OPINION - Friday office work could be coming back — London employers are increasingly keen

Freezing commuters on London Bridge today on train strike day (Jeremy Selwyn)
Freezing commuters on London Bridge today on train strike day (Jeremy Selwyn)

Are Fridays coming back? We’re approaching the fourth anniversary of the first Covid lockdown and numerous employers are looking at how their office use has changed, for better or worse, and considering what the next steps are on how their working week model should look.

First there was WFH (working from home) then we had the TWATs (people attending the office on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays), a style which became flavour of the month, well flavour of the last three years. But could FOW (Friday Office Work) be the next big thing?

Ok, that acronym is an invention of mine — but it is no fiction that employers are thinking hard about it.

After years of the capital’s office areas and stations looking scarily quiet on a Friday, latest figures suggest more workers are now making the commute into towns at the end of the week.

Property giant Landsec, which owns just over six million sq ft of office space of which around 95 per cent is in London, reveals in January it saw the number of people coming into the office across its portfolio on a Friday rise to its highest level since 2022.

A spokesman for the developer adds: “While mid-week is undoubtedly the most popular time for people to come together, on a like for like basis, the amount of unique daily turnstile tap-ins at our workspaces continues to grow across the week.”

At flexible space provider Workspace, SMEs have long embraced three-to four days a week in as the normal, including pre-pandemic. But Will Abbott, the landlord’s chief customer officer says: “We have however seen the number of customers working from work on Fridays rise over the past year.”

Some businesses are putting their foot down when it comes to showing your face in the office on a Friday

Meanwhile data compiled for the Evening Standard by job search engine Adzuna found the number of postings advertising that Fridays can be worked from home was 123 last month. That was a dip on 135 recorded in January 2023. During the same period the number of adverts offering “early finish Fridays” dropped to 396 from 429.

There are examples of some businesses putting their foot down when it comes to showing your face in the office on a Friday, such as French beauty giant L’Oréal. The Sunday Times reported earlier this month that the firm, whose London head office in White City, has told employees to come to the office at least two Fridays a month. Staff are required to be in offices three days per week typically.

However among FTSE 100 companies there appears to be no obvious signs of compulsory attendance in workspaces on a Friday. I spoke to various members of London’s blue chip index about how many days staff are in per week and if they have encouraged or mandated that employees come into the office on a Friday. I was told by the respondents, businesses which span sectors such as venture capital, telecoms and retail, that hybrid working continues to be popular and FOW is not enforced.

While those that get the tube or train in on a Friday may observe journeys look a little busier, the packed carriages in zone one are still a distant memory. Central London retailers and restaurants would certainly welcome more office workers back in. Let’s hope it happens.