November 22, 2022
4 minutes

Should employees be allowed to choose their teleworking days?

For Nicholas Bloom, professor of economics at Stanford University and specialist in the subject of hybrid work, the choice is the employer's to make for the employee. He explains.

Should employees be allowed to choose their teleworking days?

Nicholas Bloom*, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and an expert on the subject of hybrid work, thinks not.
Here is a summary of his article "Don't let your employees pick their WFH days" published in the Harvard Business Review.
70-80% of organisations have made the move to hybrid work.

An excellent compromise combining the benefits of physical presence that allow for innovation, usually better creativity and the ability to create a strong corporate culture, with the benefits of teleworking that allows you to stay at home and avoid the arduous commute.

The pressure on HRDs to provide visibility on new ways of working is so great that everyone has chosen the hybrid option but is still very unclear about what it means operationally.

And the question of which days to telework is crucial.

3 main rules are fairly equally represented in Nicholas Bloom's study

  • Decentralised - 100% trust Teams are 100% free to choose the workplace that allows them to fulfil their tasks and responsibilities. This may sound complicated to implement but not with 👍
  • Centralized - A rule is set for all. Teams must follow the rule chosen for all, most often it is 3 days in the office and 2 days teleworking with predefined days.Apple for example imposes Wednesdays and Fridays teleworking and the rest in the officeThis may seem complicated to implement but not with 👍
  • Centralized by team - The level of trust chosen by the team managerEach team manager chooses in collaboration - or not - with his/her teams (team surveys are widely used) the format he/she feels is most relevant - whether decentralized or centralized. This may seem complicated to implement but not with 👍

Nicholas Bloom, in the course of his observations, changed his mind about his support for the 100% free part of decentralisation in favour of centralisation by team car:

  • If employees cannot know who is there, how can they succeed in creating a link between the teams. This will generate frustration and a feeling of "what's the point?" Especially on the subject of "mixed" meetings - the mixed mode - the participants in the face-to-face meeting will always have an advantage in terms of content (coffee before, debriefing afterwards on the way to their office) over those at a distance.
  • Overloaded days at the office vs. teleworking. 64% of respondents said they prefer Friday as a day to telework compared to 16% for Wednesday. 84 people in a company of 100 people work on Wednesday and 36 on Friday. That's as much congestion and complexity on Wednesdays as it is gloom and doom on Fridays.
  • Access to internal promotion. In one study, Nicholas Bloom identified that 100% teleworking populations had a 50% lower promotion rate (over 21 months) than their office-based colleagues, with physical absence severely limiting social interaction. They therefore argue that teleworking populations would be partially excluded from promotion routes - he cites young parents living in the suburbs, people with disabilities requiring adapted housing often inaccessible in city centres.

At Offishall we provide the tools to enable the deployment of the hybrid format preferred by each organisation. We believe that trust and transparency are the basis for employee development, but we are also aware of the risks associated with teleworking, and this is our mission: to provide the tools to enable employee development in the new normal of hybrid working.

Nicholas Bloom, professor of economics at Stanford University, has been studying remote and hybrid work (a mix of remote and on-site work) for years. Then the pandemic made these modes widespread and sustainable. He says that as more and more organisations turn to hybrid working, they face difficult logistical, strategic and management challenges.

Bloom shares a guideline for implementing hybrid work plans and helps managers think through these arrangements while balancing employee equity with organisational needs.

Bloom is the author of the HBR article "Don't Let Employees Pick Their WFH Days".

Pierre Godret

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