Are you a T.W.A.T? How the pandemic created a new cohort of hybrid workers

remote-work hybrid workers T.W.A.T

Source: Unsplash/SHTTEFAN.

Are you now working full-time back at the office… or are you a T.W.A.T? Before you type me an angry complaint, know that it stands for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday — it’s an acronym to describe the hybrid workforce who only come into the office three days a week.

And it’s not hard to see why Monday and Friday are popular days to work from home. Research increasingly shows that longer weekends are a great way to boost health, productivity and motivation in the team.

Of course, you’re still working those days — but you are saving yourself the commute and, depending on whether you can wrangle a meeting-free calendar that day, possibly the need to even brush your hair or change your pyjamas.

Hence the appeal of the T.W.A.T. Advertising giant Ogilvy Group’s vice chairman Rory Sutherland actually pitched the acronym before the pandemic.

“These people travel into London for those three days every week, holding face-to-face meetings and little else,” Sutherland wrote in The Spectator way back in January 2019.

“Friday and Monday is spent at home, and dedicated to business activities which are location-independent: email, video calls, phone calls and so forth.

“Instead of their lives being a mess of different demands, they have partitioned their week by activity, meaning the ratio of communication modes they use is driven by their schedule, not other people’s whims.”

But during the last two years when many of us worked from home, our stress levels have only climbed — in the 2021 State of the Global Workplace report, it found “workers’ daily stress reached a record high, increasing from 38% in 2019 to 43% in 2020”. Of course, the global pandemic doesn’t help.

As state governments slowly loosening COVID-19 restrictions — including next Monday’s mask-free office mandate in Melbourne with Queensland’s to follow — what can business owners do to lure their T.W.A.Ts and WFH types back into the office?

Workplace design expert at Future X Collective (FXC) Angela Ferguson says only one thing will coax staff back in: meaningful connections with colleagues.

“Whether that is to see the people you know or meet new colleagues, the social aspect of work cannot be underestimated,” she says.

“Social capital — the networks and relationships we naturally create in order to work effectively — is a vital part of being engaged in our work.”

Ferguson says creating a social environment at work to incentivise the mass migration back on site can be done in a few different ways.

“Food is always a great attractor,” she says — and why not increase the chances of success by making it interesting?

“Cultural food days, celebratory lunches and doughnut days are just some of the practical things our clients have been implementing.”

But she says tokenistic gestures from leaders will fall flat unless they are made proactively and consistently, pointing to a workplace culture shift — rather than a blip.

“Leaders may need to ‘do’ more to initially encourage people [to leave] their comfort zones at home,” she says.

“Whilst these initiatives may be an early driver to bring people together physically, they should be maintained on an ongoing basis.”

That is what will keep staff wanting to return to the office, she says, no matter how many days a week — “the opportunity to connect with their colleagues in meaningful, authentic ways”.

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