Shari Buck, co-founder of the physicians’ social networking platform Doximity, made the case in a Quartz post last week for “work-from-home Wednesdays,” a policy her company adopted a few years ago that, in her opinion, strikes the right balance between the flexibility and work-life balance benefits of a work-from-home policy and the need for consistency and accountability among employees:
There are two reasons that scheduling our WFH day in the middle of the week has turned out so well. The first is that it breaks up the week nicely: two days in the office, one day working remote, and then two more days back in the office. This leads to a consistent workflow that balances a number of planning meetings early in the week, a productive Wednesday working from home, and two equally productive and collaborative days on the tail end of the week.
Additionally, scheduling WFH days on Wednesdays rather than on Mondays or Fridays prevents employees from thinking of them as faux three-day weekends. WFH Wednesday is still a work day after all, and the fact that employees are required to be back in the office on Thursday reinforces accountability. WFH Wednesdays have boosted work-life balance for all of our employees. At the same time, they have kept our business productive and on a path of positive growth for nearly a decade.
For companies that have already determined that remote work policies can work at their organization, this is an interesting idea. Designating Wednesdays as the day for remote work companywide—and shutting down the office to boot—could have some downsides, however.
Among other things, flexible work is helpful for accommodating a diverse workforce with varying scheduling needs. What about an employee who needs that flexibility on Thursdays instead? What if their home is a particularly distracting place to work on Wednesdays because of their partner’s or children’s schedules? At a relatively small organization like 280-employee Doximity, these issues may not loom particularly large, but at a bigger company, it’s usually better to make those decisions at the team or personal level to avoid the one-size-fits-all trap.
On the other hand, to Buck’s point about the weekly cadence of work, the idea of a mid-week WFH day is intriguing from a chronobiological perspective. Daniel Pink, the author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, appeared on a recent CEB Talent Angle podcast in which he discussed the idea of temporal landmarks: days (or years) that stand out from the others and help us orient ourselves. Wednesdays are the midpoints of our week, and to quote Pink, “when we reach a midpoint sometimes we slump and sometimes we jump.”
What he means is that Wednesdays, the “hump day” of our week, can sometimes represent a decline in motivation/productivity. It could alternatively be a time where we realize our week is almost over and we need to hustle on accomplishing our work for the week. As Doximity has discovered, having a remote workday on Wednesday raises the salience of this midpoint by giving it extra recognition and a change in pace, which can provide a needed boost in productivity.
On the flip side, in particularly collaborative environments, the disruption of a closed office might ruin momentum that has built up with respect to a project. The upsides and downsides of this policy will depend a lot on the nature of an organization’s work, its culture, and its management structure, among other factors.
Corporate Leadership Council members can use our research on remote work to evaluate its pros and cons and decide whether it’s a good option for your organization.
Also, here is the aforementioned CEB Talent Angle podcast where our own Scott Engler speaks with author Daniel Pink: