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What the T.W.a.T Phenomenon Means for Facilities Managers

John Nicklin, managing director of workplace technology specialist Juggl Desks, provides insights into one of the newest, and rudest of terms to enter into the post-Covid-19 workplace vernacular.

There’s a new term for employees who go into the office on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and work from home on Mondays and Fridays, and it’s making some people blush. So-called T.W.a.Ts are now commonplace, with many workers choosing mid-week to commute to the office for face-to-face meetings, using Mondays and Fridays to catch-up with administration from home. 

But, besides being an acronym that can raise a smile, what are the repercussions of this new way of working for facilities managers?

The state of hybrid working today

Almost all (97 per cent) of organisations are implementing or planning on implementing hybrid working, according to research by XpertHR. It’s now becoming the norm, with 3:2 being the overriding preference between in-office and remote working, where employees spend three days in the office and two days working from home.

In fact, in a recent survey of 5,000 employees (on behalf of University of Nottingham and Stanford University), working in the office for three days a week was the most popular choice. Employees viewed this as a benefit worth about 6 per cent of wages. This winning combination provides employees with office time for collaboration, connection and innovation while allowing them the flexibility and focus that comes with home working.

A number of companies have already announced their hybrid working position as being 3:2 including Facebook, Google, Salesforce and HSBC. And it appears that many other companies are working towards similar arrangements.

The growth of T.W.a.Ts

Alongside the growth of the 3:2 hybrid working model, it appears that employees (and employers) are increasingly choosing their office days as Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. 

Since London workers were encouraged back to the office from September 2021, there have been more commuters on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays than at the start and tail end of the working week. Apparently Tuesday commuters passing through the City of London transport network are around 20 per cent higher than on a Monday. And commuter numbers are around 35 per cent higher on a Thursday than the start of the week.

Those workers with this new working pattern have been dubbed T.W.a.Ts (an acronym for Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays). However this term is nothing new. First coined by Rory Sutherland, the vice-chairman of Ogilvy Group UK, in a January 2019 article in the Spectator, Sutherland explains how he sees a growing T.W.a.T revolution in which people travel into London midweek for face-to-face meetings and little else. Friday and Monday is spent at home, and dedicated to business activities which are location-independent such as email, video calls and phone calls. Of course, Sutherland couldn’t foresee the pandemic, but three years’ ago he’d spotted a trend which has been intensified by the COVID fall-out. T.W.a.Tism is now on an upwards trajectory.

Impact of T.W.a.tism on the office

So what impact does this growing phenomenon have on the office, and more specifically facilities managers? Here are a some key issues that must be considered and addressed.

Capacity management – Organisations will experience an influx of workers on the same three days every week and low capacity on two days. So how can movement in and around the office ensure safety and comfort for all, especially if social distancing measures are still being observed? The key is to introduce processes and technologies so that it’s clear exactly who will be attending the office and when, thereby preventing overcrowding.

Health and safety – As well as supporting social distancing, what other health and safety considerations are there when the office is full for three days out of five? Are there enough fire marshalls and first aiders available Monday to Friday, for example? Research by St John Ambulance has found that due to hybrid working, fewer than half of workers believe there is a designated first aider in their office on all five work days.

Desk management – Ensuring everyone has a desk when they need it must become a priority. Many companies will have reduced the number of desks in line with social distancing and so when large numbers of employees are in the office at the same time, there may simply not be enough desks and facilities for everyone. Finding ways to manage this, such as by introducing desk booking software, is therefore key.

Car parking – As well as ensuring everyone has somewhere to work, will they be able to find a car parking space if employees are attending the office on the same days? Car parking might have been an issue pre-COVID, but with people still fearful of using public transport and even car sharing, it may be an even greater issue now. And so, introducing a means for employees to book a car parking space (in addition to a desk and other facilities), must be considered. 

Office design – The office is evolving into a place for collaborative working and connection, with home working being reserved for administration and concentration. This impacts office design, as employees demand more communal areas for team work and socialising with colleagues. But how can this be safely and effectively achieved, bearing in mind workers still need enough desks to work from, especially when the office is at its busiest?

Inclusivity – Ensuring the workplace is a fair and inclusive place for all is an ongoing concern, and this responsibility also lies with the facilities manager. Bearing in mind that some employees will have anxiety and other mental health issues, as well as physical disabilities, the office must be a place that’s welcoming and supportive of people’s individual needs. Busy offices with poor social distancing, frequent disagreements over desk ownership, disabled car parking spaces being blocked because of an overcrowded car park, and workers arriving earlier and earlier in order to secure a working space, do not support inclusivity and wellbeing. Investing in procedures and technologies to support a healthy and thriving workplace is therefore ‘a must’.

Office running costs – What are the costs of keeping the office running for all five days when it’s hardly used for two days every week? Understanding the cost implications of T.W.a.Tism, from office rental costs through to energy bills is important for informing a future hybrid working strategy.  To cut costs moving forward, perhaps the office will only physically open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Why it’s time to understand and address workplace trends

As T.W.a.Tism grows in popularity, and perhaps new hybrid working patterns start to appear, it’s important that facilities managers keep abreast of the latest trends and understand their implications, from health and safety through to office design. And although there’s no playbook for effectively managing an office full of T.W.aTs, a thorough review of office processes and technology to support productivity, wellbeing and inclusivity, is certainly a great starting point.

CAMFIL HVAC Filtration Solutions

John Nicklin

John Nicklin is managing director of workplace technology specialist and desk booking solution, Juggl Desks.

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