workplace Report, office attendance is on the rise.

The reason for this increase? According to Robin, employees' work habits change with the season – and could offer an incentive for employers to adapt office policies according to the time of year.

Robin's study was based on aggregate data of more than 2.5 million desk bookings form customers. It found that office attendance cycles through seasonal dips during the winter holidays, in early summer, and again in late summer, correlating with vacation time and major holidays. 

Also: The rules of work are changing, and hybrid work is winning

Employees travel to the office less in the summer, when only 24% of office space is in use. They visit the office a little more in October (27%), then travel frequently to the office in early November (32%), before office use dips close to zero ahead of Thanksgiving and the winter holidays. Office attendance was 10% in Q3 compared to Q2, Robin's data indicated.

Robin co-founder, Zach Dunn, argued that employers should use seasonal office attendance trends to inform hybrid work policies.

According to Dunn, current hybrid return-to-office policies follow a weekly schedule that doesn't coordinate with employees' in-office schedules. He told ZDNET that businesses experience busy seasons that require more collaborative efforts between employees, which is when employees tend to frequent the office.

"Businesses have busy seasons, and hybrid [work] makes them more visible as more people show up in person to do collaborative work around it," Dunn said.

The slower office seasons provide a good opportunity for leaders to review their workplace strategies, which could ensure minimal disruption to employees while also not forcing them to come into the office during a time that wouldn't be productive or convenient for them.

"On a hybrid team, you're more likely to prioritize working in-office when others can too, and when it supports the work you have to do," said Dunn.

Also: Hybrid working: Why more needs to be done to help women thrive

‍Europeans appear to be the biggest office users, with Robin's data reporting a 30% peak in office use in Q3. They are also in the office slightly more often than their US counterparts, averaging 5.5 days a month compared to 4.9 days.  

In Q1 of 2023, office attendance is expected to jump to 33%. But before employees come back before the new year, Robin suggested employers improve hybrid-working policies for the New Year.

In 2023 and beyond, leaders should focus on creating an office environment that fosters collaboration, creativity, and strengthened employee relationships, said Robin. This includes taking "an agile approach to hybrid work" that considers the types of spaces and facilities workers need to get the most from their time in the office and at home. As such, employers should "consider changing spaces to suit activity-based layouts," said Robin. 

The ways that we work are constantly changing, and it's a good idea to remain open to changes to office policies. As reports continue to demonstrate, companies that get stuck in their ways and refuse to bend to workers' needs risk losing out on the best talent.

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