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Harvard Business School Professor Predicts 9-5 Workday Will Transform to “3-2-2”

  • Harvard Business School professor predicts that typical 9-5 workday in the office will be replaced by a “3-2-2” work week in 2021
  • Arrangement would split the difference between those who want to return to the office permanently and those who want to continue working remotely
  • Workers typically expect their employer to continue permitting remote work at least some of the time following the COVID-19 pandemic

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, plenty of workers battled through rush hour for a day in the office that started at 9 a.m. and ended at 5 p.m. After the pandemic forced office employees to complete their work remotely, this distinctive schedule gave way to more flexible workdays as workers completed their tasks whenever they felt most productive or could fit in time around personal responsibilities such as child care.

A Harvard Business School professor is predicting that the typical 9-to-5 workday will give way to a “3-2-2” work week after widespread vaccine distribution brings the pandemic under control. Ashley Whillans writing for a LinkedIn roundup of business professionals’ predictions for the new year, says this arrangement would have employees work three days in the office and two days working remotely, while also taking two days off.

Whillans suggests that employees have often been enjoying benefits such as more personal time and greater flexibility when working remotely, and employers will be under pressure to continue the arrangement at least part of the time. The LinkedIn Workforce Confidence Index indicates that 47 percent of employees expect their workplace to permit remote work to continue, with higher expectations in certain industries (73 percent in tech, 67 percent in finance, and 59 percent in media).

Employers often see noticeable benefits from remote work arrangements. Those who tried the arrangement before the pandemic typically found that it resulted in increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, and better employee satisfaction. The pandemic has also been driving other changes to traditional work schedules, including an uptick in four-day work weeks.

While many workers have embraced the remote work, including some who hope it can remain permanent, others have expressed a wish to return to the office at least some of the time to create a better work-life divide or strengthen interpersonal relationships with co-workers.

Other 2021 predictions in the LinkedIn roundup include expectations for more flexible office setups that eliminate assigned seating in favor of focusing on tasks, an acceleration in the conversion of vacant retail space to residential space or other purposes, and an upsurge of entrepreneurs who launch a business out of necessity after losing a job.

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