Hybrid workers are relaxing more during the week, but paying for it on the weekend

If you take an ’80s Canadian rock band’s word for it, “Everybody’s working for the weekend.” Between cowbell intonations, Loverboy croons a truism of the modern-day workforce: People are just trying to get through the week to enjoy their typically two-day dose of freedom. But the workweek has shifted in the decades since, and our dearly beloved weekends are changing—at least, for hybrid workers.

They are working less during the week and more on weekends, according to July data from Work From Home Research. It finds that 10% of hybrid workers aren’t working on a given weekday, which partly explains why 56% of them are working a full day any given Saturday. Some are in the office (24%), while others are working remotely (32%). Those numbers dwindle a bit on Sunday to 18% and 29%, respectively. “Hybrid WFH has blurred the weekday/weekend boundary,” Stanford professor of economics Nick Bloom, one of the researchers at WFH, tweeted. It sounds like work is taking over our lives, but Bloom points out that it could be a sign of greater autonomy as workers make their own schedule. 

He compares this new workflow to the schedule of a student, telling Fortune that “hybrid workers are edging back towards our student lifestyles.” Without the definitive start and end of the week and days centered around the office, remote and hybrid workers can create and adjust their own schedules. “As students we typically flexed our time a lot, often not working for days on end and at other times pulling all-nighters and weekends,” he notes. “Hybrid employees are not that extreme, but we are moving back.”

But much like in school, some might do better with this freedom than others. As Bloom explains, this new cadence “puts more pressure on our own self-control,” as some workers might benefit from flexibility and others might find themselves struggling. 

The lack of clear expectations in managing a new normal has created high levels of stress for remote and hybrid workers, who are also battling expectations of always being on, simply because they have access to the remote tools they need to do their jobs. Other data from software company ActivTrak found similar evidence that our workweek is lengthening—all employees worked more on the weekends in 2022 than they did in 2021. ActivTrak attributed this shift to a couple of factors: One, layoffs—which have run rampant through the workforce over the past year—can lead to a large workload shared by smaller teams; and two, new flexible schedules where some workers choose to work less on the weekday and more on the weekend.

Much has been written about remote workers’ productivity while operating in a post-pandemic world where WFH remains very much a fixture. After three and a half years of flexible work, some bosses have begun to mandate their staff return to the office, arguing that it creates greater community and productivity. But Bloom’s data has also consistently found that hybrid workers generally feel happier and more productive than their fully in-person counterparts. Perhaps productivity, like our workweek, just looks a bit different than we thought it did. It all means that flexibility remains important in keeping workers from quitting, something bosses are now finding out the hard way. But hybrid workers are still figuring out how to manage their waffling levels of flexibility, as some spend their saved commuting time working.

Bloom says he’s “shocked” at how extreme the data suggests the new order is. “Typical hybrid workers are doing at least a full day of work over the weekend, and typically not working one day overall in the week,” he notes, adding up all the hours not worked during the week and worked during the weekend.

This is likely a big change versus before the pandemic (à la the Loverboy era), Bloom says, when the weekend was a clearer time off. “This could be good by exploiting WFH flexibility, or bad if work-life boundaries have collapsed,” he tweeted. It seems as if the new song is, “Everybody is working on the weekend.”

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