If you had to guess what the most popular work from home day of the week is, you would probably choose Friday. Who doesn’t want a three-day weekend every week, right?
While remote working on Friday isn’t a vacation day, not having to commute to and from the office on the last day of the week sounds very appealing. Add possibly responding to emails and attending Zoom calls from a beach cottage or cabin to get a head start on the weekend, and you’ve got a pretty sweet gig.
Well, it just so happens that the data confirms Friday as the most popular work from home (WFH) day, as well as interesting findings about other days of the week for various cities across the country.
I’ve previously mentioned Kastle Systems and their occupancy data in a previous blog. In addition to their weekly occupancy data, which measures back to work trends across ten large U.S. metro areas, they have the day of the week occupancy for the same cities.
The day of the week data is monthly showing occupancy rates for each workday Monday through Friday for February 2020, 2022 and 2023, which is helpful to compare to pre-pandemic levels. Even before the pandemic, Friday was the lowest occupied day of the week at roughly 88%. The other days of the week were completely occupied at a 100% or greater rate.
Fast forward to 2022 and the occupancy rates plummet below 50% for every day of the week: Tuesday and Wednesday lead with roughly 40% occupancy, followed by Monday at about 35%, Thursday near 32%, and Friday at just under 30%. Rates rose in 2023 but only slightly for Friday, increasing about 3% to 31%, a far cry from the 88% occupancy level in 2020. Monday is the second lowest occupied day of the week in 2023 at about 45%, followed by Thursday at about 52%.
The highest occupied days of the week in 2023 are Tuesday and Wednesday, which are tied at about 62% occupancy. Thus, occupancy rates are increasing year-over-year, but they are still dramatically lower than they were pre-pandemic. But clearly, Fridays are the most popular WFH day of the week, with approximately 7 out of 10 workers not in the office that day.
At The City Level
At the city level, the lowest occupied day of the week ranges from 25% occupancy for the New York metro area to 46% for the Austin metro. The highest occupied day of the week ranges from 45% occupancy for the San Jose metro to 74% for the Austin metro. This compares to the 10-city average of 34% occupancy for the lowest day of the week and 56% for the highest occupied day.
So there is tremendous variation across the days of the week and U.S. cities. Interestingly, cities in Texas (Austin, Houston, Dallas) have higher levels of occupancy for both the lowest and highest occupied day of the week than cities in California (San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles). Cities with the widest ranges between their lowest and highest occupied days of the week are Chicago and New York, which suggest a higher adherence to hybrid schedules than other cities.
It should be noted that hybrid schedules require an assignment of days of the week that are “in” or “out” of the office. A 3:2 hybrid schedule refers to three days in the office and two days working from home. The data above suggests that with two days, Monday and Friday, still below 50% occupancy, the 3:2 hybrid schedule seems to have taken hold. The 4:1 model is popular too, with Friday being the work from home day.
Impacts on Work Environments and Office Space
What are the implications for work and office space across the country?
Employees Appear to Have the Upper Hand
The popular WFH days are the ones you would expect employees to request—Monday and Friday. Some companies stress the need to be in the office on Monday as this is a common day management teams meet each week. Many also push for Thursdays to be in the office to break up out of office days.
Companies with a 3:2 hybrid office schedule would prefer Tuesday or Wednesday to be paired with Friday for WFH. But the data shows this is not occurring, suggesting employees are taking the WFH days they prefer.
Less Office Space Will Be Needed
Although there is an improvement compared to 2022, Fridays are still very low in terms of occupancy, with not much change year over year. And every day of the week is still considerably lower compared to pre-pandemic 2020.
Employees would rather work from home if given the option. While there are many kinks to work out regarding scheduling and workstation sharing, expect companies to reduce their space needs once leases are up.
The Effect on Productivity is Unclear
A WFH day is not a vacation or PTO day. Work gets done, and for the most part, deadlines are being met.
The time and energy saved from eliminating the commute and wasteful office activities can be channeled back into “heads down” work and work-life balance. Plus, sometimes, a workday can consist primarily of responding to emails and participating in Zoom calls.
A better work-life balance makes employees happier, which in turn, is good for productivity. But as millions of workers WFH at least two days a week year after year, I wonder if productivity will begin to suffer.
The data concludes that employees like working from home on Fridays, which isn’t surprising. But they also like staying home on Mondays. And there continues to be a large amount of variation across the country.
Three years after the start of the COVID pandemic, working from home part of the week is still extremely popular--40% of the work week, two out of five days, office occupancy is under 50%, and Fridays are well under. Clearly, the pandemic changed the work week and location for the foreseeable future and possibly forever.
Click on the image below to learn how work styles can be enhanced by having the right mix of space.